A chat with Principal dancer and alumnus, Brandon Lawrence
After a successful 12-years with Birmingham Royal Ballet, alumnus Brandon Lawrence bids farewell to the Company as he leaves to join Ballett Zürich in Cathy Marston’s first season as Director.
Brandon attended the School from 2006 to 2011. In 2008 he received the Royal Academy of Dance Phyllis Bedells Award. After he left the School, Brandon joined Birmingham Royal Ballet and was promoted to Principal in 2019.
Brandon has danced many of the classics including Swan Lake (Prince Seigfreid), The Nutcracker (Prince), The Sleeping Beauty (Prince Florimund), Giselle (Count Albrecht), Romeo and Juliet (Romeo), La Fille Mal Garde (Colas) and Beauty and the Beast (Beast). He has also danced many notable roles including: Friday Night and Bethena Waltz in Macmillan’s Elite Syncopations, Twyla Tharp’s In the Upper Room, Lucentio in Cranko’s Taming of the Shrew, Othello in Limón’s The Moors Pavane and the 3rd Seminarian in David Bintley’s Carmina Burana. While dancing the varied and diverse repertoire at Birmingham Royal Ballet, Brandon has created roles in David Bintley’s King Dances, Alexander Whitley’s Kin, George Williamson’s Embrace, Juanjo Arques’s Ignite, and most recently Didy Veldman’s Sense of Time.
He has been nominated for two National Dance Awards in the Best Classical Male Performance Category for Ruth Brill’s Arcadia and Jessica Lang’s Wink, is Patron of New English Ballet Theatre and BBO Dance and a registered dance teacher and fitness instructor.
We spoke with Brandon about his time with Birmingham Royal Ballet after his final season with the company where he performed in George Balanchine’s Apollo, Juliano Nuñes’ Interlinked and David Bintley’s Still Like at the Penguin Cafe as the Southern Cape Zebra.
You’ve been with Birmingham Royal Ballet since you graduated from the School, what are some of the greatest lessons you have learnt in the company?
To pace oneself! With back to back rehearsals and block performances, it’s crucial to learn about your body, what you need and how to pace yourself through intense schedules.
Which roles or performances have felt more special for you than others and why?
There’s been so many, with it being a ballet I’ve always wanted to dance, the location or theatre or even who I’ve been dancing with; it’s hard to choose. To name a few, dancing and dining at Buckingham Palace for the now King was a moment. The partnerships I’ve had hold a special place in my heart and my final programme with the company was unforgettable.
Have you had a mentor that has been particularly important to your growth as a dancer during your time with the company?
There’s been a few. Marguerite Porter has been vital to my development. Her kindness, love and encouragement has been in abundance for which I’m eternally grateful for. Former Principal of White Lodge, Diane van Schoor has grown to become a dear friend who for the last five or six years has been incredibly supportive both on and offstage. Then I would have to say one of my closest friends (and fellow Birmingham Royal Ballet Principal) Tzu-Chao Chou, he’s been there every step of my Birmingham Royal Ballet journey. He’s an incredible friend and a supportive and honest mentor figure. It would be hard to imagine my life without him.
What challenges did you encounter in your journey to Principal with the company and do you have any words of wisdom to those coming after you about how to navigate these kinds of challenges?
Some of the challenges I encountered was self-belief. Either it being with a role or steps, I’ve had moments of feeling like it may not have been possible. Other than always having good and encouraging people around me I tried to reflect on what I did to reach this level and that if choreographers and directors had trust and faith in my capabilities then why didn’t I?
What are you going to miss the most about your life with Birmingham Royal Ballet?
I’ll miss the people. Over my 12 years I’ve become close to so many incredible people that make up Birmingham Royal Ballet, The Birmingham Hippodrome and our regular touring venues.
How did you feel during your final performance with the company?
Although it was a rollercoaster of emotions, before the performance and during it, I wanted to treat it as a celebration. I felt the programme eloquently reflected my time at BRB and why I’ve loved dancing with the company.
Feature image at top of page by Drew Tommons
Brandon in George Balanchine’s Apollo (photograph by Johan Persson), Juliano Nuñes’ Interlinked (photograph by Riko Ito) and David Bintley’s Still Life at the Penguin Cafe as the Southern Cape Zebra (photograph by Johan Persson).
What inspired you to make the move to Ballett Zürich?
When the opportunity presented itself to join Ballett Zürich it was a series of thoughts and conversations of what it could mean both artistically and personally. Being exposed to works which I may not get the opportunity to dance in the UK as well as working with Cathy (Marston) who’ll be creating often is incredibly exciting. This move will only build on everything I’ve learnt at my beloved Birmingham Royal Ballet.
What are you most looking forward to at Ballett Zürich?
There’s many things, getting to know and learn from the other artists. Working within the beautiful Zürich Opernhaus and dancing the incredibly exciting season Cathy has programmed.
Is there a piece of advice you received whilst at the School that you continue to carry with you throughout your career?
I adored my time at the School. Gailene Stock and Diane van Schoor were incredibly encouraging along with David Yow, Meelis Pakri, David Peden and Gary Norman. Each one of them taught me valuable qualities which I’ll never forget but there was one thing they all had in common, ‘perseverance’ which was infectious and stays with me until this day.
How do you define success?
Success to me is someone who is full circle. Your morals, how you are with people, how you conduct yourself and who you surround yourself with. In my opinion, success isn’t defined by what you do, it’s who you are.
Above photographs by Drew Tommons