Making childhood dreams come true
Wearing a tutu was a childhood dream for Birmingham Royal Ballet dancer, Momoko Hirata.
She is one of the ballerinas performing a nationwide touring version of Sir Peter Wright’s Swan Lake. The company will be coming to the Theatre Royal Plymouth in March.
The lavish production tells a romantic fable of ill-fated passion and is seen as being one of the world’s best loved ballets. Tchaikovsky’s legendary score will be played live by The Royal Ballet Sinfonia.
‘Swan Lake is an iconic love story between Prince Siegfried and the Swan Queen Odette, performed in four acts. I play the role of Odette / Odil so both the White Swan and the Black Swan,’ says Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Momoko Hirata.
‘The hardest part is definitely the technical challenge. It’s incredibly demanding as you play two different sides, one as the White Swan and the other as the Black Swan.’
‘Showing two different characters in one performance is a challenge in itself and Act Three is especially technically challenging as you have to famously complete thirty-two fouettés.’
‘But getting the chance to play two different people is also what I enjoy the most.’
‘We have a very intense rehearsal process but this part for me is familiar as I last played Odette / Odil three years ago just before Covid hit so we had to finish early.’
‘It’s weird as my body still kind of remembers the steps and everything. I’m really excited to pick up where we left off and push myself even further than three years ago.’
Prince Siegfried meets Odette
The plot centres around Prince Siegfried who goes out hunting one night and happens upon a flock of graceful swans.
When one of them turns into a beautiful woman, the Prince is utterly smitten. But, sadly his love interest (Odette) has befallen under an evil spell cast by the Baron von Rothbart.
The curse means she remains as a swan form from dawn to dusk. Audiences remain on tenterhooks to see if Siegfried’s love can break the spell.
‘I always enjoy performing Swan Lake on stage and the music is so special so I hope that comes across to audiences.’
‘Everyone on stage is giving their heart out, not just the principles, but the Corps de Ballet too. You have sixteen swans dancing together all in line and I know from experience how hard it is to be in sync. I hope audiences appreciate that as well.’
‘I started dancing when I was five back in Japan which is where I’m from. I then came to England to study at the Royal Ballet School.’
‘It’s really funny as the first ballet performance that I saw in London was actually Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Swan Lake.’
‘So, for me Swan Lake is a very special ballet that I’ve always dreamt of being a part of. I studied at the Royal Ballet School for two years and then joined Birmingham Royal Ballet.’
‘Again, Swan Lake was one of the first ballet’s I performed with the company. I joined BRB back in 2003 and this is now my fifth Swan Lake with the company.’
A childhood dream
‘I’ve pretty much done every role as I joined in the Corps de Ballet and this is my third time playing Odette and Odil.’
Momoko explains she has always dreamed of getting into ballet since childhood and it seems her determination, practice and training has certainly paid off.
‘I always wanted to wear a tutu! I have two older sisters who both started ballet before me and I used to go and see their school performances when I was really young and just fell in love with the costumes.’
‘So that’s how I got into ballet really – I just wanted to be a princess in a tutu.’
Her schedule is demanding as rehearsals can see the team work five days a week – from mid-morning through until the early evening.
‘Once we go on tour and are performing, principals do one or two shows a week, so we have a bit more free time but obviously the pressure is really high.’
‘Swan Lake is so iconic – everything that you think of when you think of ballet is in there – and there’s something for everyone, from the big numbers to the sets and costumes and beautiful music.’
Based at the Birmingham Hippodrome, Birmingham Royal Ballet is the United Kingdom’s leading touring ballet company.
The team perform a range of traditional, classical and heritage ballets as well as ground-breaking new works with the aim of encouraging choreographers of the future.
More details about Birmingham Royal Ballet and Swan Lake: https://www.brb.org.uk
Theatre Royal Plymouth: https://theatreroyal.com
Imagery kindly supplied courtesy of Bill Cooper as the photographer for the Theatre Royal