White lodge students perform in the cellist at the royal opera house

White Lodge students perform in The Cellist at the Royal Opera House

We never tire of seeing the amazing work our alumni go on to create throughout their careers. Last month, The Cellist, a one-act ballet created for The Royal Ballet by our alumna Cathy Marston, opened at the Royal Opera House.

Cathy Marston graduated from The Royal Ballet School in 1994 and has had an extensive career as a dancer and award-winning choreographer. Her works have been commissioned by some of the leading ballet companies worldwide, including The Royal Ballet, San Francisco Ballet and American Ballet Theatre. She is known for creating choreography full of rich storytelling, bringing new perspectives to old narratives through works such as Jane Eyre, Lady Chatterley’s Lover and Of Mice and Men. After a successful freelance career and holding roles as Associate Artist of the Royal Opera House and Director of Bern Ballett, Cathy was recently appointed Director of Ballett Zurich in Switzerland.

The Cellist

In 2020, The Cellist became Cathy’s first production to premiere on the main stage with The Royal Ballet, receiving a Critic’s Circle National Dance Award for Best Classical Choreography. Based on the life of Jacqueline du Pré, The Cellist depicts the famous musician’s outstanding career that was tragically cut due to her battle with multiple sclerosis. A profoundly moving lyrical memoir, the ballet presents Jaqueline’s struggles with her illness and relationship with her family, husband, and beloved instrument, the cello.

We spoke to Cathy about her inspiration for The Cellist:

I felt very inspired to create something on her story, not only because she was a very enigmatic and incredible talent, but also because it is a story that I think dancers can particularly understand. We really know what it is to embody our talent, to feel the responsibility and the joy, and the positives and negatives of having such a gift that Jackie had.  

Five of our White Lodge students, Phillipa, Olympia, Ayla, Amelia and Lucy, are featured in The Cellist, making it all the more special for us. Our students have the amazing opportunity to dance alongside members of The Royal Ballet, playing the roles of young Jacqueline du Pré and her sister Hilary.

We spoke to them about their favourite aspects of being in The Cellist:

My favourite part is probably being able to sit on the side and watch all the Principals dancing with each other. It’s just amazing being on stage with the Company. It’s something that everyone wants to do, and I feel really lucky. It’s really inspiring to watch the Company, and just dancing with them because it’s not something you get to do every day. – Emilia

My favourite part is just the whole atmosphere of the piece and getting to watch the Company work and see how amazing they are. The piece is balletic, but you’re allowed to let loose and let go. It’s very playful; you can be your own character in it. It’s really fun acting out the scene and pretending you’re in the story. There’s a lot of acting in it, so you have to experiment with the different emotions you use and what the character would be feeling. – Lucy

Hear more from our students and Cathy Marston about The Cellist: