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Watch: A whistle-stop journey through Liam Scarlett's one-act ballets

Psychological, dramatic and dark — Scarlett's one-act ballets have made him one of the world's most sought-after young choreographers.

By Paul Kilbey (Content Producer (Ballet))

12 May 2016 at 4.37pm | Comment on this article

Frankenstein is Liam Scarlett’s first full-length piece for The Royal Ballet on the Covent Garden main stage, but in recent years his one-act works have made him a familiar presence at the Royal Opera House – and indeed further afield. Here are a few highlights from his prolific career to date:


Inspired by the raw energy of Lowell Liebermann’s First Piano Concerto, Scarlett created Viscera for Miami City Ballet in 2012. It has since been performed by The Royal Ballet twice, in 2012 and 2015. ‘There’s no taking it easy in this ballet’, Scarlett says: the outer movements are a whirlwind of energy, and the searing pas de deux which comprises the central movement simmers with intensity.

Sweet Violets

Scarlett’s first narrative ballet, created for The Royal Ballet in 2012, explores the artist Walter Sickert’s sordid fascination with Jack the Ripper. Sweet Violets is a dark, brooding ballet incorporating John Macfarlane’s atmospheric sets of murky London brothels and backstreets, and Rachmaninoff’s haunting Trio élégiaque as its score.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Shakespeare’s plays have long provided brilliant fodder for choreographers, from Christopher Wheeldon’s The Winter’s Tale to Frederick Ashton’s The Dream – and Scarlett turned to the same play that had enchanted Ashton half a century earlier for his 2015 work for Royal New Zealand Ballet and Queensland Ballet. To Mendelssohn’s famous music, Scarlett conjured a funny, touching ballet which, the New Zealand Herald wrote, ‘may well become a classic telling’.

The Age of Anxiety

W.H. Auden’s poem The Age of Anxiety is set in New York in 1944, following four figures trying to make sense of the modern world. Leonard Bernstein’s Second Symphony, also a response to Auden’s poem, is the score to which Scarlett sets this 2014 Royal Ballet commission. Inflected with jazz and a sombre, bittersweet edge, the music and dance combine with Auden’s poem to form a fascinating trio.

No Man’s Land

Like Sweet Violets, Scarlett’s 2014 creation for English National Ballet draws on early 20th century British history – but here we are drawn into the Britain of World War I, and the women left behind by the newly drafted soldiers. The ballet combines a re-creation of a munitions factory staffed by these women with the men’s fate in the trenches, as well as a series of emotional pas de deux of love and loss.

Watch more films like these on the Royal Opera House YouTube channel:

Frankenstein runs 4-27 May 2016. Tickets are still available.

The ballet is a co-production with San Francisco Ballet and is generously supported by the Taylor Family Foundation, Sarah and Lloyd Dorfman, Simon and Virginia Robertson, Will and Beth Gardiner, Karl and Holly Peterson, The Shauna Gosling Trust, The Constance Travis Charitable Trust, The American Friends of Covent Garden, the Frankenstein Production Syndicate, Bently Foundation, The Hellman Family and E. L. Wiegand Foundation.

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