As a larger audience prepared to celebrate the tenth anniversary of Wayne McGregor’s tenure as The Royal Ballet’s resident choreographer on the main stage below, a few were privileged to see that there is more to being a resident choreographer than making one’s own dance. 

In Wayne’s world, mentoring and making go hand-in-glove and an hour before curtain up on the first night of a triple bill to celebrate McGregor’s choreography (including a world première of his own), the Royal Ballet presented a 30-minute showcase of dance by Charlotte Edmonds and Robert Binet; two young choreographers who experienced McGregor’s tutelage and advice in developing their latest works.

Mica Bradbury and Lukas Bjørneboe Brǽndsrød in Charlotte Edmonds' <i>Meta</i> © ROH | Helen Maybanks
Mica Bradbury and Lukas Bjørneboe Brǽndsrød in Charlotte Edmonds' Meta
© ROH | Helen Maybanks
Edmonds is the inaugural member of The Royal Ballet’s Young Choreographer Programme and Meta is an abstract, ethereal exploration of four people coming to terms with both an unknown space and their own relationships. With little structural intervention, there is an interesting architectural dimension to the piece (Julia Backhaus and Martin Tang are credited as being collaborating architects), largely established through a deconstructive, unseen world hidden behind a wall of long white strands of fabric, through which dancers emerge and disappear from time-to-time.

Two women (Mica Bradbury and Gina Storm-Jensen) wore Robert Wun’s highly-stylised, individualised, ruched tutu-like dresses while the men (Lukas Bjørneboe Brǽndsrød and the fast-rising Reece Clarke) had armless, full-length leotards that changed colour from black to light grey, somewhere mid-thigh. The audience sat in two rows on three sides and both Edmonds and Binet made impactful use of these additional viewing dimensions by moving their dancers around the space to great effect. Edmonds' movement language is rooted in the classical – arabesques and gorgeously pointed feet – but accentuated with interesting neoclassical lifts and a strong degree of expressionism, well articulated by dancers who were wholly absorbed by the unknown environment that enveloped them. It was a strong work, enthusiastically and enigmatically performed.

Binet was choreographic apprentice at The Royal Ballet in 2012/13 and, in addition to Aerial View (his output from that programme in Draft Works) he has also made pieces for Ballet Black (EGAL) and Studio Wayne McGregor (Life Witness). In 2013, Binet became choreographic associate at the National Ballet of Canada, since when he has made a number of works on that company.

Tomas Mock and Meaghan Grace Hinkis in Robert Binet's <i>Void and Fire</i> © ROH | Helen Maybanks
Tomas Mock and Meaghan Grace Hinkis in Robert Binet's Void and Fire
© ROH | Helen Maybanks
Void and Fire was also enhanced as a visual spectacle by a connection with the same collaborating architects, the main impact being a large, white beaded net, periodically lifted and lowered across the central part of the performance area. It seemed implausible that a venue as intimate as the Clore Studio could accommodate a simple set design concept that had such a monumental impact; but it did. The costumes – by Ilaria Martello – were less stylised but nonetheless effective. A dusty green was the prevailing colour and again there was a varying effect in colour tone with simple leotards, embellished by netting, and worn with bare legs. 

The choreographer’s intentions insofar as they are articulated in the title would appear to contrast the two opposites in ‘a void’ (i.e. a state of emptiness) and in the extreme ‘fire’ of the sun although I could not have deduced this connection without the accompanying programme note. The role of the large central net in this world of Void and Fire is still unclear to me although – without explanation – it still presented a strong design concept.

Binet’s choreography has clearly matured through his experiences with the National Ballet of Canada and here was strong and beautiful movement that was confident and purposeful, helped by two powerful performances by Meaghan Grace Hinkis and Romany Pajdak – both elegant and charismatic dancers that are deserving of more attention. It was hard to take one’s eyes off them, frankly, but I did so sufficiently to recognise strong supporting work by Solomon Golding, Giacomo Rovero, Joseph Sissens and Tomas Mock. 

It is impossible to say, of course, how much impact Wayne McGregor may have had on these two brief works but I'm sure that it must have provided an inspirational opportunity for both emerging choreographers to confide and consult with such a Colossus of modern dance and to enjoy access to the full range of collaborative skills in this creative finishing school.  

The Clore Studio provides an excellent platform to see small scale work, such as this, but it seems to be rarely used. Much is being made, just now, of the potential for opening up the Opera House and more use of the Clore for such performance opportunities would be welcome.