Royal Ballet – Draft Works – London

Camille Bracher and Jose Martin in Into the Woods by Tamara Rojo. © Andrej Uspenski.
Camille Bracher and Jose Martin in Into the Woods by Tamara Rojo. © Andrej Uspenski.

Royal Ballet
Draft Works

London, ROH Linbury
24 January 2012

Good to see Draft Works in the larger Linbury Studio Theatre and as ever much fun to spot rising choreographic and dance stars closer than normal. Some are experienced, some not, but this is all work in the raw of working lighting, costume and recorded music, though some pushed at these constraints. Good, too, that Wayne McGregor (Royal Ballet Resident Choreographer) suggested people pass on their impressions of the pieces to the choreographers after the performance. What follows are mine but do note this is just one view of the night rather than handing out any judgements in stone – as if! If I wasn’t drawn to a piece then inevitably there would be others who enjoyed it and if I liked a piece there would be some who would not be so impressed, for sure… So in the end I say a huge well done to all involved.

Robert Binet – At the River Styx
Introduced as the new Royal Ballet (RB) Choreographic Apprentice, Binet offered a confident classical duet based on Orpheus and Eurydice to some melancholic Biber. He was greatly helped by his choice of dancers – Yuhui Choe and Ricardo Cervera, communicative and very well rehearsed. Binet (a Canadian) is young and circulating the world, sucking in experience, it seems. A little overlong but all up a pleasant, assured, apprentice piece with little kicks and flounces of freshness – his own stronger voice will surely come later.

Ludovic Ondiviela – Feathers in your Head
I liked this a lot. Again he was helped by his dancers, Lauren Cuthbertson and Bennet Gartside, both apparently unmade up and looking ‘ordinary’. About Alzheimer’s, it convincingly coupled Ondiviela’s smoother classical voice to the more twitchy contemporary voice he’s gained with Wayne McGregor in the building, to give a mixed-up world none of us want to experience. Probably the best piece of his I’ve seen and great to see him grow over the years in Draft Works.

Fernando Montano – Gallardo (Gallant)
A show-off tango piece that despite all the sell and knowing audience eye contact held no magnetism for me. Montano introduced it by saying he wanted to create a work on 2 girls but none were available and so he did something on himself and 2 chairs. He often appears in his own work and has many talents, not least as an engaging dancer and with a happy crowd-pleasing personality but it’s not clear to me yet that he is one of life’s natural choreographers. But he is a natural performer that’s for sure.

Declan Whitaker – Overtone
A solo on himself and the only choreographer not to introduce his piece. It meant some words in the programme which I think would have been a help to many of the pieces on the night. Of course I didn’t have a chance to read the notes before the show but that is beside the point! Viewed blind, I thought it was a homage to Michael Clark with leaned-back, pelvis forward, walking and also arms rigidly held behind the torso and giving occasional flutters. But others didn’t see the influence as strongly it has to be said. Very much lost in his own electronic world of wonder it worked well as an abstract piece and never in a month of Sundays would I have realised the inspiration was the slow movement of glaciers. Marked as somebody I’d like to see again.

Hayley Forskitt and Thomas Whitehead in Lonesome Gun by Kristen McNally for Royal Ballet Draft Works 2012. © Andrej Uspenski.
Hayley Forskitt and Thomas Whitehead in Lonesome Gun by Kristen McNally for Royal Ballet Draft Works 2012. © Andrej Uspenski.

Kristen McNally – Lonesome Gun
In a very nice way one thinks of McNally as being ‘mad as a hatter’ and this cowboy-meets-Quentin-Tarantino/Pulp Fiction piece featured a good collection of Stetsons as a starter. Consistently McNally turns in the most original experimental work based on arresting themes – and I applaud her for it. I might not always make sense of all the bits but I always grin or warm to some deeper moments. After The Good The Bad and The Ugly start there was an intense duet for Thomas Whitehead and Hayley Forskitt – later-day inhabitants of the West, I fancy, and a beautiful solo to some naive guitar from the film The Proposition (by Nick Cave). I always think where next? When and where might her quirky self settle down choreographically? And we still have no idea, but my goodness what an amazing ride it is. I think, though, she needs much more opportunity to hone her ideas and skills.

Erico Montes – Within the Hours
Montes always comes across as very serious in his approach to creating work and keen to differentiate what he does from the rest. In this case his was the only piece of the night to have live music (piano and cello) and it is a custom score too. He also secured the service of 7 seasoned dancers and filled the stage with, for the most part, classroom classicism. He confidently creates groups and poses, adds some quirks, like dips and high arms and I see an affable piece but I want to fast forward through it all the time.

Thomas Whitehead – i lean & bob
A new choreographic find, Tom Whitehead creates his first piece and a short, fun and punchy thing it is too. To a jaunty Latin tune (Kringle by Analogik) Sian Murphy and Ryoichi Hirano emerge from the audience to bop away in an all-American, Twyla Tharp, social dance style for 4 minutes. My goodness that’s a mouthful and far too heavy for a much appreciated piece that left you wanting a little more.

Sian Murphy and Ryochi Hirano dancing in i lean and bob by Thomas Whitehead. © Andrej Uspenski.
Sian Murphy and Ryochi Hirano dancing in i lean and bob by Thomas Whitehead. © Andrej Uspenski.

Simon Rice – Grace
I haven’t followed Simon Rice since his days with the Royal Ballet performing as the Jester in Cinderella and such like and he helpfully explained that he’s moved on into physical theatre and recently formed a contemporary company, Abundance. I rather warmed to his work for 4 girls (from his company and not RB) which constantly flowed and circled. I won’t say any of the movement was a startling revelation but its never-let-up-at-all quality and the strong dancing made me happy. And a good contrast to much else on the night. I look forward to picking up the threads with Rice.

Tamara Rojo – Into the Woods
There was a lot going on in this piece in which Rojo has choreographed on others for the first time. One of ballets greatest communicators on stage, and in person the height of clarity when she talks, I thought I had this piece sussed. A duet for young Camille Bracher and older soloist Jose Martin, her leg was attached to a rope and she couldn’t escape his love; fights happen followed by reconciliation and she comes to accept the rope and bounds him in it too. That’s love for you and a neat way of showing the ups and downs of it all, I thought. But there is another darker telling: that this is based on a Natascha Kampusch child-abuse theme, where Kampusch is the Austrian girl abducted aged 10 and held in a basement for 8 years and after release felt (in part at least) sorry for the man who had done this to her. Armed with this chilly take on ‘love’ I’d very much like to see it again. Well I’d like to see it again anyway – an absorbing piece.

Camille Bracher and Jose Martin in Into the Woods by Tamara Rojo. © Andrej Uspenski.
Camille Bracher and Jose Martin in Into the Woods by Tamara Rojo. © Andrej Uspenski.

Valentino Zucchetti – Brandenburg Divertissement
The highlight of the evening for many and easy to see why it was last up – to send everybody out happy. A well-constructed piece of neo-classicism that would have Balanchine smiling at just how cleverly a new boy can move 8 dancers to fill a stage and dazzle. Where others perhaps toiled classically Zucchetti seemed effortlessly to hit the button. Good piece for a school is that.

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