Christmas is a crazy time here at the Hippodrome, madness! Between The Nutcracker and this year’s pantomime Cinderella, we will welcome over 150,000 people through our doors. That’s not to mention our very first Frost Fair, taking place on 16 December, where the foyers will be buzzing with a Christmas indoor market, seasonal food and drink, local choirs and children’s workshops, and entry is free..

The lead up to Christmas has been quite eventful too, and the last month has seen some personal highlights for me.

Number one would have to be hosting Carlos Acosta here at the Hippodrome, as he brought his new dance company Acosta Danza on tour to the UK for the first time.  Although Carlos has toured here as an acclaimed ballet dancer, this was seeing him in a whole new light.  He himself performed in a new duet by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, and the outstandingly accomplished company performed a mix of repertoire, most of which had been specially commissioned for the tour.

If just seeing them on stage wasn’t enough, on the Friday of their visit Carlos took time out to join guests at a fundraising afternoon tea in our Circle Restaurant, raising funds towards our youth dance programme..  The 75 guests were enthralled as he talked about his life as a dancer, growing up in Cuba, and the challenges of setting up his new dance company; then he generously allowed plenty of time for questions and photos. We even started talking about a return visit – so watch this space!

Speaking of dance, a couple of times each year I go and see some new international dance on behalf of Dance Consortium, who are based here in the Hippodrome complex. Last week I travelled to Amsterdam to see Chinese choreographer Yang Liping presenting her work Under Siege – an epic depiction of a historic Chinese battle between the Chu and Han armies.  The cast came from all sorts of backgrounds and you could see this through the varied performance styles, ranging from Peking opera through to hip-hop.  The sets and costumes were by the designer of the film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and were absolutely breath-taking! The performance whizzed by and two hours later I spilled back into the cold Amsterdam evening, almost speechless after such a spectacular performance. I really hope we can facilitate a UK tour for her company in future years.

The next day I took the day off to be a tourist, going to some exhibitions, doing a spot of Christmas shopping and ending the evening on an open top canal boat cruise of the Amsterdam Light Festival.  Now in its fifth year, the festival features amazing light installations curated from international and national artists, including Ai Weiwei this year.  It is best seen from the water, and so has the canal boat operators very busy in what used to be a quiet time of year. A clever cultural tourism development I thought, and came home wondering whether we could do something similar along Birmingham’s extensive waterways. I’ll leave you with a picture I took of a work called Whole Hole, by Netherlands artists Vendel & De Wolf.

So for now have a wonderful festival period – and I hope it includes a visit to your favourite theatre!

Fiona Allan