A young student dances with the royal ballet's francesca hayward in like water for chocolate

Students dance in The Royal Ballet’s Like Water for Chocolate

Some of our White Lodge students were involved in the creation and performance of Christopher Wheeldon’s new work for The Royal Ballet, Like Water for Chocolate. The ballet had its premiere run at the Royal Opera House from 2-17 June. It was a wonderful opportunity for our young students and we are thrilled that they could gain such valuable experience.

A new work

Like Water for Chocolate is a brand-new full-length ballet based on the famous Mexican novel of the same name by Laura Esquivel. The work follows the story of forbidden love between Tita and Pedro, childhood sweethearts who are kept apart due to family tradition. Tita must remain unmarried to care for her mother, and she channels her emotion into her cooking – but her emotions manifest in unusual ways when people eat the food she prepares. It is a gripping tale of passion, tragedy and true love, combining realism with the supernatural.

Christopher Wheeldon was first inspired by Like Water for Chocolate after seeing the film adaptation at the cinema. He enjoyed the rich dynamic layers to the story and instantly felt it would translate well as a ballet. When he decided to begin the project, he visited Laura Esquivel and worked closely with her throughout the process to keep in touch with the authenticity of the piece. Mexican conductor Alondra de la Parra and composer Tomás Barreiro also worked alongside Christopher Wheeldon, infusing the work with Mexican culture.

The production process

Our students worked with Christopher Wheeldon from the very beginning of the project, and they were able to see the work develop and understand the entire process of production from start to finish. Specific roles were created for individual students, allowing them to perform in parts developed in line with their strengths. Our students were also able to interact with The Royal Ballet dancers and work alongside them, giving them an insight into the world of professional classical ballet.

An unforgettable experience

José Carayol, Artistic Manager of the Foundation Programme at The Royal Ballet School, spoke of the work our students were involved in:

This was a truly unique project and we are thrilled that our students had the chance to witness a ballet coming to life. They were all very excited to be involved and were able to develop excellent working relationships with the Principal dancers, who they all look up to and admire. It was great that they were able to be highly involved and we’re so proud how professionally our students handled the work.

What our students thought

Some of our students told us about their experience with the project:

Going to the Royal Opera House and being in a studio with the dancers who I aspire to be like with Christopher Wheeldon has been the most educational experience of my ballet life so far. We went for rehearsal several times a week and each time, I felt the magic of Mr Wheeldon’s creation taken on by the dancers. As students, we learned so much from watching the dancers working with Mr Wheeldon. When we were all practicing together, the dancers would sometimes ask us questions and offer kind, encouraging words. I was totally in awe. I had the most inspirational and fun time in the studio.

When we knew which cast we were in, we started to rehearse more with them. The stage rehearsals really brought our work to life with the props and the spacing which needed attention and focus. The energy I felt when I danced on the stage carried me through the scenes like I was really part of a family. The music from the orchestra stays with me still. The biggest learning experience for me throughout this experience has been learning how to act naturally and spontaneously when I am dancing so that I can respond to the dancers on stage in a believable way and the audience can understand my story.  

Jade Johnstone, Year 9 student at White Lodge

The experience working with the company was unimaginable; the memories I have created I will treasure forever. It’s truly a special place at the Royal Opera House. The Company were so amazing and wonderful to watch, and seeing the ballet come to life from day one to now has been incredibly exciting. Working with the Principals and learning how they work in the studio every day has been very inspiring.

Isabella Barter, Year 9 student at White Lodge

Congratulations to all the students who were involved in this exciting opportunity.