23 October 2014 at 11.31am | Comment on this article
The Story Begins…
In ancient myth, Cassandra, Princess of Troy, was given the gift of prophecy but cursed never to be believed; she was thought mad for her visions of the destruction of her city and her family. A modern-day Cassandra is declared mad. Supported by her family and carers, she must experience the process by which our society tries to treat what it understands as madness.
Emerging Choreographic Talent
Cassandra is young French choreographer Ludovic Ondiviela's first full-length commission for The Royal Ballet. Ondiviela trained at The Royal Ballet School and danced with the Company for 11 years before retiring in 2014 to dedicate himself to choreography. His many works for The Royal Ballet's Draft Works have included Furious Angels and Duplicity (Deloitte Ignite 2010). He has also created works for such companies as Ballet Black, Men in Motion at the Coliseum and Gandini Juggling.
Collaboration in Action
Cassandra is the result of a two-year collaboration between Ondiviela, singer-songwriter Ana Silvera and filmmaker Kate Church. Together they delve into modern conceptions of madness: where the line between sanity and insanity is drawn, and how much the torment of 'madness' is due to society's reaction to it. As Ondiviela says, they want 'to put a question mark over what the audience considers madness to be, to make people realize it's not all negative – that it really is a question of perspective'.
Cassandra is in part inspired by Wisława Szymborska's poem A Soliloquy for Cassandra. The poem is narrated by Cassandra after the fall of Troy. She recalls the hope, 'a flame fuelled by its own flickering', that was key to people's lives, and of which her prophesies sought to deny them. To Silvera, 'that idea ties in with something I've explored in my own work – the question of what constitutes madness and sanity in society'.
A Continual Focus
Cassandra is not the first time the creative team have approached questions around mental illness in their work. Ondiviela depicted the alienation of Alzheimer's in his Feathers in Your Head for Draft Works 2011. Church and Silvera collaborated on the song cycle Oracles (Roundhouse, 2011), which drew on Silvera's own experiences of her older brother being diagnosed with psychosis. She explains, 'My brother is no longer here, and it's very important to me to keep his voice alive through my work and to try to understand more and more, as my life goes, what he experienced'.