It’s their biggest production and mine. I’ve done some big ones but this one takes the cake in terms of scale.
ENB have always been very successfula t bringing a classical artform like ballet to the masses, partly because they are the last remaining big touring company. Tamara has a verty keen eye, she knows she needs to build up teh artistic profile of teh company but she also knows how to get bums on seats. And she knows teh two can go hand in hand. Sme people ting to be popular yo need to be shallow and wheel out the old warhorses, but it is possible to make art that is entertaining. That is my philopsophy, too, with Alice In Wonderland or A Winter’s Tale – epic stories that will appeal to the ballet audience but also people who have never been before.
I want peopel to cme and fall in love with it. It is easy on the eyes and the ears, it is a big spectacle that delivers all those spinetingling moments but it is also a ballet with integrity and the only way it can be performed is by a company of the highest calibre. It is technically very, very difficult. We haven’t dumbed it down, theyre all a bit oooooo. yo will see, it’s very very big.
The company is hungry. It’s always been the blessing and curse of the underdog, not to say it is teh underdog but it has always been perceived (that way) with the Royal Ballet (he mimes putting on a crown) which I love and was my home for so long. But with smaller comapnies there is such an energy and a drive to make someting they can be proud of.
3.40 in the round. This is 3D, immerive ballet with new angles.
I’ve really to arrange it, without compromising the art, so it works in the round. Staging it this way is more of an experience.. You are really close to the dancing, seeing from angles you wouldn’t normally. You are in the action, suddenly seeing backs. I’ve been talking alot to the dancers about making sure their backs are expressive, being aware there are people behind you. The most important is that the story is clear.
MOdern princess, liek Aladdin.
I made this Cinderella before teh MeToo movement. We were keen to craete a strong Cinderella who is control of theori own destiny. Who make a decision ‘Ok tihs is my new lot in life but i’m going to use every moment to propel me forwards, even when i’m down and out. not be diminished and waify.
The difference in this story from many other Cinderellas is we see the parallel life of the Prince, we see them growing up, both trapped in their positions. This prince is kind of like our royals, Willian and Harry. I had them in mind, young men who will accept their responsibilities but dont want to do it teh old fashioned way. Who want to be out in the world, living like the with and learning from their people.
7.40. Is classical ballet relevant?
I think it has ore to do with teh modern world than teh abstract, a la mode modern pieces. They are stunning to look at and feel very much in the moment, of their time. Calassical ballet if its done well.. Firstly, it has lasted. People say oh its a dying art form. It’s really not, its having a great time right now. There are a lot of successful young choreographers who are making ballet fresha nd exciitng. For me dance is a universal language. You can be from anywhere in the world and enjoy and be moved and go on this journey because we are storytellers. We all want to be told stories, thats part of our human make-up from being little kids. It is the most comforting thing. With ballet we have an opportunity to tell those stories in a way everyone can understand.
There is always this notion that people arent going to understand ballet. The tricky thing for us is getting peopel in trhough the doors because once they are in the y love it, more often than not. Its erceived as old-fashioned elitist…and it certainly has its moments . Sometimes its written about that way. The way it is described can be intimidating. Nobody knows all the terms. Nobody knows that somebody’s arabesque was off. I think ballet can be popular and moving and appeal to everyone. Productions like this prove that point.
It’s starting to be less of an issue and hopefully soon t will be a non-issue. One thing I will say. Ballet is uncompromising in its technique. You cant bring in (positive discrimination) for the sake of it. Its liek an opera singer – you can either hit teh note clearly or you cant. It is uncompromising.
It is about getting more kids from multicultural backgrounds to train so we can see the talent and have a bigger pool. YOu dont want to lower standarsd to open you r arms. Ith as to start at an educational level.
Come and fall in love. Fall in love with the prince or the princess, whoever you want.
Boys whould be more afraid of how masculine (in old fashioned terms) they need to be. The amount of strength it takes. You aran A-list athlete and then you have to be an artist and a power lifetr. YO look at any of teh princes, Theyre all great guys, down to earth theyre all actually straight but they are devoted to tehir art form and more ofteb thena not theyre rehearsing in a real Madrid shirta nd we walk out ant nighta nd theyve got their skateboards and off teh go.
It truly is the English National Ballet for the 21st Century.
Acclaimed choreographer Christopher Wheeldon (An American in Paris) presents the UK premiere of his Cinderella, performed by English National Ballet and specially adapted for the Royal Albert Hall as an in-the-round extravaganza.
The epic presentation, based on the Brothers Grimm version of the story, will feature more than 90 dancers, alongside striking sets, puppetry and projection, all accompanied by Prokofiev’s iconic score.
Wheeldon created Cinderella for the Dutch National Ballet and San Francisco Ballet in 2012. This production, running for 14 performances only, will feature striking set design by Julian Crouch – founder of the influential theatre company, Improbable – puppetry from Basil Twist (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) and projection from Daniel Brodie.
Since 1997, well over half a million people have seen English National Ballet’s grand scale in-the-round productions at the venue
English National Ballet perform Cinderella at the Royal Albert Hall from June 6-16 2019
www.royalalberthall.com / 020 7589 8212
Erina Takahashi, Lead Principal
Why dancing in the Royal Albert Hall is so special?
I had such an amazing feeling throughout the performances of Swan Lake and Romeo and Juliet in this theatre. It’s an incredible theatre and you can feel the atmosphere so much, having the audience so close and surrounding the stage… add a live orchestra to that and I get goosebumps already thinking about it.
Why this new version of Cinderella is so special?
This is my first time dancing this production of Cinderella and to be able to dance at this incredible theatre is extra special for me. Imagining the scene of Cinderella on the carriage and her arriving at the ball, so many scenes make me excited, how amazing it will feel to performing there and hopefully the audience will feel magical moments throughout the show as much as we will.
Why the great classical ballets are still relevant in the modern world?
I will always love dancing the classics as much as I love the modern ballets. I grew up watching the classics and it is my chance now to add my bit of history to a role and bring it to an audience and make it relatable to them. The world of ballet is forever changing and although the roles haven’t changed, the way we perform them both technically and emotionally, has evolved with time. It is another great wonder of the world of ballet. I am so grateful that at English National Ballet that I have the opportunity to dance both. The most wonderful thing about ballet is there is something for everyone, whether you are passionate about dance or music or costumes or sets or that you just love sitting in a theatre to be fully immersed in art.
Why the Royal AH is such a challenge…The incredible technique and strength needed to cover an even larger floor area – maybe something fun about snacks/sweets to keep energy up?
We have audiences sitting all around us which means we have nowhere to hide anything and I’m very aware of how I would look from every direction and also how to cover and use the space as much as I can which takes lot more energy and stamina. I always have bottle of water and a drink made with hydration powder with me at every entrance as to not get dehydrated. I find it really helps to keep hydrated especially in this theatre, as sometimes we don’t get back to our dressing rooms until the interval.
Anything fun and personal (family coming to see it, any kind of first etc)
I have a two year old son who hasn’t been to the Royal Albert Hall before. He comes at least once to all of the theatres I have danced in, he loves watching the performances. I’m hoping to bring him one day and maybe watch some of my performance if he wants too.
Shale Wagman, Artist of the Company
You’ve never performed at the Royal Albert Hall before, what are you most looking forward to?
I have always aspired to dance at the Royal Albert Hall. It is such an iconic venue with so many incredible, influential artists who have performed there. I have never been inside the Albert Hall but I think once I step in, I will grasp the energy of the theatre and the people who have touched it. I’m really looking forward to move across that huge stage and spread the joy of dance to the furthest seat.
What’s the biggest difference/s in rehearsing a production in-the-round?
During the process of Christopher’s choreographing for in-the-round, he changed the direction of dancing quite a lot. He has made beautiful formations with the dancers. We normally dance for the front but now we dance for all around us. We also have many extra dancers joining us in the company and it is lovely to meet and share the stage with new people.
How have you enjoyed rehearsals?
Rehearsals have been pleasant. I absolutely loved working directly with the choreographer in the studio. You can get the true essence of the steps and intention which is a special process. The ballet staff that Chris has brought in are exquisite and demand for a very high level technically and artistically . They constantly push us to find more in the most positive way where you want to keep improving and improving.
What are your favourite things about this new version of Cinderella? What has the audience got to look forward to?
The story is made very clear through brilliant theatricality and visual effects. The production is a spectacle with lots of dancers and extravagant costumes. The audience can look forward to watching a story ballet transformed into a grander, larger than life piece of art.
Sometimes fairytales come true.
Are you sitting comfortably? Then picture this. The grandest ballroom in the land. One of our greatest ballet companies reborn and ready to dazzle. A classic heroine ready to brush away the cobwebs and a handsome prince with more than few nods to our own royal dynamic duo. A tale as old as time retold with love and respect for tradition and excitement for what a fresh new voice can bring.
This isn’t just Cinderella, this is a blockbuster beauty of a production that combines the dreamy delights of classical ballet with a very modern eye on mounting the most spectacular show imaginable. More than half a million fans have seen the ENB’s productions at The Royal Albert Hall, famously gasping at the record-breaking sight of 60 swans fluttering en pointe. Cinderella is about to blow that out of the aforementioned water.
Hollywood productions love their impressive statistics but this ballet boasts an incredible 130 dancers, almost doubling the size of the company. 90 of them will take to the enormous stage each performance, across 197 roles, diving in and out of 370 costumes. And, oh, those costumes. The lavish attention to detail means each of the gentlemen’s waistcoats for the lavish ballroom set piece took four hours to lovingly handpaint. That’s 24 waistcoasts and twelve days’ labour alone for the ENB’s Dyer and Painter, Symone Frost. Cinderella, of course, will be the belle of that ball, with a triple-layered fantasy frock complete with 200 crystals blazing in her bodice.
At a rehearsal, I saw huge parts of the palace gliding across the stage and the spirit of Cinderella’s mother swooping across the graveyard. There is puppetry from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory genius Basil Twist and magical projections. There is also a much-touted and mysterious tree which we are told actually dances in the wind, but they are cleverly keeping that one back for opening night.
The man behind it all, Christopher Wheeldon, has numerous major productions, endless accolades and a casual OBE under his belt – all at just 46. He has made such a name for himself because he knows how to marry exquisite chorography with a cinematographer’s eye. Productions of Alice In Wonderland and A Winter’s Tale were lauded as much for for their breathatking visual flair as for the pretty footwork.
Wheeldon has boldly upped his game again here. Cinderella was created for the Dutch National Ballet and San Francisco Ballet in 2012 but has been substantially reworked and restaged for the ENB at The Royal Albert Hall.
“It’s their biggest production and mine,” he says with a smile and a deep breath. “I’ve done some big ones, but this one takes the cake in terms of scale.
“Some people think to be popular you need to be shallow and wheel out the old warhorses, but it is possible to make art that is entertaining. That is my philopsophy, too, epic stories that will appeal to the ballet audience but also people who have never been before.”
Wheeldon is that wonderful rarity, a sumptuosly talented modern choreographer who doesn’t just pay lip service to clasical ballet, he openly adores it.
“I think classical ballet has more to do with the modern world than the abstract, a la mode modern pieces,” he says. “They are stunning to look at and feel very much in the moment, of their time, but classical ballet is truly timeless. People say, ‘Oh, it’s a dying art form.’ It’s really not, it’s having a great time right now.
“There is always this notion that people aren’t going to understand ballet. It is perceived as old-fashioned and elitist – and it certainly has its moments. Too often, the problem is that it is written about that way. The way it is described can be intimidating. Nobody knows all the terms. Nobody knows that somebody’s arabesque was off. I think ballet can be popular and moving and appeal to everyone. Productions like this prove that point.
“For me dance is a universal language. You can be from anywhere in the world and enjoy and be moved and go on this journey because we are storytellers.”
Wheeldon is also proud how his leading lady and prince aren’t just stiff two-dimensional means to a grand pas de deux end.
“I made this Cinderella before the MeToo movement,” he says. “We were keen to create a strong Cinderella who is in control of her own destiny. Who is not diminished and waify.
“The difference in this story from many other Cinderellas is we see the parallel life of the Prince, we see them growing up, both trapped in their positions. This prince is kind of like our royals, William and Harry. I had them in mind, young men who will accept their responsibilities but don’t want to do it the old fashioned way. Who want to be out in the world, living like and learning from their people.”
It’s not just the characters who are fully three-dimensional. The ENB productions at the Royal Albert Hall are performed ‘in the round.’ All the main floor seating is removed to create a huge, circular space, more than double the size of a standard stage. The audience is wrapped around the performance, seeing it from a myriad of perspectives. The front rows are almost close enough to touch the dancers, those higher up have a grand panorama.
Wheeldon and his dancers says this makes it just as exciting for them as for the audience.
“Staging it this way makes it more of an experience than watching a static show head on. You are really close to the dancing, seeing it from angles you wouldn’t normally. You are in the action, suddenly seeing backs. I’ve been talking alot to the dancers about making sure their backs are expressive, being aware there are people behind you. It is a big spectacle that delivers all those spinetingling moments but it is also a ballet with integrity and the only way it can be performed is by a company of the highest calibre. It is technically very, very difficult.“
Young rising star Shale Wagman will be performing for his first time at the Royal Albert Hall and can’t contain his excitement for the challenge.
“During the process of Christopher’s choreographing for in-the-round, he changed the direction of dancing quite a lot. He has made beautiful formations with the dancers. We normally dance for the front but now we dance for all around us. I’m really looking forward to moving across that huge stage and spreading the joy of dance to the furthest seat.
“This production really is such a wonderful spectacle. The audience can look forward to watching a traditional story ballet transformed into a grander, larger than life piece of art.”
Principal Erina Takahashi has danced Swan Lake and Rome and Juliet in the Hall before. Her experience simply adds to her anticipation, tempered with some practical measues born of experience.
“It’s an incredible theatre and you can feel the atmosphere so much, having the audience so close and surrounding the stage,” she says. “Add a live orchestra to that and I get goosebumps already thinking about it. Just imagining the scene of Cinderella on the carriage and her arriving at the ball, so many scenes make me excited.
“Add to that, we have audiences sitting all around us which means we have nowhere to hide. I’m very aware of how I would look from every direction and also how to cover and use the space as much as I can which takes lot more energy and stamina than usual. I always have bottle of water and a drink made with hydration powder with me at every entrance as to not get dehydrated. Especially in this theatre, as sometimes we don’t get back to our dressing rooms until the interval.”
The ENB’s Cinderella is ready and raring to go dancing and she’s not going to politely wonder if you would like to join her. She will grab you by both hands and sweep you away into a thrilling fairytale come true.
“Come and fall in love,” Wheeldon says. “Fall in love with the prince or the princess, whoever you want. But most of all, fall in love with the ballet.”
It’s time for everyone to go the ball.
English National Ballet perform Cinderella at the Royal Albert Hall from June 6-16 2019
www.royalalberthall.com / 020 7589 8212
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