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Posted 25.01.18

Performances, pirouettes & tutus at Birmingham Royal Ballet

By Kat Peberdy

Image courtesy Birmingham Royal Ballet: Natasha Oughtred as Princess Aurora, Iain Mackay as Prince Florimund and Jenna Roberts as the Lilac Fairy with Artists of Birmingham Royal Ballet

Birmingham Royal Ballet has an international reputation for excellence, producing great dance that inspires people across its home city and the rest of the world. With dramatic performances embellished by lavish costumes, their stage performances are admired across the globe.

BA (Hons) Costume Production & Associated Crafts student Megan Procter recently spent time with Birmingham Royal Ballet's costume department, preparing costumes for the dancers and picking up studio tips. We catch up with her to hear more...

I’ve always enjoyed practical subjects, specifically both art and textiles at school. I’ve also been a performer myself, therefore it was a natural progression to combine these into working on costumes. Initially coming to Plymouth College of Art I was unsure what part of costume production I specifically wanted to focus on, but throughout the modules of the programme I found I was a stronger maker. From going to various performances I fell more in love with ballet and focusing myself on this area I realised this was what I would like for a future career.

I heard about the work experience at Birmingham Royal Ballet through their website. I’m always keeping up with what the company are doing and found the experience that way. The application process was fairly straightforward, and I thought explaining my passion for ballet was most important when filling it in.

Image courtesy Birmingham Royal Ballet: Jonathan Caguioa as The Nutcracker Doll and Yasuo Atsuji as King Rat; photo: Roy Smiljanic

I was nervous about applying, but I was shocked and ecstatic to receive the email back accepting my application. The first thing I did was tell my friends and tutors, I was so excited and they were all very supportive and pleased for me, knowing this was something I was passionate about doing.

Whilst there I worked on general costume maintenance for their upcoming performance of Coppelia. I was making sure that costumes were fit for performance, following instructions from the team at Birmingham Royal Ballet wardrobe department. It may seem something quite mundane for most, but for me, it was exciting and provided confirmation that it was what I wanted to be doing as a future career.

The highlight of my experience was seeing all their costumes up close. Being able to look at the construction and embellishment was a huge inspiration for my last two modules this year. Also working in the professional studio space, it was such a welcoming experience and was great to know what I’ll potentially be going into in the future.

"I think what challenged me the most was the confidence in my own ability of what I could create, but this experience built my confidence and I knew that I was capable of the jobs I was asked to do."

I would highly recommend the experience of a work placement. I found it a highly inspirational opportunity, seeing the costumes, being in the workroom, and the working environment as a whole. The company that I worked with were all so lovely and supportive, also very excited to ask about what I was producing in college. It will build your skills and knowledge of working in a professional environment.

Image courtesy Birmingham Royal Ballet: The Sleeping Beauty: Victoria Marr as Carabosse with Artists of Birmingham Royal Ballet; photo: Bill Cooper

Next for me is producing my two tutus as my final project for my degree. These will be shown in exhibits both at Plymouth College of Art, and in London. I’m also in the process of applying for jobs, but I’ll definitely be continuing in the costume industry.

Stay up to date with my work by following me on Instagram!

Megan was awarded the Undergraduate Industry Experience Bursary, which is provided by the College's Charitable Trust. Students who would otherwise be unable to afford some industry experiences are eligible to apply for help with the cost of transport and accommodation to complete an internship or experience to further their professional development.