Brutal Ballet is a ballet and metal fusión dance company founded in 2008 in Australia. It is currently based in Belfast (Northern Ireland) and integrated by the dancers Bridie, Shannon, Susi, Roisin, Cara, Mali, Janet-Anne, Khadi. We interview Bridie Mayfield, founder and choreographer, who tells us about Brutal Ballet´s origin, trajectory and past and current projects.
Could you tell us about the origin of Brutal Ballet?
I started the company in Australia in 2008, it was something I’ve always had an affinity for but didn’t think it would be accepted. Then I found out about Ballet Deviare from New York who dance to metal and decided to just jump in and do it. I started with a piece to Neurotica by Meshuggah and then went on to do the first full length ballet which was to Dethklok.
How would you define the Brutal Ballet´s dance style?
Classical ballet. People usually think its more involved but its simply classical ballet. Sometimes with subtle mixes of other styles, depending on the piece and we use a lot of theatrical effects to enhance the performance, especially to do with horror. We like to make the audience feel a little uneasy.
How would you describe your trajectory as a dance company?
We’ve done our own independent shows that we’ve performed in Australia, Finland and London, and have done a lot of single pieces such as at the Heavy metal Film festival in Los Angeles and the Game of Thrones convention, Titancon where we perform a Game of Thrones inspired piece every year. It’s very much been about doing things under our own steam.
In which subgenres of Rock & Metal music Brutal Ballet is focused on? Could you give some examples of songs you have choreographed to?
I like to think I can choreograph to anything and try to keep the metal genres we use really varied. It keeps our repertoire diverse. I love choreographing to symphonic metal, especially symphonic black metal, but don’t like to use them too much because it may seem an obvious choice to do ballet to. I like to use melodic death metal and anything with an irregular time signature makes choreography really challenging, which I love. Anything that can produce a completely different style of dance piece from the last is awesome really. Every metal genre has such a different sound that it makes coming up with concepts for dance so interesting. We’ve danced to so many different bands, in different places, the most memorable was to Halo by Machine Head in a side street which was on an incline, in front of members of Machine Head.
How do you face the challenge of choreographing to metal music? In your opinion, what are the easiest and the most difficult aspects of it?
The choreography is usually easy, the music tells me what to do, if that makes any sense! I like to design the movement so it makes the music easier to hear. The difficult part is always choosing which music to dance to, there are so many amazing bands and then they each have great music that inspires something. Its about narrowing down which music gives the feel you’re trying to portray in the dance piece, whether its setting a scene for a story based piece or its just dancing to the music because its fun. The challenging part is also choreographing to fit the abilities of the dancers you’re working with. I prefer a metalhead over a trained dancer who doesn’t get it, and a dancer who is more of an actress than a technician. Nobody wants to see people performing without passion for what they’re doing!
One of the possibilities for dancers is to work with live music. Have you collaborated with any musician/ metal music band?
We’ve collaborated with a band for the very first ballet we did. We had a few local bands merge to become Klokblok, a Dethklok cover band who played onstage with us for most of our performances in Australia. We did that again with Shrouded once the company moved to Belfast. We’d love to do that again in the future.
How has it been the reception of Brutal Ballet in both the world of metal music and the world of dance?
It’s been great! When the mainstream people hear about what we do they say they aren’t into metal or ballet but they’re really keen to see it anyway! The ballet world has been less encouraging, but once they see us perform they realise we’re enhancing the art rather than destroying it, and metal fans just love anything that celebrates their favourite music.
What do you think about the future of dancing to Rock & Metal music? Do you think there is an increasing interest in your country and/or in the World?
It’s a difficult situation really. Ballet has such a reputation for being delicate, feminine and graceful, whereas metal is basically the opposite. So introducing the blend of the two is breaking a lot of stereotypes about both sides. Once people know about what we do, they love it, but being an independent company it is often hard to get the shows out there for people to see.
Regarding to the next months, can you tell us about the upcoming shows, tours or any other future project?
We’re working on a cosplay ballet at the moment, with a variety of metal bands and styles. It’s a collection of pieces inspired by books, TV and film. We’re premiering the show in Belfast in August and hopefully be able to tour it at some point.
There are pieces inspired by Heavenly Creatures, The Cell, Interview with the Vampire, Game of Thrones, Pan Labyrinth, The Witcher, and although there are also some like Star Wars and Harry Potter, it is very dark and definitely not suitable for children. Unless they’re children of metalheads then they might love it! There’s a few lighter pieces on it as well, throwing in a bit of colour and comedy to break up the dark and scary! We’ve included choreography with weapons in the show, it is something I’ve always loved and we have an amazing guest teacher/director coming in to help with that. It’s being kept under wraps for now but keep an eye on our facebook page to find out more!
Other comments about your personal/professional experience within the Rock & Metal scene?
I did all of my formative training at a professional ballet school and it is sad to see how many dance teachers are unqualified and don’t have professional experience. I’ve had a difficult time finding the right dancers because of this, and especially when most teachers haven’t been performers, their pupils don’t have any aspirations to perform, only to open their own dance studio, and then the cycle continues. I’m planning to open a studio at some point to give dancers proper technical training and give them a life of performing to aspire to, that they get to watch the company perform and hopefully occasionally take part in the performances with us.
The dancers I have range from professional ballerinas to girls who just love metal so much they want to work at learning ballet, which a lot of choreographers would never deal with, but if they’re adding something positive to the performance which a trained dancer couldn’t bring, then who cares if their feet aren’t quite right or their arms aren’t perfect. It’s not about that, its about loving the experience of dancing to music. Awesome heavy music.
Brutal Ballet, where to find them?
Facebook: Brutal Ballet
YouTube Channel: Brutal Ballet