Moving a bit away from the classics, Royal Ballet artistic director Kevin O’Hare has put together a new mixed programme created by some of the most talented contemporary choreographers. Twyla Tharp has expanded the As Time Goes By show to include the full Hayden’s “Farewell” Symphony. The piece which was originally created for the Joffrey Ballet in 1973, has been re-worked especially for this occasion is now called Illustrated Farewell. Arthur Pita, who is had his debut at the Royal Opera House’s main stage on the 6 November, will be presenting the Wind, a piece which was inspired by the 1928 silent movie of the same title, which was based on Dorothy Scarborough’s 1925 novel. And to close this triple bill, Hofesh Shechter has also revisited Untouchable — already part of the Royal Ballet repertoire since 2015 — to explore alienation and group identity themes.
The Illustrated ‘Farewell’
- Choreography – Twyla Tharp
- Music – Joseph Haydn
- Costume realization – Fay Fullerton
- Lighting realization – Simon Bennison
- The Wind
- Choreography – Arthur Pita
- Music – Frank Moon
- Orchestration – Christopher Austin
- Set designer – Jeremy Herbert
- Costume designer – Yann Seabra
- Lighting designer – Adam Silverman
- Choreography – Hofesh Shechter
- Music – Hofesh Shechter and Nell Catchpole
- Costume designer – Holly Waddington
- Lighting designer – Lee Curran
Twyla Tharp in rehearsal with Steven McRae for The Illustrated ‘Farewell’. Photo: Tristram Kenton
A first glimpse of The Royal Ballet’s Illustrated ‘Farewell’ with Twyla Tharp
“The great artists wish to push the boundaries. It’s not about to make themselves to look good, doing what they are comfortable with. It’s about where they can take that, and what discoveries people can make.”
Kevin O’Hare introduces Twyla Tharp at the Clore Studio at the Royal Opera House. She was invited by him to create a new work for the Company. ‘The Illustrated Farewell’ is a prequel to the first two movements of the Haydn Farewell Symphony and the As Time Goes By show which was originally choreographed for the Joffrey Ballet in 1973.
Twyla was originally trained as a classical dancer. But when she moved to New York, she had the opportunity to work with some of the finest choreographers at that time such as Jerome Robbins, Martha Graham, Merce Cunningham and Paul Taylor. She mentions throughout the video that in the 70’s there was a huge divide between classical and contemporary dancers, but she believed that understanding the dynamics of both techniques it would be possible to find a meeting point between the two.
As Twyla enters the studio, her infectious energy is easily noticed by the audience. She is extrovert, enthusiastic and clearly passionate about the piece she is about to produce. She truly knows her craft!
After a brief explanation about her dancing career, it is time to coach the dancers. She then decides to start from the end by introducing Royal Ballet First Artist Joseph Sissens. As she carries on, she makes important remarks about the benefits of merging the classical and contemporary techniques. Then she moves on to some movement demonstrations by asking him to perform a classical arabesque pirouette en dedans. The second request is the same movement, only replacing the pirouette with what she calls a ‘cave turn’. While the first movement is initiated from the pelvis, the second starts from the torso.
It is important to notice that the cave turn adds more power to the routine, making it look less rigid in comparison with the classical moves. She uses it as a preparation for the pirouette finished by the fourth position on relevé. As she merges these two styles seamlessly, the final outcome is a rich sequence with added flexibility, which is polished by the precision and poise brought by the classical technique.
The second part of the rehearsal begins with the addition of Anna Rose O’Sullivan and Meaghan Grace Hinkis, both soloists of the Company. Twyla carries on coaching them highlighting the need for connection with Joseph. Her creations are a result of investigations of how one moves individually and interact in a group. She believes that each individual has his own signature, which gives the dancer the freedom and space to put creativity into a role.
“Only a truly disciplined generous soul can find the fortitude to go to class every day to move deeper and deeper into that channel and be free at the same time.”
The third demonstration comes with principal dancer Steven McRae, which is equally delightful to watch. As Steven enters the studio, Twyla follows on with the same routine. She starts with a brief introduction on what Steven is about to perform and stresses the importance of retaining the inner child and the ‘student feeling’ within a dancer’s soul. She also highlights the need for discipline to create the freedom to be able to perform sustainable movements.
Following the same coaching methodology, Twyla asks Steven to perform his solo. Like Joseph, his movements are rich in detail and have all the necessary elements that will warrant him a great presence on stage. He starts off with an impressively powerful sequence of allegros followed by multiple turns finishing with a final grand jete. In his second entry, he plays with speed, which is equally dynamic and intricate. As he repeats the second routine in slow motion and marks the movements, Twyla stresses that ‘efficiency creates speed’, drawing attention to his precise technique acquired by years of classical training. Following the same line, the final sequence consists of an adagio which begins with a cave turn that serves as an introduction to the As Time Goes By choreography.
I think this video is an excellent opportunity to get insightful ideas on the dancing making process and learn directly from one of the proficuous living choreographers of our time. Therefore, I would recommend that you watch it before buying your tickets to the live show, which I am sure it will be an extremely rewarding experience.