First Drafts, Linbury Studio Theatre, Royal Opera House, London 


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The Independent Culture

The Royal Ballet’s First Drafts makes an appealing evening of new work.

Most of the pieces are by dancers from within the company’s ranks, some making their debuts as choreographers. The results are presented on a bare stage, with stripped-down lighting and costume. The dancing is fresh, with a sense of individual artists finding their voices.

In At the River Styx,  by Robert Binet, a choreographic apprentice with the company, Ricardo Cervera’s Orpheus tries to rescue Yuhui Choe’s fluent Eurydice. I like the way Binet uses the Biber music’s sudden dissonance for the moment Orpheus looks back, though he should be stricter about keeping his hero’s gaze averted until then.

In Ludovic Ondiviela’s Feathers in your Head, Lauren Cuthbertson’s fingers flutter at her shoulder, with moments of tension as she dances with Bennet Gartside. Fernando Montaño explained that his dance Gallardo wasn’t planned as a solo: the two dancers he asked couldn’t make it, so he ends up strutting and flirting with two chairs.

Declan Whitaker’s Overtone was first performed at a youth dance event last summer, when it impressed Monica Mason and Wayne McGregor, The Royal Ballet’s director and its resident choreographer. It’s a cool, unfolding solo, with interesting dips and angles.

Kristen McNally, one of the most experienced choreographers, went spaghetti western with Lonesome Gun. In leotards and cowboy hats, her dancers shimmied to Morricone’s theme from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, with a deadpan wiggle to hips and shoulders. There were stark, bold angles in the central duet, for Hayley Forskitt and Thomas Whitehead.

Érico Montes’ Within the Hours has a new score by Oliver Davies, waltzes written for cello and piano. Montes creates springy classical dances for six women. Thomas Whitehead’s i lean & bob is a cheerful screwball duet, with Sian Murphy and Ryoichi Hirano climbing onstage from the audience, patting out rhythms and teasing each other. It’s a quick, funny number.

In Tamara Rojo’s Into the Woods, José Martín encounters Camille Bracher’s damsel in distress and gets tangled up in her story. There’s some supple, clutching partnering, with a sense of fascinated power struggles. Valentino Zucchetti’s Brandenburg Divertissement is a breezy classical display, with bright personality from the cast.

This was a confident, well-paced programme, arranged to show off the range and contrasts of the dancers. It made a warm, supportive environment for these choreographers’ first steps.

Until 26 January. Box office 020 7304 4000.