5 Questions to Sarah Lamb, Royal Ballet Principal, about dancing Kenneth MacMillan’s Manon…

Sarah Lamb.<br />© ROH. (Click image for larger version)

Sarah Lamb.
© ROH. (Click image for larger version)

The Royal Ballet 2019/20 season opens on Wednesday 2 October with one of Kenneth MacMillan’s masterworks – Manon. Dancing that night will be Sarah Lamb – time to catch up with her we thought…

The Royal Ballet in Manon
Royal Opera House, 2 October – 6 November 2019

www.roh.org.uk/people/sarah-lamb
www.roh.org.uk

You are opening the Royal Ballet Manon season with Vadim Muntagirov – what does the role mean to you and why should people see it?

The role of Manon is very dear to me, it is one of my favourite roles and it is an incredible experience to perform. The trajectory of the story from a young woman to death within a matter of hours is an intensely emotional journey. I think people should see it because the full spectrum of humanity is portrayed, innocence, avarice, jealousy, insecurity, privilege, entitlement, suffering, loss, regret, I could go on!
 

Sarah Lamb and Vadim Muntagirov in <I>Manon</I>.<br />© Alice Pennefather, courtesy the Royal Opera House. (Click image for larger version)

Sarah Lamb and Vadim Muntagirov in Manon.
© Alice Pennefather, courtesy the Royal Opera House. (Click image for larger version)

It’s a role you know well – how has your interpretation of Manon changed and developed over the years?

I have always thought deeply about who she is and why she acts the way she does. I don’t believe she has free will (nor do I believe any of us do and a lot of neuroscience is now confirming that!) I think she has understood her circumstances to the best of her abilities, and she is trying to survive. Her central conflict is between love and security and she chooses love. I hope that I have been able to use my own life and experiences to better convey her truths.
 

Sarah Lamb in <I>Manon</I>.<br />© Johan Persson, courtesy the Royal Opera House. (Click image for larger version)

Sarah Lamb in Manon.
© Johan Persson, courtesy the Royal Opera House. (Click image for larger version)

Come the final bows at the end of Manon you always look absolutely shattered – is that how it feels and how long does it take to come down and be ‘you’ again?

It is always very difficult to transition back into “real life” after a performance, especially in a role as emotionally draining as Manon.

I don’t know if I do really transition – I think one has to keep acting in a way, act like someone taking her makeup off and saying hello to people post-performance.
 

Sarah Lamb and Vadim Muntagirov in <I>Manon</I>.<br />© Alice Pennefather, courtesy the Royal Opera House. (Click image for larger version)

Sarah Lamb and Vadim Muntagirov in Manon.
© Alice Pennefather, courtesy the Royal Opera House. (Click image for larger version)

It is inimitable to die onstage, it does feel real, and yet I can sense the pain and anguish that Vadim has as he carries on with the final notes of the score. It is like nothing else to have that absence and presence simultaneously.
 

Who are your dance heroes and why?

My teacher Tatiana Nicolaevna Legat taught me with such passion and detail and expertise I consider myself so incredibly fortunate to have had her. When I was young I looked up to Larissa Ponomarenko who was a gorgeous dancer. Of course, Gene Kelley was my first dance inspiration as I watched so many of his films with my father who loved him. His grace, ease, joie de vivre and joy was magnetic. I was able to meet his widow after my performance of Mayerling this summer in LA which was so thrilling!
 

Sarah Lamb and Gary Avis in <I>Manon</I>.<br />© Alice Pennefather, courtesy the Royal Opera House. (Click image for larger version)

Sarah Lamb and Gary Avis in Manon.
© Alice Pennefather, courtesy the Royal Opera House. (Click image for larger version)

What do you do when you don’t do ballet – what interests you?

I love to read, and I love to spend time with my family. If I had more free time I might even draw or paint more which was my first passion even more than dance when I was very young.
 

Bonus Question: Tell us a joke…

Oh I don’t think I have any appropriate ones! I’m very sorry!

I have a funny story about British English & American English. When I first moved to London a friend in the company asked about the winter in Boston. I said it could get extremely cold, she said “so what do you do?” I said “oh you just have to wear another pair of pants” she thought I meant knickers as in underpants and looked at me quizzically & said “really that’s all?”
 
 

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