Royal Ballet leaps out of lockdown

It staged an online extravaganza last Friday live-streamed from the Royal Opera House that mixed classics with modern dance

First soloist Anna Rose O'Sullivan says the lockdown has made her and her fellow dancers more hungry to perform and also more appreciative of what they do.
First soloist Anna Rose O'Sullivan says the lockdown has made her and her fellow dancers more hungry to perform and also more appreciative of what they do.PHOTO: REUTERS
Around 70 dancers of Britain's Royal Ballet, including Akane Takada and Federico Bonelli (above), put on a spirited three-hour concert at the Royal Opera House in London.
Around 70 dancers of Britain's Royal Ballet, including Akane Takada and Federico Bonelli (above), put on a spirited three-hour concert at the Royal Opera House in London.PHOTO: REUTERS
Thrilled to be on stage again, the Royal Ballet bounded from Romeo And Juliet, Swan Lake and Don Quixote towards a finale of Kenneth MacMillan's wild Elite Syncopations.
Thrilled to be on stage again, the Royal Ballet bounded from Romeo And Juliet, Swan Lake and Don Quixote towards a finale of Kenneth MacMillan's wild Elite Syncopations. PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON •The Royal Ballet, Britain's largest ballet company, leapt back into action last Friday after seven months of Covid-19 gloom, with an extravaganza that mixed classics such as Romeo And Juliet and Don Quixote with playful modern dance.

In a three-hour live-streamed performance from the Royal Opera House in central London, around 70 dancers bounded from Romeo And Juliet, Swan Lake and Don Quixote towards a finale of Kenneth MacMillan's wild Elite Syncopations.

Restrictions imposed to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus have battered the performing arts across the globe: Theatres and concert halls have lain empty for months and many musicians, actors and dancers have been stuck at home.

The last major ballet they performed was Swan Lake on March 12, just days before Prime Minister Boris Johnson shuttered the British economy and told the country to stay at home.

Marcelino Sambe, a principal dancer from Portugal, told Reuters: "It's like seven months of pent-up energy, excitement to develop further.

"This is what we did all that training for - to perform, to share this art. And to not have been doing that for so long, it really causes a lot of distress, really, and it's incredible that we get to be back on this glorious stage."

Covid-19 has dealt a devastating blow to ballet and other performing arts, which also draw custom to once thriving restaurants and bars of London that now lie silent or closed.

Kevin O'Hare, director of the Royal Ballet, said: "Frankly, it is a really bad situation for the Opera House. We have to be performing. We've lost, I think, £3 in every £5 because we're not performing."

He said precautions had been taken across the production - from costume fitting to social distancing backstage to dancing couples working only together.

For dancers who need to keep fit and perfect complicated fouettes, practice during the pandemic has been difficult. They are, though, hungry to get on stage.

Anna Rose O'Sullivan, first soloist, said: "It is probably the longest time, other than (because of) injuries that dancers may have had, that we've all been away from our daily routine and our training as we know it and performing on stage.

"All of our classes were via Zoom. So we were looking at a laptop and, you know, the postman would walk by and think, what's she doing in there, while I was doing my daily class and training."

The Royal Opera House will also use the event to see how it can get audiences back into live performances.

O'Sullivan said: "The fact that we've been away from it for so long has made us hungry and more resilient and appreciate it as well - what we do and how much we enjoy performing."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 14, 2020, with the headline 'Royal Ballet leaps out of lockdown'. Subscribe