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  • Watch: Christopher Wheeldon on his new ballet Strapless – 'A very relevant story for today'

Watch: Christopher Wheeldon on his new ballet Strapless – 'A very relevant story for today'

A 19th century scandal — and the John Singer Sargent painting behind it — has inspired the choreographer's latest ballet.

By Rose Slavin (Former Assistant Content Producer)

4 February 2016 at 12.37pm | 2 Comments

Amélie Gautreau, or Madame X, was the American wife of a French banker and well-known among Parisian high society. Artists competed to capture her beauty and in 1884 — at the height of her fame — she agreed to the request of American portraitist John Singer Sargent.

However, the painting was to be her downfall. After its unveiling at the Paris Salon, a scandal ensued over the suggestiveness of her dress, originally depicted with one strap worn down off her shoulder. The model's reputation was irreparably tarnished and she was ostracized from high society.

The story has inspired Strapless, a new ballet by Artistic Associate of The Royal Ballet Christopher Wheeldon.

'It’s a very relevant story for today in a sense because it’s about how they build you up and then they break you down', says the choreographer. 'There's something magnetic about it.'

In creating the scenario for the ballet, Christopher enlisted the support of dramaturg Charlotte Westenra, whose background lies in theatre rather than dance.

‘It’s a new medium for me', she says. 'You have to tell the story in a different way,' Charlotte explains. 'In the theatre you have a lot of shortcuts, but in ballet you have to do it emotionally and with the music.’

The score comes from Mark-Anthony Turnage – a second collaboration between the composer and Wheeldon following their collaboration on The Royal Ballet's Metamorphosis: Titian in 2012:

‘I’ve loved his music for years. We talked a lot about the influences of French composers of the time to come up with a sound that was very much of today, but evoking late 1800s Paris,' says Christopher.

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

Strapless runs from 18–31 May 2017. Tickets are still available.

This article has 2 comments

  1. Morton responded on 5 March 2016 at 9:01pm Reply

    Have I missed something, or is March 11 the only Osipova performance in any program before Fall 2016?

    • Rose Slavin (Former Assistant Content Producer) responded on 8 March 2016 at 11:19am

      Hi Morton,

      Natalia Osipova is due to dance in two performances of Giselle on 17 March and 29 March 2016.
      Cast announcements will be published on our website and social media channels accordingly.

      All best wishes,

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