INTERVIEW: Spotlight On… Director of London Russian Ballet School, Harriet Pickering

In Dance, Interviews, London theatre by Helen McWilliamsLeave a Comment

Romantic Revolution with London Russian Ballet School and the Bolshoi Ballet and Theatre, which takes place at the London Palladium on Monday 18th September, is an outstanding programme with LRBS students that includes the premiere of a new work and spectacular classic Don Quixote.

This is a life changing experience that brings social and cultural benefits to those involved. 700 children from Lambeth, Brent, South West and West London, who have never visited a theatre to see ballet will join the audience for free, with transport provided.

Harriet Pickering, Director of London Russian Ballet School gave an exclusive interview to Break A Leg…

What was the inspiration for this collaboration?

The ethos behind this production is really the ethos on which the school was built: inclusivity, opportunity and the importance sharing the beauty of ballet. Our school has always had very close ties with the Bolshoi Ballet, as our Artistic Director, Evgeny Goremykin, danced with the Bolshoi Ballet for 20 years. Following the Diamond Jubilee Tour of the Bolshoi Ballet to London in 2016, this then grew into ideas for on-stage collaboration, and in September last year, LRBS staged ‘Celebration!’, with two artists from the Bolshoi Ballet performing on stage with LRBS students. This was an enormously successful performance, a wonderful opportunity for our students to dance alongside these world-class dancers and a very exciting experience for the 500 children brought to see the performance for free. This year we are building on this, with four stars from the Bolshoi Ballet, Ekaterina Krysanova, Semyon Chudin, Maria Alexandrova and Vladislav Lantratov performing onstage with LRBS for an audience to include 800 children from across London who will attend for free.

How do you feel that the stage at the London Palladium will lend itself to the production?

The London Palladium stage is the perfect setting for this production. It is a beautiful stage, with so much history, including being where Dame Gillian Lynne, our patron, was the star dancer for many years. It will be an incredible experience for our young dancers to perform there, and an amazing theatre experience for the young children being brought to watch the performance. Its location, in the heart of Central London, also means that it might attract audience members who wouldn’t usually choose to go to watch a ballet, and we are very keen to reach a broad audience, and share the art of ballet with people who might not have experienced it before, as well as with those who already have a passion for it.

Why do you feel that exposure to the arts is important for young people?

Exposure to the arts can be life-enriching. It can give us insights into ourselves and promote creativity and self-expression. It is essential as part of a broad, rich education which is so important for young people’s futures. It can also bridge cultural and other divides, and promote cross-cultural understanding and rapprochement.

What do you hope the 800 children will gain from the experience?

We would like the children’s eyes to be opened to something that they may not have seen before, or certainly not on this kind of level. We would like them to enjoy and be excited by something they might never otherwise have considered going to see. For some, this could be a life-enriching experience, and might mean that they go on to engage more with the arts in the future; others might be inspired to want to try ballet for themselves. As LRBS offers training regardless of financial barriers for those with the desire and potential to train, and also those who want to take ballet classes just for pleasure, watching LRBS students on stage with Bolshoi Ballet principals could be showing them a path that they themselves could take.

Going forward, will this be a collaboration you will be keen to repeat in the future and how might this present itself?

Yes, we would definitely like to repeat this collaboration. We are planning to stage more performances in association with the Bolshoi Ballet, and with more of these inspiring dancers, both in London, and further afield, to reach new and still wider audiences.

Finally, can you tell me about your first experience of dance and how it affected you?

There are two very early experiences of dance which I think had a great effect on me. One was the first time I saw a ballet in a theatre. I was completely spellbound, and longed to be able to go up and join in straight away – to be part of a world of such beauty. The other is the first ballet class I took. I can remember the feeling of exhilaration and freedom, and that is also what we would like to offer the possibility to children who might otherwise not have an opportunity experience this.

Thanks Harriet, we wish you every success with the show, it sounds amazing!

Helen McWilliams
Helen McWilliams is a Midlands-based reviewer, but is happy travelling anywhere and everywhere to pursue her love of the theatre. Since 2013, she has been combining her passions for writing and theatre in her Break A Leg Review site. She also enjoys interviewing actors, writers and other professionals from the business. Helen tweets at @breakalegreview.
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Helen McWilliams
Helen McWilliams is a Midlands-based reviewer, but is happy travelling anywhere and everywhere to pursue her love of the theatre. Since 2013, she has been combining her passions for writing and theatre in her Break A Leg Review site. She also enjoys interviewing actors, writers and other professionals from the business. Helen tweets at @breakalegreview.