Laura Morera / Ricardo Cervera
Principal Dancer / First Soloist, The Royal Ballet
interviewed by David Bain
Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church,
London, 4 October 2012.
LAURA AND RICARDO were involved in a gala in Japan over the summer. They’ve been involved with similar events for about six years now. Laura’s husband Justin Meissner has organised them. This year, eight dancers performed first in a small theatre, then a bigger venue. Dancers included Laura, Ricardo, Nehemiah Kish, Sarah Lamb, Yuihui Choe and Steven McRae, with Nao Sakuma and Chi Cao from BRB. They wanted to do something a bit different. Deborah MacMillan was very kind, allowing them to perform Manon for instance, a piece by Liam Scarlett, Ricardo’s solo from Electric Counterpoint, Le Corsaire pas de deux, Swan Lake, Facade, and La Fille mal gardée. Steven did his tap solo as well. They wanted to break away from the more ‘traditional’ gala fare this year. The audience seemed very receptive, and they got an amazing response, so hopefully they’ll go back soon. As well as teaching in Japan, Ricardo, Laura and Justin have been teaching in Spain as well for about six years now. They also go to, Singapore, Australia and Canada. They always seem to be very popular.
Ricardo first met Laura when they were doing a RAD course, and she was about nine. They had the Spanish connection, and so they got talking. Laura then went to White Lodge just as Ricardo was at the Upper School, so they didn’t have so much contact at this point. They met again when she was 16, but they became close when she joined the Company. Their friendship came as a result of their chemistry. They were paired together doing ‘featured corps’ in Mr Worldly Wise. ‘We covered the vegetables.’
An abiding memory of White Lodge for Laura was the biscuits. The chocolate digestives always went so fast! Funnily enough, the lemon curd biscuits always got left. Laura’s went to White Lodge after doing RAD, and a summer school. She had a British tap teacher in Spain, who felt Laura would have ‘nowhere to go’ if she stayed in Spain. Laura sent in a video, with her doing fouettés, and a solo from Paquita, aged 9 or 10! It was a free for all, and a whole lot of people watched that video. She then got a letter, asking her to audition, so she came with her dad. Laura initially intended to come for a year, to see how she got on. She ended up dancing one of the girls in Swan Lake, so decided to go for it. Having worked with the Company, and not seen anything like it, she decided to stay.
Ricardo trained in Spain, but also had British teachers. It was initially suggested he try for English National Ballet School as it was very new, but after doing a two week summer course at the Royal Ballet School, the Board found him a scholarship there instead. It was quite hard to let go at first. He was the youngest of five. Ricardo was the only boy at his ballet school in Spain, so the Royal Ballet School provided his first experience of an all boy’s class, with a male teacher. It was hard to begin with. He was ‘behind in a few ways,’ not having done pas de deux work before, but it was also ‘very exciting.’ In the end of year performance, Ricardo performed in 5 Tangos, and Soirée Musicale. MacMillan came to the school to re-choreograph it, but died later that year, so it’s the only time Ricardo’s worked with him. The number for four boys Ricardo did also included Justin Meissner and Giacomo Ciriaci. Laura found she was ‘suddenly liberated’ being at the Upper School, after being at White Lodge. Edward Watson and Christina Arestis, with whom she got on really well, were in the year above. Having such close contact with the Company was also great. She has ‘good memories.’ She did a lot of corps de ballet work, and people were very kind to her.
Ricardo started with the Company just before a tour. The Company needed more boys, so those who were joining anyway, started early. They had two weeks in London before the tour started. They toured to Paris and Frankfurt. It was great to tour straight away. The Company gets thrown together, and he was ‘made to feel so welcome.’ Laura sensed she was in line for a contract with the Company, although they left it very late, and Dutch National Ballet, BRB and Rambert were also interested in her. She went to Monte Carlo for an audition. As the Company there is quite tall, she lied about her height! She took class with the Company, after which she got offered a contract. She had to be back in London the following morning, so she was taken to the airport in a helicopter after class. She then got offered her contract with the Royal Ballet. She loved Anthony Dowell as an artistic director. There were people such as Viviana Durante ahead of her. The first things Laura and Ricardo remember being paired together in were Mr Worldly Wise, and things on the mini tours. In Blackpool, Mara Galeazzi told Ricardo to take Laura out to keep her company as Laura seemed ‘really lonely.’ It was dancing together in Mr Worldly Wise that they really got to know each other.
Ricardo never got used with the Company as a student. He also went home to Spain for the holidays, so he wondered if this was a factor. He was ready to join ENB School for a year for extra training, when he got offered his contract with the Company. Laura remembers being out one night until 5am, and getting the call at 7am to say she’d be performing in Giselle that afternoon, having initially been told she was unlikely to be needed. She pulled the first pair of tights she could find from the drawer, but discovered too late they were a pair she had when she was a kid. She was too embarrassed to ask to borrow a pair. The join in her tights was somewhere round her knees! She ‘still has nightmares about it.’
The Dance Bites tours are ‘how you got your break.’ Ricardo’s first big break came when Matthew Hart chose him for a solo. ‘It really paid off.’ You need that chance to be seen, and reveal your ability to cope. There was less ‘pressure’ on those tours. Other choreographers that provided Ricardo with chances were Will Tuckett, Ashley Page, and Chris Wheeldon. Anthony Dowell really took those chances on board. Laura did Las Hermanas at the time, which showed her dramatic side. Now, 15 years later, she’s performing the same part again. Laura and Ricardo got put together in Room of Cooks, a piece Justin likes, and they also went through the ranks, growing together. Laura is really grateful for those chances she was given. Other ballets Laura and Ricardo were involved in were Ashley Page’s Sleeping with Audrey, Two-Part Invention, Sawdust and Tinsel, and Cheating, Lying, Stealing, where Laura was second cast appreciation from the audience, but the dancers were pushed, and they really appreciated it. Will Tuckett didn’t always go down so well on the main stage, yet he’s done so well with pieces such as Wind in the Willows. You can’t please everyone, but the dancers really get behind the choreographers, ‘which must be so gratifying.’
Audio clip - working with Liam Scarlett:
Highlights for both dancers have included working with Liam Scarlett. ‘We’re just in love with him.’ Ricardo likes to be told what to do, so he can then work within those parameters. When he was younger, he was asked to ‘do something,’ whilst the choreographer went for a coffee. He felt a bit ‘lost,’ as he was so young at the time. Liam is ‘clear with what he wants,’ yet is generous with his time. Even though Liam is so young, he commands a lot of respect within the Company. ‘It’s really nice to work with someone like that.’ A rehearsal will often start with ‘a story of the day’ from Laura. Liam choreographs for Laura’s physicality. ‘It really feels like he ‘gets’ me. He really does create on us.’ Liam knows what they are best at. Liam adapted a piece he did for them in the Linbury for a show. There was a really special moment in Japan when they took a breath at exactly the same time, with two people in one moment. Liam has a clear idea what he wants step wise, yet he lets the dancers ‘evolve’ with the choreography, and see where they take it. He lets the dancers go with it, then ‘tweaks’ it. When creating Sweet Violets, and the scene on the bed, they would rehearse it, watch it back on the iPad, and develop it from there. ‘That’s such a gift.’ Laura sent Liam a text message to tell him ‘your choreography’s a gift,’ but didn’t get a reply. Laura and Ricardo were too young to have worked with Ashton and MacMillan, and this is the closest they feel they’ll get. Laura and Ricardo feel they have a similar sense of musicality and dynamic, and just have ‘a chemistry.’ They love Ashton as well as MacMillan. A lot of Liam’s work feels like Ashton’s, with the very fast footwork. Laura also enjoys working with Chris Wheeldon. Even though she is often chosen for the second cast, he will adapt the choreography for her, and make her feel just as important. Laura was second cast to Sarah Lamb in Electric Counterpoint. One step that got tailor-made for Sarah was adapted to suit Laura’s physicality when she did it.
With Manon, Laura started out as a harlot, before moving on to a ‘book’ lady, then ‘fan’ lady, before moving on to Mistress, then Manon. ‘My next one is Lescaut, then Des Grieux!’ Laura and Ricardo first performed Lescaut and Mistress together, performed the roles with other people then got put together again. They have ‘so much fun’ doing it, with not much need for acting. ‘I just completely believe in what he’s doing.’ They both feel very comfortable in those roles, so they got to the point where they could play with it, and just enjoy it, and make it even better. They laugh a lot. ‘No Ric – stop it – hahaha. Seriously! I have to do my solo!’ When Laura danced the title role, Ricardo was Lescaut. It felt ‘really strange’ to have that different relationship on stage. Manon’s more psychological. The Mistress is more ‘out there’ and sophisticated. It’s interesting to see who’s in command. There are so many more levels with Manon, than the Mistress. Laura reacts differently, and will adapt to a different partner, within reason. ‘How will Federico react? What will Nehemiah do? What makes him tick?’ Ricardo is very generous as a partner. He reacts to his partners. People seem to like dancing with both Laura and Ricardo.
Laura had one week to learn Tatiana in Onegin. Thiago had a bad back for four of those days. Laura wanted to learn the role when she first saw it. Clement Crisp noticed her as Larisch in Mayerling, and loved her, and she went down to cover the role. She learned the pas de deux at the barre. Jane Bourne noticed it, and it went from there, once Tamara went off. Dancing the role with Federico last time ‘took it to a whole different level. Laura is very grateful to Reid Anderson, as he was supportive of her.
Does Ricardo have any regrets doing Mercutio, rather than Romeo? ‘I had no choice.’ When he was initially told he was doing Mercutio, he thought Monica meant Benvolio. ‘No, I mean Mercutio!’ It’s one of the biggest things he did early on. The death scene is quite hard to get right. Ricardo enjoys the energy, cheekiness and fun of the role. The main roles can be on one level dramatically, although it might have been nice to do a school’s matinee with Laura. The second roles such as Mercutio and Lescaut can have ‘more bite in them. They have had to fight to do some roles. Lesley Collier and Chris Saunders have been very supportive of them. La Fille mal gardée has been their one principal ballet together. ‘We go crazy together on stage.’
Fille came out of nowhere. They’d done a short version on the Chance to Dance programme alongside Sarah Lamb and Martin Harvey, so both couples got a show each the following season. They also performed it on tour in Tokyo. Ricardo phoned Laura to tell her. They get nervous dancing together, as they don’t want to let each other down. Ricardo had never carried the show before – he’d always done the second principal role. They feel the love and amazing energy coming from the audience, wanting them to do well. Ricardo then did Coppélia on tour in Mexico City with Roberta Marquez. He had about four days to learn it. There was a different kind of pressure. He felt so relaxed and jet lagged, he actually fell asleep for real on stage! ‘Ric! Wake up! Oh yeah – solos and pas de deux.’ Roberta was lovely, and so relaxed to dance with. Ricardo and Laura were ok with dancing at altitude, and didn’t need much extra training, yet some people were breathing into paper bags.
Ricardo and Laura are doing the Neapolitan in Swan Lake again this time. She came back at the beginning of the season, expecting to be doing Liam’s piece first, but Kevin asked her if she wanted to do it, so she felt she couldn’t deny him. They are doing five shows. Laura is also doing two roles in Liam’s piece. It’s really challenging, yet she loves it. It could be tiring, but she’s really into it. She’s doing a pas de deux with Federico. Ricardo is dancing Infra with Lauren. It’s nice to dance something made on you. It feels comfortable, and he’s done it before. Ricardo is Liam’s assistant for Viscera, so he gets to sit at the front of rehearsals for it. Liam gave him the DVD to watch. When Ricardo watched it, he saw Liam had choreographed it with Laura in mind. They are then into the bill with Las Hermanas and Requiem. Then it’s The Nutcracker, where Laura’s doing the Rose Fairy and the Sugar Plum Fairy with Federico.
With Prince of the Pagodas, Laura was a Baboon the first time she performed it, so it was ‘really good’ to be cast as Epine this time. She only had a short time to learn it, yet enjoyed doing it. She only did one show, as her hip was playing up, and she didn’t want to risk all the flick jétés. Laura often has to warn her dad about the music. ‘It’s not your Chopin or your Mozart.’ He’ll just hum something in his head if he doesn’t like the music, and off he goes.
Report written by Rachel Holland, corrected by Laura Morera, Ricardo Cervera and David Bain ©The Ballet Association 2012.