Steven McRae and Edward Watson are the two principal dancers who have been chosen to “dance to their deaths” in the current revival of MacMillan’s Rite of Spring. Read below an extract of our interview with the pair, as originally posted on the Royal Opera House blog.
When Kenneth MacMillan choreographed the first British Rite of Spring in 1962 the role of the Chosen Maiden – the virgin who dances herself to death in a sacrificial ritual – was a then 20-year-old Monica Mason. Shortly thereafter the then Royal Ballet Principal Wayne Eagling became the first male dancer to take on the central role. In this current revival, Monica Mason has brought back the concept of a male ‘Chosen One’, with Edward Watson and Steven McRae – one British, the other Australian, both well-versed in MacMillan’s dramatic universe – set to make their debuts this weekend. We asked both Edward and Steven for some brief thoughts on the ballet:
TBB: Monica Mason has remarked in the past that MacMillan’s choreography for The Rite of Spring is ‘absolutely not feminine’. What do you think male dancers can bring to it?
Edward Watson: The steps aren’t feminine at all. When a woman dances it, I think it shows the strength of the human spirit but when a man dances it, it’s completely the reverse; the same steps show how vulnerable we are.
Steven McRae: I believe the Chosen One is a role that can be brought to life by either a male or a female dancer. The role is very demanding physically and getting through the piece requires a lot of psychological strength. Obviously the physical approach to the role may differ. The choreography has a lot of allegro work, something males are used to performing regularly.
TBB: How are you approaching the role? What emotions are going through the Chosen One’s head?
Edward: By making sure I know the music well and that I know the stage patterns and so on. I think about the terror and pride going through the Chosen One’s head and about the inevitability of the ritual.
Steven: You will see!
TBB: Who is coaching you? What have preparations been like?
Edward: Monica Mason has been coaching me. I haven’t needed to do any reading or other preparations as it was created for her and she knows it inside out.
Steven: I actually spoke to Wayne Eagling about the role recently at a function in Buckingham Palace; I am loving being coached by Dame Monica Mason. Working with the person the role was created on is the closest thing you can get to working with the creator. I was fortunate to work with Lesley Collier on Rhapsody early in the season, and again that was incredible because you are being exposed to details about the piece and choreography that perhaps other people may not know. (…)
Read the full post in the ROH blog.