The Birmingham Royal Ballet fielded three casts for its
five performances of David Bintley's Edward II in Hong Kong during
the second week of March. There was a notable debut for the evening
performance of Saturday 11 March when the title role was taken for the
first time by Robert Parker, the talented 24-year-old principal who
in January had created the role of Arthur in Bintley's new ballet, Arthur
I, in Birmingham. (In fact Parker celebrated his 24th birthday here
in Hong Kong just the day before, on 10 March.) I interviewed Parker
at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre during lunch time on 11 March after
the company's morning class, and before his impressive debut that very
Kevin Ng: Robert, how have you enjoyed your week in Hong Kong, and
have you had time to do some sightseeing outside your busy performing
Robert Parker: We had the first couple
of days to look around. On the first day of our arrival, we took the
underground to Hong Kong island to visit the shops. I found the whole
place pretty overwhelming. We took a boat trip one evening round Victoria
Do you feel very proud to have been selected by David
Bintley to create the title role of Arthur at such a young age?
Yes, it was a great privilege to be chosen because it was probably
one of his biggest ballets to date. I am very flattered that he thought
of me as the right candidate for the role. This epic ballet involves
so much actual story line and plot that there is no time to include
all of it in one ballet, so this is why we have Part 1 and Part 2.
You will be in Part 2, I presume?
Maybe not as Arthur, because some time has gone on between Part
1 and Part 2. I think I am going to do the role of the evil son Mordred.
How did you start your dance career? Was it your decision
or your parents'?
I was seven years old, so you don't really make that many serious
decisions. I have two sisters who danced and they took me along to my
first class. I slowly got a taste for it. I auditioned for the White
Lodge of the Royal Ballet School, and I just went up through the years
there. I finally got a job at the Birmingham Royal Ballet.
What do you consider as the most important stages of
I think what first attracted David Bintley to me was probably when
I was thrown on in Carmina Burana which was the first ballet
that he actually choreographed in Birmingham. I did the role of the
Second Seminarian. It was a role that I could really get my teeth into,
I felt like I could give a lot of input both emotionally and physically
to the role.
It is fairly abstract, though it has got kind of a narrative.
But the role itself allows you to really express every emotion you have,
and I enjoyed doing this popular piece.
Who are your favourite partners in BRB?
I particularly enjoy dancing with Ambra Vallo whom you'll see me
doing Edward with tonight. She's a great artist. She can perform, and
she gives every ounce of her heart and soul to the role that she is
doing. I find that when we work together there is a real kind of connection.
Who are your favourite choreographers?
David Bintley of course, whom I enjoy working with. Every choreographer
has his great ballets, and not so great ballets. I have never danced
Jirí Kylián, but I have seen his works. I love dancing
Hans Van Manen, e.g. his Five Tangos, Grosse Fugue. I
really enjoy his style. We did Twyla Tharp which I like. Every choreographer
has got something to offer, and you are going to be intrigued by at
least one aspect of his choreography. I consider myself fairly versatile.
I try to take every choreography, every role that I can do, and I do
my very best.
Which male ballet stars do you particularly admire,
e.g. Nureyev, Baryshnikov?
I admire different dancers for their different qualities. Baryshnikov
obviously because he is an amazing technician.
Did you see his performances with the White Oak Project
in London last summer?
I missed it, because we were working at the same time. I heard good
reports about it. I really admire technical dancers, I think they are
absolutely amazing in what they can do with their bodies - they can
turn, they can jump. But personally I prefer to watch someone who is
a great character whom you really believe in every emotion going on
on stage. Particularly in this company I admire Wolfgang Stollwitzer
who was the first cast Edward, I think that he is an amazing artist
on stage. The ultimate impression overwhelms.
He has really helped me come along, he has been almost
like a mentor to me. He gives me an absolutely honest opinion of what
I did in a performance. He could take me afterwards to a studio and
say, "This bit was great, and this bit was not so great, you were
very weak at these moments, you let yourself down here, but this part
was great." He has got very good opinions, and he really tells
me what he thinks, and I really respect him.
Which ballerinas do you admire? I don't know if you
have seen Fonteyn or Makarova, for example.
No, not in the flesh. Particularly ballerinas who really aren't
afraid to let go and give their all in a performance, like Lynn Seymour
whom I think was an amazing artist.
Do you have any ambitions to become an international
star like Igor Zelensky for instance?
Well, I don't have any offers, to put it that way. So I couldn't
answer this question until I have been approached.
Are you happy in the company at the moment?
Yes, I am very happy. Absolutely. I don't see myself becoming a
big star like an icon figure. I don't think that I have got the right
mentality for that anyway. I am a fairly down-to-earth kind of person,
and I couldn't see myself selling myself so much. I just do what I do
to the best of my ability, and I take what comes really.
What are your favourite roles, and are you more interested
in pure dance or narrative roles?
Of course you need to be versatile, to be able to do everything.
But given the choice, I much prefer to do a narrative ballet. I much
more enjoy narrative roles like Edward II which I am doing tonight,
along with Romeo. This is probably my favourite role of all time.
What about the princely danseur noble roles?
They are a challenge for me. I don't consider myself one of the
strongest technical dancers. I feel more comfortable with these modern
roles where you can really portray your emotions. I just feel more comfortable
in expressive ballets where you are portraying a character, where you
become a personality.
BRB is based in Birmingham. Do you regret that you
are not based in London, where for instance you can see quite a lot
of visiting dance companies at the new Sadler's Wells? I don't think
Birmingham has that many visiting companies.
Yes, I do regret. But having said that, London is only an hour away.
If you have got the free time, you can just jump into a car and go to
London, so it's no problem. My family lives in London, and I am often
down there. I lived there for three years when I was in the Royal Ballet
School. But to be quite honest, the pace in London got a bit stressful
for me. It was just too busy for me. I prefer somewhere a little bit
In the Royal Ballet, I think there are so many more principals,
the work is more evenly shared, and you are lucky to be doing one or
two performances a week. Whereas here you are on almost every other
night, which I think is healthier. You are a dancer, you want to dance
as much as possible. You don't want to sit around by being the fifth
or sixth cast, and maybe have a performance once every month. That's
not the life I choose!
Do you feel that you have sufficent guidance or coaching
in the company?
Certainly. However sometimes we are so busy when we have to put
on programmes back-to-back that there isn't actually sufficent time
to rehearse. It's just that time is a factor which can make you panic
and feel a bit unprepared. But during those rehearsals, there is sufficent
coaching, and you do the best that you can.
What are your outside interests?
I am quite an active outdoors person. I have done a scuba-diving
course. I occasionally go rock-climbing, swimming. I am very interested
in flying, and I have taken a couple of introductory lessons. It's a
hobby that I would like to get involved with more, it has always been
a childhood ambition to be able to fly.
What type of music do you like?
Nothing in particular. I listen to anything that sounds interesting
to me, I am really open to any kind of music.
Finally, how do you see yourself as a dancer? Do you
see yourself as a danseur noble or a demi-caractere dancer? I haven't
seen much of your dancing to know the full range of your style.
I think I have got a very broad range in style. I couldn't fit myself
into any specific category. We do have guest choreographers coming in.
I would just consider myself a pure dancer, and I just dance whatever
ballets that are thrown at me.
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