Pamela Hawkins 

Pamela Hawkins, aged 12, living the dream as Cinderella. Pictures: Paul Telfer

Dreaming of Cinderella

Birmingham Hippodrome

THE search for the Cinderella and the foot that fits the magical bejeweled slipper that so beguiled the Prince is over.

Birmingham Royal Ballet has searched the Midlands to find the perfect fit for Cinderella’s famous slipper, in a production that brings to life the big ballet aspirations of young and old alike.

Cinderella Dreams, which premieres on 20 February, is the culmination of a six-month quest to inspire and develop dancers from across the region.

The production adapts David Bintley’s classic choreography and Sergei Prokofiev’s lush score to create a new and vibrant version of Cinderella, showcasing emerging talent working alongside dancers from Birmingham Royal Ballet.

More than 150 hopefuls from the age of eight to a remarkable 76 took part in open auditions in September 2016 under the watchful eye of former BRB dancers Rachel Hester and Jenny Murphy.

A final cast of 65 was selected, securing the chance to experience the intensive training, rehearsal and eventually performance of a classical ballet, in front of a full audience, at Birmingham Royal Ballet’s home venue, Birmingham Hippodrome.

The role of Cinderella will be danced by 12-year-old Pamela Hawkins, who began dancing at the age of four with the Sharon Green Dance Academy in Bodicote, Oxfordshire.

cinders and godmother

Pamela Hawkins as Cinderella and Ilona Johnson-Gibbs as the Fairy Godmother

In an innovative format first pioneered by Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Department for Learning six years ago, Pamela shares the role with BRB First Artist Karla Doorbar.

Pamela, from Banbury, will dance the iconic kitchen scenes, suffering the unwanted attentions of her stepsisters before Doorbar takes on the role following the transformation of Cinderella into beautiful and mysterious ball guest at the Palace Ball.

The iconic ballroom pas de deux will be danced by Doorbar with BRB First Artist Lachlan Monaghan as the Prince and, following a further appearance from Hawkins, the pair will reunite to dance the final pas de deux .

Pamela is a former pupil at Elmhurst Ballet School, the associate school of Birmingham Royal Ballet, having left to train closer to home.

She said: “I can't quite believe that I was chosen for the part of Cinderella as there were so many beautiful dancers at both auditions. I have watched the DVD of BRB’s Cinderella so many times and have been very lucky to go and see it at the Hippodrome when I was at Elmhurst. Elisha Willis was amazing as Cinderella and for me now to perform that role on the same stage as she did is quite unbelievable.”

Australian Elisha has retired from dancing and taken up a new career as a costume designer and creator which adds another level to Pamala’s own Cinderella Dream as Elisha is making her costume along with many others in the production. Pamela said: “It's quite scary performing my solos in front of her. I hope she likes my dancing!!

Elisha Willis

From BRB ballet star to ballet seamstress, Elisha Willis, who created the role of Cinderella, forging a new career as a ballet costume designer and creator  

Bringing about Cinders’ magical transformation is Ilona Johnson-Gibbs who, at 76, fulfils a lifelong ambition to become a ballet dancer as The Fairy Godmother.

In a life filled with many years as a model for titles such as Vogue, a further career as a fine art dealer and motherhood, Ilona will make her grand ballet debut 72 years after first falling in love with dancing.

It was always her ambition to be a ballet dancer but her father didn’t like the idea and refused to support it. And with that the dream seemed to have died but a fall at work in 2013 saw her taking ballet classes to improve her mobility and sixty years on the dream was rekindled.

She now attends classes three times a week and a Royal Academy of Dance Adult Master Class, held monthly in Birmingham at Elmhurst, training to dance en pointe and to dance pas de deux. The dream is still there.

At an hour and 15 minutes Cinderella Dreams represents a significant challenge for dancers and choreographers alike.

The task of adapting what is widely regarded as one of the best versions of Cinderella in the world for a largely young and amateur cast, has fallen to former BRB dancers Rachel Hester and Jenny Murphy.

Hester and Murphy drew on their experience of their work on the 2010 ballet, Birmingham and Me project which pioneered the duel - dancer format being applied to David Bintley’s choreography to create a shorter but stunning version of the work.

The result is a production designed for all those who aspire to dance on the big stage providing a beautiful, charming and magnificent showcase for the wealth of dance talent in the Midlands. 

Roger Clarke

Feature index Home Hippodrome