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Birmingham Royal Ballet's assistant director takes us behind the scenes

In February 2021, when the UK was still in the midst of the pandemic, Birmingham Royal Ballet appointed Dominic Antonnuci as their assistant director.

Birmingham Royal Ballet assistant director Dominic Antonucci
Birmingham Royal Ballet assistant director Dominic Antonucci

Dominic had previously been a principal dancer for the company and retired in 2009 to take on the role of its ballet master.

"That was very tricky," Dominic said, "I found that difficult in the beginning, trying to assume a position of authority with somebody you were dancing with just a few days before.

"It took some getting used to, but I think I did well, and I think I managed to maintain a good relationship with the dancers.

"Really it's about helping the dancers. It's about bringing the best out of them. You realise that coaching and teaching is no longer about you - it's about them, the dancer.

The BRB company in rehearsal for the forthcoming world premiere of Interlinked, which is part of the On Your Marks! season at Birmingham Hippodrome

"Your role is just to assist and to guide. And then when I was appointed last year to the position of assistant director, it's just that but a much expanded version of that same dynamic.

"So it's been a long journey, but I'm so fulfilled by what I do now. I've been so engaged and challenged and I love what I do."

Born in Ohio, Dominic is a long way from home, but he's now been with Birmingham Royal Ballet for 28 years.

"It's just a really exciting place to work," he said.

"What's brilliant is the amount of touring and performances that we do, it really gives you an opportunity as an artist to grow.

"Typically in America, especially in some of the medium-sized companies, you may only have three or four performances of a particular ballet before you move on.

"Whereas at BRB, sometimes we do 40 Swan Lakes or 40 Nutcrackers, so as a dancer, you're gonna get many, many opportunities to grow within the role.

"And now with Carlos Acosta, he's opening new doors in terms of repertoire he's bringing in.

"So I would say that, for me, the most special thing about BRB ballets is the fantastic rep; we've got all the best of the old work and the best of the new creative work by new choreographers."

Dominic Antonucci

The company's forthcoming year demonstrates this - with beloved classics like Swan Lake and The Nutcracker sitting alongside boundary-pushing work, such as On Your Marks! - an athletic trio of ballets to mark the Commonwealth Games coming to Birmingham.

This blended vision of old and new owes a lot to innovative the director of Birmingham Royal Ballet, the world-renowned extraordinaire Carlos Acosta.

"Carlos is just like a force of nature," Dominic said. "He has a tremendous energy. His artistic vision is very strong and very clear, and he is super passionate about everything he does.

"You only have to spend 15 seconds with him in a room, and you just get swept away in that passion for his work. So that's been incredible to work with.

"He's such a strong presence in the studio and in the theatre and he really, really gets his hands stuck in with the dancers in terms of coaching every ballet in the rep.

"He's very much involved in every level of the production. And that's fantastic."

Dominic could never have predicted taking on the role in such a turbulent time, both for the arts and the world.

"We are still dealing with the long tail of Covid, so we're having to balance our recovery from that period of time with getting Carlos's really exciting vision for the company out there.

"So I want to see the company flourish and I'd like to see box office get back to where it was, I mean, this is across the sector, the arts sector in general, box office is down, so we need to rebound.

"The other focus is raising the standards of the level of dance that we have, because we want to be excellent in each and every department, whether that's lighting, that's our orchestra, whether it's the dancing, the productions, we bring in the costumes, our outreach programs, we want to be excellent in every aspect that BRB represents."

He added: "I'd like to raise our international profile, so that you can be out there touring internationally.

"But obviously, it's a different world right now with fuel costs and the cost of living rising.

"So we have to be more streamlined, we have to change our thinking about how we actually operate on every level of the company in order to do that.

"But I'm really confident that we'll make that adjustment quickly and efficiently, so that we can we can thrive in this new world, because it's a challenging new world post-pandemic, and with the war going on, and climate change, and all these things that we have we have to consider challenges.

"We're facing that as an organisation, and we're ready for the challenge."

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