BWW Review: PRINCIPAL DANCER, Regent Street Cinema

BWW Review: PRINCIPAL DANCER, Regent Street Cinema

BWW Review: PRINCIPAL DANCER, Regent Street CinemaDirector Felipe Braga is a much-celebrated talent in Latin America, with his past work including a documentary of the life of Brazilian footballer Neymar (Jr) and other professional athletes. He now turns his attention to Royal Ballet Principal Thiago Soares for his new docu-film Principal Dancer.

In a post-screening Q&A, Soares admitted when he was first approached for the project he was unsure, as it came at a challenging time for him personally and professionally. However, this makes Soares a fascinating figure for such an exposing documentary.

It is not mentioned explicitly in the film, but the footage (which looks to have been filmed around 2015/2016, judging from the repertoire) includes extended periods of rehearsal with his wife at the time, Marianela Nunez. No one knew they were going through a divorce, and it makes these intimate scenes all the more intriguing and at times a little heart-wrenching.

There's a common misconception that dancers are just that, and that they don't have much to say, but Soares is full of profound and candid observations. As he reflects in his dressing room, post-performance at the Opera House, "in three days, you're old news at the Royal" - which one can imagine is all too true, as the viewer observes the busy pace of life at the company.

In one rehearsal scene, we see the tangible pressure of a stony-faced panel of choreographers, directors and more, examining every step. There is a brief thumbs up from director Kevin O'Hare, but that's about all the encouragement we see; the rest must come from within.

In another moment, Soares ponders how you never see yourself - only others know how you are perceived - and the importance of artistic humility. There are many wonderful moments of rehearsal in which we see (literally) the sweat lovingly poured into each performance. How each note is taken in, and the fight not to plateau, but to always be learning.

In contrasting scenes, we see Soares stressed: angry for details of his Rio show not coming off as he'd like and his co-star, Deborah Colker, who pitched her choreographed slap to his face a little too harshly. (There's a rather amusing moment when we see them rehearsing this from afar, with Colker applying lots of little slaps to his face.)

The actions flicks between London and Rio de Janeiro, and the mood is intense as Soares rehearses a vast and varied repertoire of work with the Royal Ballet and for an upcoming celebration in his native Brazil that features four different works with alternate partners.

It's a programme that pushes him to his limits, opening with the Swan Lake Act III pas de deux, and only gets tougher from there. It was beautiful to see the contrast in the interpretations of Nunez and Lauren Cuthbertson, who partner him for different stints of the tour, and Soares's different chemistry with each of them.

Braga captures a wonderfully varied cross-section of a dancer's life over the course of the filming, as we see the post-performance highs and the frustrations of rehearsal - as well as charismatic moments of Soares's personality in between.

Dance fans will drink in the details of life at the Royal Ballet, whilst others can marvel at the conflicting mental and physical demands of a successful dancer, enhanced by the fast pace of Braga's fascinating insight.

The next screening of Principal Dancer is on 21 January, 2019 at the Linbury Theatre, Royal Opera House

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From This Author Vikki Jane Vile

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