Yesterday we dropped by the Clore Studio at the Royal Opera House to catch the first dress rehearsal of â€œUmbraâ€ by young choreographer Freya Thomas. Freyaâ€™s work is part of Dance Futures, a new project from ROH Education which will see over 120 young people take to the Covent Garden main stage this Sunday to present a mixed bill that also includes a new dance work by Wayne McGregor (to be performed by young East Londoners) and an abridged version of Fokineâ€™s classicÂ The Firebird.
Umbra, a 10-minute piece to a piano solo by North American composer Nico Muhly, will feature Royal Ballet dancersÂ Nathalie Harrison and Ryochi Hirano.Â Freya’s inspiration for the work comes from observing â€œhow shadows bend across objects, how different creatures are within the shadowsâ€. She tells us that Umbra does not necessarily infer a relationship between the two dancers “Itâ€™s just different situations happening in that space using shadows as the main stimulusâ€. To help establish a “moody and dark atmosphere”, Freya had the help of McGregorâ€™s long-time collaborator,Â lighting designer Lucy Carter â€œI told her my general ideas and she told me how to adapt for an audience perspective. There will be a strong silhouette image at the start so you canâ€™t see Nathalieâ€™s facial features; she just looks like a shadow and then different cross fades to bring in Ryo.â€
Freya’s own choreographic ideas draw heavily from her background in hip hop and break dancing, both dance styles with an emphasis on ground moves. But the 18-year old also admires dance companies like NDT, Random Dance and the work ofÂ Hofesh Schechter. For this piece, she has steered away from a natural inclination towards floor-work, adapting instead to the individuality of this particular duo: â€œItâ€™s hard to choreograph something in your head; you need the bodies in front of you. I came here and taught Nathalie and Ryo a couple of phrases I had created at college and it looked completely different on their bodies. They have given me options and input too, so I have adapted to work with what they can do; to recreate the shapes I had in my head.â€
Ahead of Sunday, here’s a sneak peek at Freya working with Nathalie and Ryo:
(Click on thumbnails to enlarge & see as slideshow)
All photos by The Ballet Bag Â©
Dance Futures â€“ 10 July 2011 at the Royal Opera House. To book tickets visit the ROH website.
See also: ROH’s video blog of Freya and dancers in rehearsal