This year’s Royal Ballet’s Draft Works at the Linbury Studio Theatre offers up an eclectic mix of pieces from seven of the Company’s dancers, as well as three non-Company members. Some pieces more fully-formed than others, the evening presents short sections of choreography by the likes of Principal Ballerina Tamara Rojo and Thomas Whitehead in a very informal setting. Dancers perform uncostumed and in studio light conditions, with the main focus of the Draft Works being on providing a forum for the choreographers to test out new material to the great enjoyment of the audience.

Hayley Forskitt and Thomas Whitehead in Lonesome Gun by Kristen McNally. Royal Ballet Draft Works 20 © Andrej Uspenski
Hayley Forskitt and Thomas Whitehead in Lonesome Gun by Kristen McNally. Royal Ballet Draft Works 20
© Andrej Uspenski

The night began with a classical ballet piece inspired by the Greek myth of Orpheus retrieving his wife Eurydice from the Underworld. Arranged by choreographic apprentice Robert Binet, At the River Styx was a romantic and heart-wrenching work performed beautifully by dancers Yuhui Choe and Ricardo Cervera.

Following a quick introduction from the next choreographer Ludovic Ondiviela (First Artist of The Royal Ballet), the audience was soon transfixed by Feathers in your Head. Surreal and dynamic, Ondiviela’s sketch was an interpretation of Alzheimer’s disease. The illness took on a dazed form, with intricate and fast-paced movements performed by two dancers. One sequence had the dancers repeatedly tapping on their shoulders to the sound of a typewriter which signified the steady workings of the brain in order to juxtapose the later frenzied movements as the disease takes effect.

The evening dipped slightly during Fernando Montano performance of Gallardo; a flamenco style piece that sadly failed to grip my attention. Other slower moments in the show include Erico Montes’s Within the Hour, which focused on the theme of time through seven female dancers. Although technically faultless and unquestionably beautiful on the surface, this piece seemed to lack a certain emotional connection, and I occasionally struggled to find links to Montes’s intended concept.

Yet what was so ideal about The Royal Ballet’s Draft Works was that there was something for everybody. If you found your interest lagging in one piece, you could rely on the fact it would be instantly revitalised in the next work.
Thomas Whitehead and Kristen McNally provided a lighter tone for the show with their comical works i lean & bob and Lonesome Gun. McNally’s particularly amusing sketch included Western-themed choreography, with cowboy hats and a very angry cowboy.

The show-stopper was Tamra Rojo’s Into the Woods. It portrayed the relationship between a man and woman who appeared to be his prisoner. Rojo has created an enthralling piece of romance and desperation that leaves you awe-struck and oddly attached to both characters in this mysterious story. Camille Bracher danced with vulnerability and innocence whilst revealing undertones of passion, for which Rojo’s choreography must be praised. When the time comes, I will be the first in line to buy tickets for her fully-formed show.

The Royal Ballet’s Draft Works is the perfect way to catch new pieces of dance from talented choreographers in an intimate setting. With all the professionalism and skill that come with The Royal Ballet, this performance is sure to have something for all tastes.