An interview with Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Ruth Brill

Brill, Ruth (1)

We’re throwing it back to International Women’s Day, when we sat down with First Artist, Ruth Brill to discover what it’s like as a professional woman in the arts today.

Have you been inspired by any other women in the arts?
There are so many talented, kind and steely women who have inspired me and who I’ve worked with so far in my career, including charismatic teachers, female leaders across the sector and all of the unsung heroes behind the scenes. The people I respect the most are those who I’ve collaborated and worked closely with so far – people I’m lucky to call my friends and colleagues.

I worked with Cathy Marston when I was 12 years old, with London Children’s Ballet, and have looked up to her and followed her choreographic career ever since. She is an incredible story teller, a kind and intelligent artist, and also someone who has persevered. I really respect the fact that she has managed to juggle being a mother and having a successful career.

Ruth Brill

I look up to leaders with integrity and strong core values like David Bintley. I respect those with vision, who can inspire others – male or female. I am also continually inspired by my mum for her positivity, open mindedness, grit and boundless support.

How have you found working as a professional woman in the arts?
Working in the arts, we have to be passionate people as we give so much of ourselves to this career. I haven’t personally felt any discrimination for being a woman. I’d like to think I got my opportunities because of talent, not because I’m a woman. However, it is really important to encourage women to be inquisitive, sensitive and brave, and to smash the glass ceilings of the past; ensuring there are adequate opportunities is critical. The tide is changing, but organisations should still continue to actively promote female choreographers. The imbalance of female choreographers and leaders adds fuel to my creative fire. I also think it’s really important to provide good female role models to inspire and develop the next generation.

Do you feel ballerinas can be role models for younger girls?
Yes, but not because they are pretty. Dancers are full of grit, steel, passion, dedication and perseverance.

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What is your favourite female role in a ballet?
One of my favourite roles is ‘Stompers’ in Twyla Tharp’s In the Upper Room, because the men and the women are on a level playing field. We are all united in dancing to our absolute maximum. It is a ballet that requires a lot of strength, stamina, connection and energy – it’s so powerful and so rewarding.

I believe, with more female choreographers wanting to share their perspective, we will develop new works with stronger women as central characters. I respect the classics as they demonstrate the heritage of classical ballet, and the role of women in the past. They represent a time and a place, and this is really important part of our art form, but it is also important to push forward, take risks and encourage new works that feel current, and that therefore include strong female voices.

This is why I have decided to have a girl playing Peter in my new version of Peter and the Wolf. She is an inquisitive, intuitive, kind, intelligent and fearless young woman.