Ballet Stars

Shades of Intensity: The Royal Ballet's Sarah Lamb on Wayne McGregor's "Chroma"

Lamb with Federico Bonelli in Chroma. Photo by Bill Cooper, courtesy ROH.

In Wayne McGregor's high-octane Chroma, The Royal Ballet's Sarah Lamb finds meditative stillness.

As told to Laura Cappelle

Chroma was the first ballet I worked on with Wayne McGregor, and it was like embarking on a relationship for the first time. There's a heightened energy, an expectation and also the desire to be a vehicle for the choreographer's ideas. The creation process was very easy. Wayne didn't give me any information about my role before we started—he doesn't try to analyze anything before it happens. The whole piece is a painting with people: We're in a monochrome environment, wearing light colors, in a white spot.

The first time I appear onstage is for my pas de deux. It often stands out because it comes after a period of loud, staccato, energetic music, and then there is this calm. It's quiet piano music, very meditative—the composer Joby Talbot's title for this section is “…a yellow disc rising from the sea…" One image that I have in my head is of a pebble being dropped into water, and the circles emanating out from it. There's a stillness, but there is also a continuity of movement, an echo and a reverberation.


When I'm performing it, I'm not really thinking of a narrative, but I do believe there is a story between the female and the male. It's not the first time they've met. They know each other very well, and there is a symbiotic relationship between them. There's something almost melancholy about it, but also really pure and without expectation. It doesn't have to be sexual: It's just the love of two souls. It's beautiful in that way, with a sense of real security and trust.

Although the shapes aren't all classical, I think of it as classical, because the execution is very important. The transition from line to line is more exact than in some of the other pas de deux, which are much quicker. For Wayne, what's more imperative is having a real purpose for each movement. That then comes through musically: You anticipate it so that the curvature is happening exactly on the count, to have the impact of the full shape on the music.

The pas de deux is like an anchor, in a way, to Chroma—it's that moment that refocuses in the middle of the commotion that comes before and after. Chroma has now become a signature ballet for Wayne, and it has a special place in my heart. It's like a gift—I feel a real ownership of it.

Tip

“Clarity is really important. Because it is very slow, it requires clean lines and an aesthetic purity. Each movement has to have an exact position, otherwise it will just look messy."

The Conversation
Viral Videos
Brittany Cavaco in Until Midnight. Claire Morris, Courtesy Cavaco.

A white tulle dress, time travel, the Eiffel Tower at night... these elements come together in Until Midnight, a new dance film by Christopher Alexander of Zen Film Works. This eight-minute long vignette opens with Louise (played by Louise Schirmer), a former ballerina now living alone in old age. Through the delivery of a mysterious letter and a wristwatch from her past, she returns briefly to her youthful self, danced by former Washington Ballet dancer Brittany Cavaco. In a Cinderella-like twist, Louise has until midnight to find her beloved Jean Pierre (Sebastien Thill, former dancer with Paris Opera Ballet and Hamburg Ballet) for one last dance. According to Cavaco, all of the movement was improvised, created by herself and Alexander in each location.

Keep reading... Show less
Ballet Training
Peter Boal in class a New York City Center. Courtesy PNB.

"People have so much fear associated with arabesque turns," says Peter Boal, artistic director of Pacific Northwest Ballet. Here, he shares images and ideas to help you confidently master this advanced pirouette. "It's a real accomplishment when you can put it all together."

Keep reading... Show less
News
Ashley Bouder in George Balanchine and Alexandra Danilova's Coppélia. Erin Baiano, Courtesy NYCB.

Hollywood may have the Oscars, but ballet has the Prix de Benois de la Danse. Held every spring at Moscow's Bolshoi Theater, the prestigious international awards ceremony recognizes dancers, choreographers, composers and designers for their extraordinary work on and off the stage. This year's laureates, chosen by a jury, were announced during an awards ceremony last night, followed by a star-studded gala featuring many of the nominated artists.

Keep reading... Show less
Viral Videos
Still via YouTube

American Ballet Theatre principal James Whiteside is known for more than just his uber-charismatic presence on the ballet stage; He doubles as both the drag queen Ühu Betch and the pop star JbDubs. Whiteside's newest musical release, titled WTF, came out last week, and is for sure his most ballet-filled song to date. Both the lyrics and the choreography are jam-packed with bunhead references, from the Rose Adagio to Haglund's Heel to a framed portrait of George Balanchine. Not to mention the fact that he and his four backup dancers (Matthew Poppe, Douane Gosa, Maxfield Haynes and Gianni Goffredo) absolutely kill it in pointe shoes.

Keep reading... Show less