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."

News
Erin Baiano, Courtesy Vail Dance Festival

Wonder what's going on in ballet this week? We've rounded up some highlights.

Keep reading... Show less
Ballet Training
From left: Duncan McIlwaine and Joseph Markey rehearse a new work by Gemma Bond. Rachel Papo.

The members of ABT Studio Company straddle two worlds: student and professional. On a March afternoon, as the dancers rehearse for a work choreographed by ABT dancer Gemma Bond, they appear more the former: Clean academic leotards and tights reveal coltish legs. But as soon as they launch into the piece (which later had its New York City debut at The Joyce Theater), it's evident how close these dancers are to a professional rank. Their movements and expressiveness grow bolder with each entrance. Soon they're sliding to the ground in floorwork and swirling confidently in daring lifts. "This group is particularly brilliant to work with," says Bond. "Each dancer seems to have something interesting in the way that they move, which made the creation process a little more of a collaboration than some of my other works."

Keep reading... Show less
Ballet Training
Karin Ellis-Wentz and Joffrey Ballet Academy of Dance student Elliana Teuscher. Courtesy The Joffrey Ballet.

"Hopping on pointe is a bit of a weird feeling," says Karin Ellis-Wentz, head of pre-professional programs at the Joffrey Academy of Dance in Chicago. But, she adds, it's a skill advanced dancers need "because it's in so many variations." Here, she takes us through the techniques and exercises that help her students master this necessary trick.

Keep reading... Show less
The Royal Ballet's Vadim Muntagirov and Marianela Nuñez in La Bayadère. Photo by Bill Cooper, Courtesy ROH.

Do you ever wish you could teleport to London and casually stroll into The Royal Opera House to see some of the world's best-loved ballets? Well, we have a solution for you: The Royal Ballet's 2018-19 cinema season.

Whether live or recorded, the seven ballet programs listed below, streaming now through next October, will deliver all of the magic that The Royal Ballet has to offer straight to your local movie theater. Can you smell the popcorn already?

Keep reading... Show less