Draft Works, Linbury Studio, London – review

Covent Garden’s subterranean Linbury Studio is doing what it does best this week: supplying a playpen for the young talent upstairs. The three-night Draft Works season is curated by the Royal Ballet’s resident choreographer, Wayne McGregor, who likes to widen the field to include dancemakers from outside the company.

This year’s nine works in progress included contributions from Aakash Odedra, who trained in Indian classical dance (his fluttering hand gestures during his engaging introduction were one of the evening’s highlights), and Joshua Beamish, who will also feature in the forthcoming Linbury visit by New York City Ballet star Wendy Whelan. The suggested theme for the evening was “Prometheus” but apart from the occasional twinge in the general area of the liver the myth did not appear to survive the rehearsal process.

Kristen McNally, Ludovic Ondiviela and Valentino Zucchetti are already on their third or fourth Draft Works but there were a couple of promising apprentice pieces from absolute beginners. Marcelino Sambé’s Preparations for the Last TV Fake was a larky trio for Mayara Magri, Matthew Ball and the free-spinning Luca Acri. The action (apparently based on Sambé’s dreams) lost focus occasionally, and the three-way manhandling of Magri was a little like a fight with a deckchair at times, but it was a triumph given the minimal rehearsal available and supplied a welcome showcase for three young dancers. Events such as these are an excellent opportunity for the audience to put names to faces – Royal Ballet programmes have always scorned to include mugshots of the rank and file.

Company soloist Kenta Kura offered DW2, a bright and musical response to Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E. Francesca Hayward and her three partners had fun with the classical vocabulary as they glided in and out of a fluent series of duets and quartets that made excellent use of a difficult space.

The already intimate atmosphere of the Linbury has been intensified by reconfiguring the theatre’s cramped and vertiginous seating into a traverse staging. This gives more of the audience a ringside seat but the nervous young choreographers are faced with the added challenge of repeating or re-aligning moves to ensure that half the house isn’t stuck with a rear view. This seems an unnecessary complication but most coped very well, and the arena experience will stand them in good stead if Derek Deane should ever retire.


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