by Rachel Beaumont

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Context is everything: The Dreamers Ever Leave You at Printworks

The Dreamers Ever Leave You
The Royal Ballet and the National Ballet of Canada
General admission, £15
12 October 2017
ROH page

While there are several elements that firmly classify Robert Binet’s The Dreamer Ever Leaves You as not my cup of tea, there is undeniable and special value in its key USP: the opportunity to be so close to performing dancers.

I’m fortunate that I see dancers in the canteen at lunch, where they move like creatures from another planet, flab- and ligament-free. The demands they make on their bodies are obvious in they way they walk, the way they look over their shoulders, the way they even hunch gracefully. But the essential value of The Dreamers Ever Leave You is to come closer to understanding their tremendous strength, closer than you can be by seeing them in the canteen or seeing them onstage or seeing them on YouTube.

So it is very exciting to see from three meters’ distance the women go slowly from flat on to pointe, to see the tiny tremors in the torso as a man lifts a woman above his head, to see legs trembling as held at right angles to the body, to catch a glimpse of pubic hair, to see one dancer mouth to another ‘What the fuck happened?’. To see the beautiful bare feet of NBC dancer Rui Huang, dainty, precise, powerful slabs of muscle.

This powerful experience can be entirely divorced from its context, fortunately for me. I am grateful to Binet for the concept of Dreamers but not for anything else, and I think my experience splits into two as simply as that. The choreographic content of Dreamers seemed to me a waste of dancers and of setting: a stream of empty emoting with no connection to the surrounding music.

Pianist and composer Lubomyr Melnyk was there himself, hammering tirelessly at the piano his improvisatory late Romantic-inspired claptrap, for hours on end. I don’t know why he bothered: the surrounding speakers in the booming echo of the Printworks room were pushing out so many decibels that I couldn’t hear the acoustic piano even when standing right next to it.

Form, rather than choreography or music, made Dreamers worth watching. That, and the charisma of Francesca Hayward. She stood apart from the talented ensemble of dancers, somehow able to invest the one-size-fits-all distant gaze with provocative meaning, to find charge in vapid choreographic exchanges, to emote even when left abandoned by choreographer and lighting, standing on a mat in the dark.

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