Star young choreographer wins leading Royal Ballet role | Dance reviews, news & interviews
Star young choreographer wins leading Royal Ballet role
Liam Scarlett to quit dancing to focus on creating new ballets
Liam Scarlett, the young dancer whose Jack the Ripper ballet, Sweet Violets, was one of the talking points of Covent Garden last season, has been appointed full-time Artist-in-Residence at the Royal Ballet, taking up the third place in a new creative triumvirate for the company.
The announcement today comes a day before his latest ballet, Viscera, is unveiled tomorrow evening in a bill that proclaims a bright new dawn of innovation and creativity at the Royal Ballet. Scarlett's ballet is being repatriated from Miami City Ballet, where he created it this year. A setting of dance to Lowell Liebermann's piano concerto, it will play alongside works by the two world-renowned choreographers already officially hitched to the helm of Covent Garden, Wayne McGregor and Christopher Wheeldon. The mop-topped 26-year-old will be missed on stage - Royal Ballet director Kevin O'Hare says he will make his final appearances as a dancer with the company in the current run of Swan Lake.
Scarlett's talent for rebottling old classical virtues in new ways makes him a healthy complement to Wheeldon and McGregor, both of whom tend to cooler aesthetics. His interest in expressing full-blooded emotion has won him eager, if misleading, comparisons to the great Sir Kenneth MacMillan, who died 20 years ago last Monday, during a performance of Mayerling.
MacMillan was a terrifying act to follow, and the Royal Ballet has avoided appointing an official chief choreographer since
MacMillan's powerful narrative style ranged from strongly character-driven dramas such as Mayerling, Manon and Romeo and Juliet, to more experimental, expressionistic work such as Anastasia, The Judas Tree and Las Hermanas (which is to be given a rare revival later this month). The failure of some of his risks and equally the world-wide expectations generated by his most successful ballets made him a terrifying act to follow, and the Royal Ballet has studiously avoided appointing an official chief choreographer from within the company since. The three choreographers in this era are gnomically differentiated as "Resident Choreographer" (McGregor), "Artistic Associate" (Wheeldon) and "Artist-in-Residence" (Scarlett).
Scarlett himself has spread his bets across styles from neo-classical abstract emotion (such as the impressive Asphodel Meadows, pictured right by Johan Persson/ROH) to the purple melodrama of Sweet Violets (main picture by Bill Cooper/ROH).
O'Hare's leadership promises real change, not just on paper - tomorrow is surely his preferred "first night" of his inaugural season, rather than the box-office staple Swan Lake which opened the season last month. In addition to Scarlett's high-profile new role, O'Hare has tempting premieres to offer jaded ballet audiences this season from the world-renowned Alexei Ratmansky (formerly Bolshoi Ballet chief, and now resident at American Ballet Theatre) and the finely gifted contemporary story-teller Kim Brandstrup.
On smaller and less prominent scale emerging choreographers are being given openings to create work in the Linbury Studio Theatre, and a three-year Choreographic Bursary has been established.
What with the news that superstar dancer Carlos Acosta is producing a new staging of the 19th-century romp Don Quixote to open 2013-14, the Royal Ballet is looking brighter and perkier than it has for a couple of decades.
Liam Scarlett biography
Liam Scarlett was born in Ipswich, and trained at the Linda Shipton School of Dancing and then at The Royal Ballet Lower and Upper Schools. In 2005, after graduating, he joined The Royal Ballet, and in 2008 was promoted to First Artist. Liam’s interest in choreography began while at The Royal Ballet School where he won both the Kenneth MacMillan and Ursula Moreton Choreographic Awards and was the first recipient of the De Valois Trust Fund Award. While still at the School he was commissioned to create Monochromatic (2004) and Allegro de Jeunesse (2005) for The Royal Ballet School’s Annual Matinee performances at the Royal Opera House. He continued to develop his interest through ROH2’s Dancelines, led by Kim Brandstrup.
For The Royal Ballet he created Despite and Vayamos al Diablo (ROH2’s In Good Company, 2006), and has frequently choreographed for The Royal Ballet’s Draftworks. He has worked closely with many dancers in the Company to create several pas de deux and gala pieces for worldwide performance; these have included Nocturne, Reverie, Somente and Fantasie-Impromptu. For Ballet Black in the Linbury Studio Theatre he created Hinterland (2006) and Indigo Children (2007), both of which have been revived.
In 2009 Scarlett took part in the autumn workshops of The New York Choreographic Institute at their invitation, creating Gargoyles with members of New York City Ballet. He has twice been nominated for a Critics Circle Dance Award for Best Choreography for Of Mozart (2008) and Consolations and Liebestraum (2009), both for The Royal Ballet’s New Works performances.
His first main-stage work for The Royal Ballet was Asphodel Meadows (2010), nominated for a South Bank Award and an Olivier Award and winner of a Critics’ Circle Award. It was followed in 2012 by Sweet Violets. His ballet Viscera, created for the Miami City Ballet entered the repertory of The Royal Ballet in the 2012/13 Season. Scarlett also choreographed Diana and Actaeon with William Tuckett and Jonathan Watkins as part of Metamorphosis: Titian 2012.
- The Royal Ballet's triple bill Viscera / Infra / Fools Paradise is performed at the Royal Opera House, London, 3-14 November
- The Kenneth MacMillan website
Watch Liam Scarlett interviewed about his creation Viscera with Miami City Ballet last January
Subscribe to theartsdesk.com
Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £2.95 per month or £25 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.
To take an annual subscription now simply click here.
And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?
Emotion and politics skilfully combine in Ratmansky's old-new ballet about the French Revolution
Unfeminist comedy in Jean-Christophe Maillot's Shakespeare ballet
A peerless Odette almost makes up for production's psychological shortcomings
The Russians are back, marking 60 years since they first took London by storm
Canny brand synergy encourages fans to keep Promming
Serious choreography and lush design make this Surrealist fairytale a visual treat
Visiting Aussies are engaging in lush production, but the plot's not all that
Superstar ballerina and new partner Sergei Polunin lack lustre in self-commissioned contemporary triple
Choreographer du jour Crystal Pite heads up two impressive Canadian cultural offerings
MacMillan revival in a different class to anodyne offerings from McGregor and Wheeldon
Dance version is loud and brash with all the horror and none of the mystery
On his retirement tour, Cuban superstar showcases the young, and proves he's still got it