Dancers perform in the cellist by cathy marston at the royal opera house

2nd Year students explore choreography in their contemporary context classes

Our 2nd Year students have been exploring choreographic works this term in their contemporary context classes. They have been studying pieces including The Rite of Spring by Pina Bausch, Cross Channel and Flesh and Blood by Lea Anderson, Flight Pattern by Crystal Pite and The Cellist by Cathy Marston.

Examining choreographer’s work

Analysing the different pieces, the students have considered theories of regeitheater, cognition and emotional engagement. They have examined how the choreographers explore narratives, considering the pedagogical and choreographic approaches of Martha Graham in relation to each choreographers’ work.

Thought-provoking essays

The students engaged enthusiastically with the content they were given and produced some wonderful essays as a result. The essays incorporate the students’ analysis of the pieces they studied and pay tribute to the influential female choreographers that they have been examining. We share some excerpts here:

Rite of Spring may perhaps be particularly impactful to the female audience, as the involvement of the tribal women in the sacrifice is paramount to the rite. The work’s pronounced “savage biological battle of the sexes”, is a common and relatable aspect of most women’s life, where society’s sexual divide has coerced them into adopting an ill-suited role which suggests weakness and devotion towards men (Mackrell, 2013). Despite the work’s discriminatory and sexist narrative, Bausch decided to antagonise said ideal by portraying the female sex as the powerful one by emphasising the psychological strength they share as a community. – Guillem Cabrera Espinach

Cathy Marston’s ‘The Cellist’ ‘is a lyrical memoir of the momentous life of the cellist Jacqueline du Pré, from her discovery of the cello through her celebrity as one of the most extraordinary players of the instrument to her frustration and struggle with multiple sclerosis’ (Royal Opera House, N/A). Whilst it is a narrative ballet, it deals with human relationships and emotions rather than merely focusing on the plot. Marston explores the psychology and inner world of the characters, which was also a prime theme in Graham’s dances. – Milda Luckute

In search of material that would encapsulate ‘the miracle that is a human being’, Graham urged the young dancers of her company to pay attention to ‘the fundamental, life-enabling bodily movements they were making in their ordinary lives: walking and running, laughter and crying, breathing, falling and rising again’ (LaMothe, 2019). This progressive training encouraged her dancers to bring more depth and honesty to their performances and was consistent with the lesson her father had taught her when she was young, that ‘movement doesn’t lie’ (Horosko, 1991: 1). – Tilly Wightman

Graham connected dance to human necessity, feeling it is the hidden language of the soul. It meant movements for her technique must come from deep within, wanting each action to have a prescribed and definite meaning (Mazo, 1977, p.189). There is no decadence, no touch of morbidity but a glow of vitality in her works (De Mille, 1991). She believed the body told a story that words could not, one trait which all these women shared. Bausch felt each person holds ancient memories, and the dancer has the capacity to evoke it. This memory just needs a storyteller, and this was her. In Pite’s work the lack of words helps to showcase the issue of how people are silenced by circumstances or media that are meant to clarify and explain, such as the news. It allows the audience to reflect more deeply on the significance of given situations. – Caspar Lench

Read Guillem, Milda, Tilly and Caspar’s full essays

A unique programme

The Royal Ballet School’s degree in Classical Ballet and Dance Performance is completely bespoke and only available to students at the School. Launched in 2017, the programme takes place over three years and provides students with a distinctive set of skills ideal for their futures as professional dancers. Rootedin the School’s rich heritage, the course aims to provide theorical content which supports the student’s extensive practical practice and connects with repertoire that they learn. Students who successfully complete all three years of study are awarded a BA Degree.

Five-year review

Earlier this month the five-year review for the accreditation of our degree programme took place with colleagues from the University of Roehampton. We were delighted that the programme has successfully been validated for another five years. 

Find out more about our degree programme