Royal Ballet star dances away to a rival's tune

One of The Royal Ballet's brightest and most acclaimed young stars has been lured by the radical contemporary dance troupe Adventures In Motion Pictures to star in its next West End extravaganza.

Sarah Wildor, 25, dances Anastasia for The Royal Ballet at Covent Garden, London, this week, and last week won a huge ovation dancing Juliet in Romeo And Juliet.

But the ballerina is conspicuous by her absence in the newly-issued programme for next season. A Royal Ballet spokeswoman said yesterday that she had been given leave of absence this autumn and would be returning to the company.

It is understood that Miss Wildor has been approached by Adventures In Motion Pictures to play Cinderella in a radical reworking of the ballet to be presented in London's West End this autumn. Last year the company staged the much praised all-male Swan Lake with Royal Ballet dancer Adam Cooper. It became the first full-length ballet to be staged in the West End for over 50 years, and was televised at Christmas.

Mr Cooper, who is Miss Wildor's boyfriend, has since decided to leave the Royal Ballet and tour America with the AMP's Swan Lake. He will play opposite her in Cinderella, which in an imaginative staging by AMP's artistic director Matthew Bourne, will be set in the Blitz.

That the modern dance company has now also managed to lure Miss Wildor is dramatic proof that contemporary dance is mounting its biggest challenge yet in Britain to classical ballet. As Adam Cooper found with Swan Lake, the public's thirst for radical new treatments of the classics led to him starring at a West End theatre then touring to Los Angeles and New York. His girlfriend will be hoping for the same sort of international fame.

When Miss Wildor, then an unknown, burst on the scene four years ago playing Juliet at Covent Garden, one critic wrote that she was "quite marvellous, the best young Juliet I have seen since the days of Lynn Seymour."

Adventures In Motion Pictures was, until Swan Lake, a small-scale touring company with just eight dancers. Its international success has resulted in top dancers as well as audiences becoming more open to experiment.

Richard McDermott, administrator with AMP, said yesterday: "The divisions in dance between contemporary and classical are becoming blurred particularly in London.

"You no longer have to earn your spurs with The Royal Ballet. Great dancers want to dance with contemporary companies such as ours."

Neither the Royal Ballet nor AMP would officially confirm that Miss Wildor will be moving from one company to the other temporarily. But insiders say an announcement will be made in the next few days.

The Royal Ballet is enjoying a particularly exciting time for producing star performers, and not surprisingly, some of them are beginning to want to spread their wings. If Ms Wildor, like Adam Cooper, were to decide to leave the Royal Ballet permanently it would be a blow to the company. But a company insider said yesterday: "We could not stand in Sarah's way over this and we are confident she will return. The opportunity to create a role in the West End does not come along very often."

The Royal Ballet will open its new season at the Labatts Apollo in Hammersmith, west London, this autumn when the Royal Opera House will be closed for redevelopment. The company will sign off from its Covent Garden home for two years with a gala performance in July.

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