Liam Scarlett: the British choreographer who has died aged 35 | Dance

For a decade Liam Scarlett, who has (*35*) aged 35, was a significant determine in British and worldwide ballet, in demand by firms round the world. He created a full-length Frankenstein manufacturing for the Royal Ballet and was given the nice duty of mounting its new model of Swan Lake. After allegations of sexual misconduct at the Royal Ballet and Royal Ballet College, the firm severed ties with him; an impartial investigation discovered there have been “no issues to pursue” in relation to college students.

Liam Scarlett dancing in La Fille Mal Gardée at the Royal Ballet.
Liam Scarlett dancing in La Fille Mal Gardée at the Royal Ballet. {Photograph}: Robbie Jack/Corbis/Getty Photographs

Scarlett started his profession as a dancer, however his precocious choreographic expertise was clear whilst a scholar at the Royal Ballet College, profitable the Kenneth MacMillan and Ursula Moreton Choreographic awards. Whereas a member of the Royal Ballet firm, that potential was recognised and nurtured by then creative director Monica Mason (and later her successor Kevin O’Hare).

With the one-act work Asphodel Meadows in 2010, Scarlett arrived seemingly totally shaped on the Royal Opera Home’s essential stage at the age of 24. It was a chunk of summary neoclassicism, elegant, lyrical, romantic and sensitively in tune with Poulenc’s Concerto for Two Pianos. What made Scarlett’s work stand out was the nice craftsmanship in his choreography, not solely in the particular person element of steps, however in his potential to deal with giant ensembles with symphonic talent, to step again and see the patterns of the entire stage. The qualities seen in Asphodel Meadows have been to set the tone for Scarlett’s future creations, and it was additionally the starting of a fruitful collaboration with designer John Macfarlane, who created atmospheric, painterly backdrops and detailed units for a variety of Scarlett’s works.

In 2012, aged 26, Scarlett retired as a dancer to focus on choreography and have become artist in residence at the Royal. Mason had already recruited the radical up to date choreographer Wayne McGregor, however Scarlett offered a worthy distinction, choosing up the thread of classicism in a means that delighted audiences in search of lovely strains and wealthy Twentieth-century scores.


Scarlett’s potential was shortly famous elsewhere and he accepted commissions from San Francisco Ballet, New York Metropolis Ballet, Miami Metropolis Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, Norwegian Nationwide Ballet, Royal New Zealand Ballet, Royal Danish Ballet and Queensland Ballet. In the UK he made the transferring and really effectively acquired No Man’s Land for English Nationwide Ballet’s first world battle centenary programme, and the luscious Serpent for BalletBoyz, inching into up to date dance territory.

Scarlett’s version of Swan Lake at the Royal Opera House in 2018.
Scarlett’s model of Swan Lake at the Royal Opera Home in 2018. {Photograph}: Tristram Kenton/The Guardian

The younger choreographer made an enormous variety of works in a brief area of time. He labored shortly and he knew what he wished; he was very sure in his artistic imaginative and prescient, maybe generally to the detriment of extra concerned narrative works, which might have benefited from an out of doors eye. However Scarlett’s ambition to analyze psychological in addition to choreographic complexity was clear, first in 2012’s Candy Violets, impressed by painter Walter Sickert’s Jack the Ripper obsession, after which a nightmarish Hansel and Gretel (2013), earlier than his Frankenstein in 2016. There he took on the difficult job of evoking the romance, horror and suspense of Mary Shelley’s novel whereas in search of to seek out empathy with every of the main characters, with blended outcomes.

You would not query Scarlett’s seriousness of intention – he was unafraid of a troublesome textual content or rating, even when he was generally caught up an excessive amount of in his admiration for it to have the ability to discover a strategy to re-envisage it for the stage. The Age of Anxiousness (2014) was primarily based on WH Auden’s lengthy, troublesome poem of the identical title and set to Leonard Bernstein’s Second Symphony; it once more showcased his craft, and drew high quality performances from its main dancers, particularly Bennet Gartside as Quant. In 2017 he made Symphonic Dances, tackling Rachmaninoff, to showcase principal dancer Zenaida Yanowsky in her farewell performances. With out drastically altering the unique template of Swan Lake, Scarlett made sound dramatic interventions in his model, together with a assured remodeling of the ballet’s ending, suggesting a creating directorial maturity.

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