Posted on April 1, 2014
In recent years, The Royal Ballet has had a bigger hand in the dance programme of the Linbury Studio Theatre, from commissioning new works from other companies to giving its own performances there. Kevin O’Hare, the artistic director of The Royal Ballet, talks about the Linbury season.
This year’s Deloitte Ignite, running from September 5 to 28, is focused on dance. “Mina Moore Ede, who worked with us on the Titian project, is a curator at The National Gallery and a big dance enthusiast. She is curating it with us,” O’Hare says. “There are two big myths – Leda and the Swan and the myth of Prometheus – and we’re playing around with those.
“We’ll have performances in the Linbury that will look at the myths within dance – old myths, new myths. You’ll have a range of different choreographers and dancers, some Royal Ballet, some maybe not Royal Ballet. We’re commissioning some dance films, again taking myths as their starting point.
“The BalletBoyz are coming back. They’ll be under the umbrella of Deloitte Ignite to start with, then they’ll have their season in the Linbury. So they’ll be involved, and we’ll be looking at the visual art world as well. We’ll be working very digitally, with different elements, and storytelling about myths of children – dressing up in myths for children, too! The last weekend will be a massive family day.”
The BalletBoyz season will include works by two choreographers associated with The Royal Ballet: Kristen McNally, a Royal Ballet soloist, and choreographic affiliate Alexander Whitley. How involved is O’Hare in choosing the Linbury programmes? “It’s a mutual discussion,” he says, “with the BalletBoyz and myself, and Emma Southworth, who is the senior producer for the Royal Ballet Linbury work. Together we talk it through and decide. The Alex Whitley piece is a commission from The Royal Ballet studio programme, so we’re very much involved with that.
“Whereas when Northern Ballet come in – which we’re very excited about – that’s very much their work, though we’ve invited them to come. It’s the same with Phoenix Dance Theatre. If we commission work, it’s much more of a conversation.” In the 2014–15 season, Northern Ballet will dance a mixed bill and the new work The Elves and the Shoemaker. Phoenix Dance Theatre’s programme will include a new work by Christopher Bruce.
Ludovic Ondiviela’s new Cassandra, which has its world premiere on October 30, is another Royal Ballet commission, and will have some Royal Ballet dancers in its cast. “Ludo has come through the choreographic process here at The Royal Ballet,” O’Hare says. “He came up with this idea, so we’ve been working on it. We had research and development sessions in the summer, a small invited audience came to see those, with discussion afterwards. I think we’re getting better at that, at helping people and mentoring them.”
Who was invited to these sessions? “Some were people who are interested in Ludovic’s work – he’s got a following. Some were musicians. There were some theatre people, someone from the Arts Council, people from the Royal Opera House and Royal Ballet world, some from the opera. It was quite broad, so people could look at his work and comment on it. I think he enjoyed that process. Usually, we’re working on lots of different things, so it was interesting for Ludo to have two weeks of Cassandra all day every day. It’s something dance people aren’t used to, in our world.
“Emma, the producer, was at The Place, so she’s worked with a lot of inspiring young choreographers. She’s very good at helping them find their way. You can’t tell people what to do, you can only put them in the right direction to find things for themselves.”
The Linbury’s Christmas show will be The Mad Hatters T Party. It’s a Royal Ballet commission and production, to be created by choreographer Kate Prince for her hip hop company ZooNation. It runs at the same time as The Royal Ballet dance Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland on the main stage. “We want to make it feel that they’re interlinked within the house. We’ll do education events, family events. We’ll try to do events with some of our dancers and some of their dancers – maybe working together on something. We’re really keen to make those links, exploring what the differences and the similarities are.”
“I think Kate Prince’s work is brilliant. There’s a lot of talk about female choreographers – there’s a brilliant female choreographer! She’s very inspiring, the way she’s put everything together in her shows. It’s a really fun idea.”
Aakash Odedra will bring his double bill Murmur and Inked to the Linbury in January 2015. “He’ll be part of Deloitte Ignite, as well, then he comes back to do his own show. He’s a very interesting dancer and choreographer – I saw him up in Edinburgh and was quite taken by him. I felt this was the right place to show his work.”
Shobana Jeyasingh Dance will be performing another Royal Ballet commission, a project inspired by the 19th-century ballet La Bayadère. It’s another link between the Linbury and the main stage – though La Bayadère isn’t actually in this season’s repertoire. “No, it’s not! I’m sorry we couldn’t manage that – it just wasn’t possible,” O’Hare admits. “Shobana Jeyasingh is another great choreographer. The idea came from her. She’d seen us do La Bayadère, and of course it has those Indian themes.” Jeyasingh trained in classical Indian dance; La Bayadère is very much a Western fantasy of India. “I think we’ll probably get a very realistic view of it,” says O’Hare. “It’s going to be very interesting, particularly for those who know and love La Bayadère!”
Photograph: Teri Pengilley, courtesy of the Royal Opera House.