The Royal Ballet Creates… Apple Store, London
Wednesday 13 April 2011
With The Royal Ballet Creates..., choreographer Kristen McNally held choreographic workshops in the middle of a busy shop. She, and five dancers from The Royal Ballet, worked on a dance to a Kanye West song, incorporating suggestions from the audience at the Apple Store in Covent Garden. It's a nice way of drawing a new audience into the creative process, even if the attempts to include the sponsor Apple's technology seem a bit strained.
McNally's dance has an existing framework: the number of dancers, where solos and group sections begin or end. She enlists the crowd to help fix moments in the dance. What direction should the dancers face? What pose would work at this moment?
The fun is seeing these suggestions build up and develop. Having walked through the suggested positions, the dancers dance it through, flat out. Seemingly unlinked poses and points are suddenly joined up, creating a coherent dance.
Even so, the strongest moments are when McNally swaps her interactive format for longer dance sequences. Her five dancers tilt sideways in slow motion, their bodies angled. Thomas Whitehead swaggers through a solo, moving with fierce attack.
It's a relaxed session: shoppers crowd in, and stay for the duration. The women wear "ballet" practice clothes, black tights and pointe shoes. The men look more casual in shorts and trainers. The workshop is designed to make ballet approachable, yet the crowd murmurs happily at a run of steps on pointe. The virtuosity of ballet is still a major part of its appeal, even when the dancers are trying to be everyday.
When McNally announces free tickets to an upcoming evening of new choreography, half the audience ring the box office to claim them. It suggests something's working.
The night before, Steven McRae showed how extraordinary the finished product can be. This season, he made his debut as the Prince in Swan Lake; it's already a superb interpretation. The dancing is dazzling but so is his sense of the role. McRae is a prince to his fingertips, aware of the responsibilities and pressures of the court, ready to escape into impossible love.
The Royal Ballet dance Draft Works on 26 & 27 April (020 7304 4000)
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