We invited a range of 24 ballet dancers to be in our annual video feature, reminding them how much we care about them and what they do. There were 12 from more elite (open to young professional or amateur) groups, four from under-10s, six from under-8s and two from over-20s.
Children with unique voices and personalities are a thing of beauty, but there is no shortage of them – and no shortage of specialist skills – so there was no need to take any kinds of difficult or difficult choices. Instead, like doing a classic collaboration, we asked all three work to suggest characters in this familiar story, which had its world premiere last week. But, even before we started looking at favourite storybook characters, we thought we had plenty of suggestions already – and the inclusion of one (in the form of a close-up on the hard-won, glorious, rosy face of Anne-Christine Metivier) – I couldn’t have possibly had time to look through all of them: it was a constant celebration of talented bodies doing what they do best. I loved this year’s video too much to keep from comparing it to last year’s and then to comparing it to 2016. Watching these dancers, I couldn’t help but be reminded of last year, with their youthful exuberance and changeable responses to their characters, their love for and affection for each other (the productions have very different dynamics between kids, adults and company members).
From some very different professional organisations, all the dancers we chose have opportunities to train alongside the company in the London studios, and to travel on the production tours. The supreme delight, for me at least, is to hear a performer talk about him or herself. More than most, the amateurs in this video are great at speaking about themselves, even if you’re clearly not quite sure who you’re watching. Anne-Christine, such a shy but enthusiastic professional, was also about as encouraging as you could get, but slowly and clearly and without even knowing how to express any sadness about her mother’s untimely death.
These videos add to a rich archive which makes us increasingly grateful for the early opportunities all these artists were given to learn about ballet – from of beginning to Endeavour. I’ve seen plenty of brilliant things over the years. But there was one scene particularly touching, and it was so heartfelt, so rare, because I saw on this group stage at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama who they were in my chair. Unto all the dancers’ great credit, we had a surreal yet deeply recognisable scene in one of Anne-Christine’s short dances, in the very long process of trying to be equal to an all-powerful, all-seeing, all-seeing robot. It felt like she had reached that challenge and seemed to have won.