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Yesterday Junior Associates were treated to a masterclass in Frederick Ashton’s The Dream, by members of The Royal Ballet.
This is the first time The Royal Ballet have held a creative workshop for members of our Associate programme. In total 94 Year 6 Associate students from all eight of our centres around the country attended the day.
After a day of classes exploring the different characters in this one-act ballet, the children watched a demonstration by Bennet Gartside, Royal Ballet First Soloist who has played Bottom, Ricardo Cervera, Royal Ballet First Soloist and Assistant Ballet Master who has played Oberon, and Laura Morera, Royal Ballet Principal who recently played the role of Titania.
After letting one of our Junior Associates try on the Bottom head mask, Bennet Gartside described the unique challenges of the Bottom costume:
‘It’s very difficult to see out – especially with the bright stage lighting. The only thing you can really see is the light colour and sparkle of Titania’s dress so often you have to rely on that.
‘There is a moment when Titania has to jump onto my back from behind and there is no way I’d be able to see her so I have to listen for her shoes and then brace myself in time. Some of the moves look quite simple but can be a real challenge when wearing that head!’
Laura Morera then danced a section from the ballet and talked to the students about playing Titania:
‘She is a fairy but she also has a lot of character from the beginning and shows she is very much her own person. The most difficult thing is showing the different sides of her character, in one scene she is bossing the other fairies around then being very playful herself in the next. After she has the magic drops put in her eyes she has a playful pas de deux with Bottom where she has to show the audience how she finds him so cute and gorgeous.’
Ricardo Cervera has played the part of Oberon. He explained to the children that there are some strong clues the work is by Ashton throughout:
‘You can see that it is Ashton because there is a lot of very precise footwork which is a characteristic of his work, but also a lot of movement expressed in the upper body. You always have to be thinking of épaulement – how you’re moving your shoulders and arms to tell the story.’
‘Yes Ashton loved the girls to hop on pointe so there is quite a bit of that to do. Often you are hopping and then have to change direction so you have to be very aware of your body and where you are at all times.’
After some more demonstrations the dancers answered some of the audience questions.
How long do you have to rehearse for The Dream?
Bennet: ‘The piece is 50 minutes long and it’s only a one-act ballet so we usually allow a month which is less than for a full ballet. Although we’re never doing just one ballet at a time during those weeks. The Royal Ballet company, at any given time, dances (including rehearsal and performance) between five and seven different productions.’
What’s the hardest role you’ve ever danced?
Laura: ‘Some of the soloist roles are very demanding, such as the pas de trois in Swan Lake. Principal roles can be difficult in a different way – often it’s up to you to create the character. Last year I made my debut as Titania and the toughest part wasn’t the style of the dancing but making the character believable.’
Bennet: ‘I found playing Rudolf in Mayerling very tough simply because of the amount of stamina needed. And you have to dance about seven different pas de deux with five different ladies – which is why it takes so much time to rehearse. You also need that time to really find your character and work out how to give it to the audience.’
Ricardo: ‘I also found stamina was a challenge when I played Colas in La Fille mal gardée but it is also a very technical role. It is a narrative ballet so you’re trying to convey a story, and on top of that there are a lot of props involved. There’s a scene with a cat’s cradle dance with ribbons which ends up creating a woven pattern – it’s very obvious if it doesn’t work!’
Does each dancer have their own costume?
David Pickering: ‘Yes – for example the Dream dress we have here today is Laura’s and only she will ever wear that dress. They are created specifically to your body and they have to fit perfectly so it wouldn’t work to have different dancers wearing the same costume.’
After the demonstration the children continued their afternoon sessions to explore the ballet and created their own version of The Dream which they performed for parents at the end of the day.
Our thanks to the teachers who helped the children get into the characters of The Dream: Melanie Agar, Pippa Cobbing, Elizabeth Foster, Natalie Krapf, David Pickering and Rhian Robbins.