“Birmingham is a city that people tend to associate with the cultural history of “the South” but many are surprised by the rich and diverse artistic community that is present within the metro and surrounding areas. I myself was pleasantly surprised to see that there is a hunger for artistic collaboration, presentation, and by so many different demographics within the city.”
Name: Michael Fothergill
Occupation: Choreographer at Alabama Ballet
Creative Industry: Performing Arts
1. What does Creative Birmingham mean to you?
Birmingham is a city that people tend to associate with the cultural history of “the South” but many are surprised by the rich and diverse artistic community that is present within the metro and surrounding areas. I myself was pleasantly surprised to see that there is a hunger for artistic collaboration, presentation, and by so many different demographics within the city. We are a trendy city that appreciates music, visual art and performance art, and I feel that within my tenure as a resident of Birmingham, this appreciation has grown to become more of a norm. More and more individuals are seeking out art, be that via gallery exposure, concert performance or dance/theater productions. To me, creative Birmingham is a process, the process where individual artists and non-profits across the artistic spectrum strive to find their own place of acceptance and appreciation within a city that seems determined to embrace the cultural awareness that these individuals and entities will bring them.
2. What would you like to see happen in Birmingham in the next five years?
I would like to see more collaboration between organizations. We have incredible artists here. Talented individuals as well as organizations put out a tremendous amount of great work per year. This work reaches thousands of area residents and inspires many to seek out their own artistic expression. However, I feel that part of what is necessary in any community is collaboration. While it is important to support the individual and the organization, to take a deeper interest is to find ways to bring forth the best in each other’s endeavors with creative collaboration. For example, we have a world-class ballet company and a world class symphony in the same city. It only makes sense that they work together. This is the same for local musicians and visual artists that could help one another reach a larger audience base.
3. You have been a part of the Alabama ballet professional company for five years; what has been your favorite production during your tenure?
I have enjoyed many productions with the ballet and many have been very sentimental to me. I would have to say that first and foremost has been “Giselle”. This is a dynamic ballet that fuses power and grace and is a challenge physically for all in the cast. When I first danced the production with the company, I was at a very different growth stage in my life. It would be interesting to see how my portrayal now would differ from the performances then. I have also really enjoyed our productions of “The Other”, “Les Patinuers”, and “Romeo and Juliet” for they all were productions that pushed me in different ways physically and emotionally.
4. What can the audience look forward to seeing in Ovation?
The upcoming production “Ovation” is not one to be missed! It is very eclectic in terms of repertoire selection, that’s for sure. We begin with a charged Argentine tango-inspired work by the Alabama Ballet’s resident choreographer Roger Van Fleteren. Next is my new work, more contemporary in nature, inspired by traditional Balinese movement and contrasting the elements of power and elegance. Finishing out the production is Ashton’s famous work “Les Patinuers”, or “The Skaters”. It is a beautiful ballet full of joy and much fun. It takes place on the ice in the middle of winter. It is a spectacle and something I assure the audience with enjoy. Musically, the performance features traditional tango selections, powerful contemporary selections and classical favorites. There is certainly something for everyone.
5. How can Birmingham help support traditional arts such as the ballet?
Really what the Alabama Ballet needs most is for the localities of Alabama to give the organization a chance to dazzle. I find that when most members of our audiences take in a performance, they tend to leave fulfilled with the intention to return. We are not solely a classical or “tutu” company. We perform highly sought-after rep from many of the world’s most esteemed choreographers. The organization is committed to providing the community with excellent exposure to repertoire that many regional companies of our size could never provide. There really is something for everyone here at the ballet. I would encourage the community to simply take a chance, come see us perform and I promise, you won’t be disappointed. In fact, start with “Ovation”. This showcase literally provides works from completely opposite sides of the spectrum. You can see first-hand what the company is capable of. Lastly, the company is comprised of 42 dancers who have come from all over the world to perform for the audiences of Birmingham. We feel that this company has a tremendous amount of capability to enhance the culture of the city and the cultural lifestyles of the residents here. We love Birmingham and have made this city our home, and all we want to do is perform for you. Take a chance!
6. Are there any local dancers or choreographers that inspire you?
I am inspired by many local artists and organizations. I feel there are great people working within administration of these organizations as well. The behind the scenes folk, if you will. Of course the artists of the Alabama Ballet and the managerial and executive staff inspire me, they are my family. But outside of the ballet I am thoroughly impressed by the efforts of The Alabama Symphony, Arova Contemporary Ballet, Children’s Dance Foundation, Red Mountain Theatre and many other individuals working creatively to improve the artistic quality of life in Birmingham.