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Courtesy Birmingham Royal Ballet

Birmingham Royal Ballet announced today that international star Carlos Acosta will be taking over as director in January of 2020. Current BRB director David Bintley will be stepping down this summer, at the end of the company's 2019 season, after a 24-year tenure. "It is a tremendous honor and privilege to have been appointed to lead Birmingham Royal Ballet," Acosta said in a statement.

Since retiring from The Royal Ballet in 2015, Acosta has focused much of his attention on his native Cuba, where he's proven his directorial abilities at the helm of Acosta Danza, the contemporary company that he founded in 2016. In 2017 Acosta also opened his first Dance Academy through his foundation, which provides free training to students. We don't yet know how Acosta will balance his time between his projects in Cuba and his new role at BRB.

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MacMillan was knighted in 1983. Photo by Anthony Crickmay, courtesy of Dance Magazine archives

As principal choreographer and later director of The Royal Ballet in London, Kenneth MacMillan reinvigorated classical ballet by using dramatic narrative to investigate the human psyche. He believed dance should reflect the realities and hardships of people's lives, rather than just depict fairy tales. His works were emotionally intense and often featured harsh themes: fear, isolation, oppression, war, violence and loss.

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As artistic director of The Royal Ballet in London, Frederick Ashton was a highly influential 20th-century choreographer. His distinct style—technically refined yet highly expressive—soon became a hallmark of English classical ballet.

By developing individualized movement motifs, Ashton created memorable characters. Love, friendship, humor and loyalty were frequent themes in his ballets, most notably in La Fille mal gardée (“The Wayward Daughter”), which he choreographed in 1960.

A 1986 production of La Fille mal gardée

For this comedic pastoral love story, Ashton experimented with challenging overhead lifts, a quintet clog dance and divertissements with props, like garlands, ribbons, a maypole and an umbrella.

Here, Royal Ballet dancers Carlos Acosta and Marianela Nuñez dance the ribbon pas de deux from Act I.

Want to know more about the inspiration behind Ashton’s most famous ballet? Check out this Royal Ballet feature on Ashton and the making of La Fille mal gardée. Be sure to watch TRB principals Steven McRae and Roberta Marquez rehearsing the ribbon pas de deux at 5:14.

Photo by Herbert Migdoll, courtesy of the New York Public Library

For a history lesson plan on Ashton, subscribe to Dance Teacher and download the December issue.

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