Ballet News Previews : Imagine Dancing with Tititan

Ballet News Previews : Imagine, Dancing with Tititan

Titian painting

Photograph : BBC Pictures

The Royal Ballet’s recent run of Metamorphosis : Titian 2012 is the subject of a documentary screened tomorrow evening as part of Imagine on BBC One.

Going backstage to the start of the collaborative process instigated by out-going Artistic Director Monica Mason, the programme looks at each of the three collaborations and how each ballet was put together. Three visual artists work with several choreographers and dancers from The Royal Ballet to produce Machina (Kim Brandstrup and Wayne McGregor with Conrad Shawcross’s robot design), Trespass (Alastair Marriott and Christopher Wheeldon with a mirror set design by conceptual artist Mark Wallinger) and Diana and Actaeon (Liam Scarlett, Will Tuckett and Jonathan Watkins with set design by Chris Ofili).

Ovid’s poem inspired Titian to paint scenes of Diana, the Goddess of the Hunt and the Moon, and in this series of three paintings you can see the three scenes that become the backdrop for the three new ballets : Diana and Actaeon, The Death of Actaeon and the painting most recently acquired by The National Gallery, Diana and Callisto – which depict stories from Ovid’s epic poem ‘Metamorphoses’.

Wayne McGregor, The Royal Ballet’s resident choreographer, has worked with visual artists before, but there are two firsts here.  Carlos Acosta works with him, and McGregor has to collaborate with another choreographer – in this case Kim Brandstrup. It’s a challenge on both fronts but one that is taken by the scruff of the neck and the problems are overcome – after all the essence of creativity is problem solving.

There are some funny moments.  Jonathan Watkins says of the process of Titian 2012, “it really isn’t normal.”  Presenter Alan Yentob says of the ‘Diana’ robot created by Conrad Shawcross “I can’t wait to see Carlos Acosta meeting his new dance partner.”  Chris Olifi has a refreshing attitude. When faced with his massive blank canvas over 40 metres tall and 70ft wide saying “sometimes it’s nice to do something where you don’t have a back-up plan. Okay. It’s true failure.  But I truly tried.”  In his vision, the forest intoxicated Actaeon long before he spies the nymphs bathing with Diana, and Olifi says of the moment when Actaeon crashes the party, “well, there must have been a moment when he thought ‘I’m a good-looking guy, they’re not going to refuse me.'” In the end, it was anything but a failure!

There is rehearsal footage – of Marianela Nunez absolutely at the top of her game, dancing with Federico Bonelli, of Ed Watston dueting with Carlos Acosta and the robot along with Leanne Benjamin, and Tamara Rojo working on Kim Brandstrup’s piece. Ed Watson is required to undergo motion capture, so that the robot will be able to take on his dance characteristics and dance with Acosta in the finished piece.

Mark Wallinger is altogether more secretive about his work; a former Turner prize winner he has worked with Titian before, creating an x-ray of the painting of Actaeon. He tweeted for ‘Diana’s’ to come to his studio and besides some rehearsal footage of his dancers, that’s all we know of his work at the time of this preview. The finished programme will contain footage from the performances themselves.


Imagine – Dancing with Tititan is broadcast on BBC One on 24th July at 10.35pm


Visit the exhibition at The National Gallery 

Metamorphosis: Titian 2012 a unique collaboration with The Royal Ballet

11 July – 23 September 2012

Sainsbury Wing Exhibition

Admission free

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