Laura Morera 2019
- Sophie Alnatt
- Matthew Ball
- Alex Beard
- Liam Boswell
- Claire Calvert
- Ricardo Cervera
- Lauren Cuthbertson
- Isabella Gasparini
- Francesca Hayward
- Cathy Marston
- Laura Morera
- Marianela Nunez
- Aiden O'Brien
- Romany Pajdak
- Samira Saidi
- Marcelino Sambe
- Freya Wilkinson
Principal, The Royal Ballet
Interviewed by David Bain
Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church, November 27 2019
David welcomed Laura and suggested she tell us about her experiences of performing Manon. She said that the first time round she should have done just one show, but Sarah Lamb was off following a bad accident and Monica Mason asked if she would do her shows with Federico Bonelli. It was strange, said Laura, because they’d not performed together before and their partnership wasn’t natural straight away. Federico had danced a lot with different people but then it clicked and they had three shows together because Rupert Pennefather also went off. Unfortunately, at the end of the last act of her second show – it was her Dad’s birthday and her mum was in the audience - she hit her cheek bone against Federico’s knee and they both heard it crack but the adrenalin carried her through. Natasha Richardson had just died following a crack on her head, and Federico was saying she must go to hospital but Laura thought it had been a good show and she must take a bow otherwise her mum would break up so she just kept her head down and looked really miserable. She was loving the reception but when she turned to Ricardo Cervera, who was Lescaut, his face was a picture when he saw her swelling cheekbone! That evening she was due to do the mistress, and Monica asked if she would be able to, but meanwhile she went to emergency at the hospital with her wig on, taken by Justin, her husband, who was wearing a suit. Then Monica phoned and said to tell them to hurry up as she was needed for the show, so Justin said very sorry but could they see her straight away as he had to get her back to work! She did get back for the show at the half, but the adrenaline had run out and finally her hip ripped – it was like a whiplash and unlike anything she’d experienced before. She managed to finish the show, her next was two weeks later so she was able to finish the run. Then there was a phase when she and Federico didn’t do it which was a shame as she felt they were developing something together, and now this time they were reunited. It’s amazing as it is a very young Company now with a very different way the acting is coached, and people can do things differently, while she and Federico are mature. Her Lescaut is Luca Acri who is 20 years younger than herself. She never felt he was going to overpower her so she changed her interpretation, thinking it worked better if they were cut from the same cloth rather than him manipulating her too much. You make the best of the people around you and she loved it. Her career is coming to an end, and it could be her last show as Manon so it was slightly emotional for both Federico and herself and a thank you to each other for the amazing things they’ve done together. It might come back but just in case you make every show the last.
Some changes have been made to Manon: the lighting is different which is a big change. While following the Benesh notation, everyone has a different interpretation. Leanne Benjamin is her coach and she’s great at seeing what is looking good on you. She was an older woman in the Company so plays to Laura’s strengths. It is changing but so is the Company which is completely different from when she joined, a very young company and so you are reinventing yourself and working with people who say they were at school when they last saw her perform this part! But it’s very exciting, and she’s sort of in a nurturing role. Working with Matthew Ball or William Bracewell, she knows they respect her but now is the time to come together, meet in the middle and make the best of the shows. There was a time when Federico wasn’t there and she was panicking about rehearsing so Laura asked Will to try a few things with her, they worked on it but she was very nervous the first show as they didn’t have a stage call but it just grew. Then Liam Scarlett was coaching them for Asphodel Meadows and it was a really wonderful experience. By the end of the first night of Asphodelin the second movement they just stare into each other’s eyes and she said to put everything about love and loss into it so it was quite intense for them both and he was sobbing. They both realised that two generations had come together in that moment and it was really beautiful.
Laura has had four directors since joining the Company – Anthony Dowell believed in working in slowly, Ross Stretton came and went like a whirlwind but she got some great chances with him, then for Laura it wasn’t quite so easy with Monica, and now Kevin is a great believer in pushing the young people. So, with Anthony you had to wait and now with Kevin the young are coming forward and you feel as if you’re in no man’s land and have always been waiting! It can be frustrating but at the same time she sees and loves the talent and everyone deserves what they are getting. Laura wants to get the work she feels she deserves so that she can give to us to enjoy what she has inside her.
Today was the stage call for Coppelia and it’s her debut as Swanilda. It’s never too late for a debut, Laura says! Everyone laughs as it’s a young person’s role but it is amazing and she is young at heart. She always wanted to do Coppelia which is right up her street, but it never happened and now it is here which is brilliant. At first, she could only remember Act II which she’d watched a lot. When she had an interview with Dancing Times she hadn’t actually done a rehearsal, and said it’s all about the character, but once in the studio she realised that it’s really hard. When you are younger you are up for everything, once older you are into the character and what you can do with it so it’s completely flipped. In the studio she began thinking maybe it had come too late in her career. She was exhausted after the previous night’s Manon, but watching Yasmine Naghdi and Mayara Magri whipping fouettés and doing all sorts is a bit daunting, but she is working very hard, prepared well for her stage call and absolutely loved it. It’s difficult but fun, and the hard work has paid off. Once in Act III surrounded by people she was doing the hops and thinking, yes I can do this! Act II is so tiring although it looks the easiest and that really took Laura by surprise. She’s not really been injured but in the last few years she’s suffered with cramp in the calves. No-one knew why and the physio thought it was a short term thing but sometimes she couldn’t walk and it would take her out for two months and all she could do was the Giselle adage in Act II. Lesley Collier and she would go into a room and just work on that. The next time Giselle came around, Leanne had taken over coaching and said it was brilliant. Now Laura thinks a lot more about injury, if her calves will be OK, and mentally she struggles as she doesn’t want to miss shows. Coming up to Manon she was more careful and even with Enigma where there’s not a lot to do physically she was aware of possible injury and started feeling something. So, it’s like an illness which they’re still trying to identify and come up with different solutions but it’s a relief to know she isn’t imagining it. She feels good at the moment and mentally you have to get over your fears. She’s loving Coppelia and doesn’t do a lot of classical, tutu roles so she’s enjoying being in a tutu in the beautiful pas de deux. There are so many opportunities for characterisation and it’s full on and really she is a more childish character than Lise in Fille. She is bonkers, quite crazy! When Laura first came to London aged 11, she learned about British comedy from watching Victoria Wood; a lot of the timing came from her and a lot of that goes into Fille and Coppelia. Both drama and comedy have their place and going from Manon to Coppeliashe finds intriguing and it’s technically challenging too. She feels she’s climbed the mountain and is happy with it in herself. It’s really exciting and what she still wants to do as she wants to be challenged. If she gives up it has to be when she is at the top.
Does she regret that Ric retired from dancing before Coppeliacame back? Laura said no (sorry Ric!) because he had to let it go and it would have been cruel. She loved every moment they had together on stage and felt they had a lot of potential and could have done much more. She and Ric are like the same person in a different body. They’ve never argued, they have so much love and respect for each other, the same work ethic and when they came on stage together there was a buzz which she felt. Laura recalled one day when she was doing nothing and was asked to do the Neopolitan dance and there was a vibe in the studios that she and Ric were together again. Their careers took a different path but Ric comes to watch everything she does. He’s never shown anger or disrespect to anyone she was working with. She recalled his debut in Coppelia when they were on tour and he was amazing. It would have been interesting to do it and a lot of other things together but it wasn’t meant to be and they’ve just let it go.
Leanne is coaching Laura quite a lot and had her first in Mayerling. Lesley had coached her up till then and really made a lot of what Laura is as a dancer. Leanne is really relentless but also very full of praise. She calls her Lar – says ‘finger’, ‘foot’, what are you doing?. They have a very good relationship as dancers and she is one of those wonderful people who respected her when she did Larisch. As with Johan Kobborg and Alina Cojacaru, she felt important as part of their team and she tries to do that with everyone in her cast and wants them to feel 100% important in the show. Laura has done several roles in Mayerling - Larisch, Marie Vetsera, Mizzi, and Stephanie which was a weird one. She was covering Larisch, and Robert Tewsley was coming as a guest and having a little difficulty with the Stephanie pas de deux which is really hard. They needed someone who could more or less partner herself which Laura is good at. She is dramatic and a strong-looking dancer so felt she could have taken him on and was in control of the pas de deux. It was great to do it but then she got to Larisch which was a complete flip. Her first Rudolf as Larisch was Johan who will always be her favourite. She loved dancing with him. They hated rehearsing too much and never over analysed it, but were very in tune with each other and just went for it. From these shows Clement Crisp gave her an amazing review and when she got to her dressing room people had piled about 30 FTs on her desk!. He met Monica and said as Onegin was coming on he hoped Laura would be made a cover. She was at the back of the room for all the Onegin rehearsals, making the bar her partner, and learned it that way. When Tamara Rojo went off, Jane Bourne said why not look at this girl, Reid Anderson auditioned her on the Sunday and 10 days later she was on stage with Thiago, then Martin Harvey and then Federico came on and with him the ballet changed. She’d never had a connection with her partner like that and the ballet is so intense. She remembered rehearsing Symphonic Dances at the time when she did her stage call of Mayerling. Going back to the studio where she was dancing with Matt Ball, he asked how she felt. She said she felt like she’d finished Act III and didn’t want reality but just wanted to stay in the bubble with Federico. It takes you to a certain place. She sent an ‘interview’ email to Kevin asking for, and was given, Marie Vetsera. She took inspiration from Lynn Seymour and worked hard at it because sometimes people get stuck on physicality but if you think that way Lynn would never have done all the roles she did. She doesn’t need to be super flexible. Marie is a strange role - you get into costume and have no idea what will happen as it depends completely on your Rudolf at the time. During the long wait to go on she had to go to the side and pretend she was going through the history of the excitement of meeting that man, sort of method acting. It’s a really intense show and the whole time you must keep it together with a story in your head. She feels privileged to have had the chance to do that ballet.
Is it easier to do Vetsera having done other roles in the ballet? Laura said she did roles back to front: with Larisch you think of the acting, with Vetsera you don’t and that’s so liberating so she just goes for it. It doesn’t necessarily need to be a young dancer for that role. As an older dancer you’ve had so much more life experience, loved and lost and know what it’s like to love someone so intensely that you’d give up your life for them. Marie is very isolated but it helps to have done a lot of Macmillan whom she loves and there’s already great chemistry with Rudolph. They got to a high level at the first show but you have to keep building on it and finding something extra. By the end the audience believes it as you lose yourself in it.
Laura’s also done Lady Elgar this season: she was quite surprised when Kevin suggested it as she’d never looked at the role and thought of herself in it. She felt the costume would overpower her and she’d look like a toilet roll holder, a head in a costume! She met her old British ballet teacher who said she was coming to see her and struggled with it originally as she had a strong vision of Christina Arestis which she couldn’t get out of her head. She wondered what she could do differently, and watching a video of Beriosova, who was pure music and sort of innocent, helped. She worked on and thought about it a lot, and then at the stage call she suddenly understood it. On her very first entrance the violin sustained the note and as it grew it set her up so she realised if you listen to the music you can’t go wrong. She absolutely loved her character’s nature and devotion and she’s no push over but a pillar of strength. She’s not just a wife but keeps this man together which is something to be proud of. Chris Saunders has done the role so much and he gave her lots of time. She then dances Nimrod with Benn Gartside whom she’s known since she was 11 when they were at school together, and he’s such a pure actor. Her mum went to the first night and she said you stood between those two men without doing very much but there was so much emotion there which they always thought of as what the Royal Ballet was about and Laura’s part of it which was really appreciated.
Her parents have followed her throughout her career. When she was at White Lodge, they came from Spain to a small town in the middle of nowhere to watch her do a one-minute solo. Her brother has been dragged into it, though he likes her acting roles rather than dancing. Her Grandma was always there, an elegant lady and real party person, and Justin who always loved her dancing. Her Dad always liked talking about the show afterwards, what were you feeling at that moment? Justin was more detached about it but now he’s sort of taken on that role. Her Dad talked to everyone at the stage door. She recalled dancing with Vadim Muntagirov in Fille after her Dad died and she was asked how she was and she was crying like a child. Her Dad was larger than life and just loved this world so much. He loved England and was actually here when Laura was born so it was right that she ended up here. One of the first things she did after he died was Onegin and Federico had just had a daughter so they were both in very different places but connected. It was apparently a very good show but she was raw emotion and after it finished she couldn’t stop crying. She remembered messing up a pirouette in Act II but Olga Evreinoff, their teacher, hugged her and said her Dad would have been so proud. Laura thought of him up there with a beer and cigarette and turning his back for a moment so she messed up! He is still a massive influence in her life, and she was privileged to have these parents and grandparents who gave everything up for her.
How did she get into the Royal Ballet School? Laura said she used to come to RAD for summer schools and met Ricardo there. Her tap teacher was British, and she suggested trying for summer school and they said she should try for the school and she got in. Spain had nothing at the time, and the training was brutal, so she went to White Lodge where she thought of staying for a year. Then they did Swan Lakeand she was chosen, she saw the Company and thought it was amazing and knew she had to stay, home-sick or not. It was the beauty and elegance, the acting and people talking to you as if you were in a palace, and she wanted to be part of this. She saw Jonnie Cope as Siegfried, Darcey Bussell for her Swan Queen debut, also Maria Almeida and Altynai Asylmuratova, who had goddess status. In her tutu she bumped into Laura and said sorry which was amazing! Now she treats everyone including students as if she’s known them a long time. At the stage call all the students are there and perhaps they look up to her but she doesn’t see it that way at all. Sometimes Ric reminds her she should let them respect her!
New choreography. She’s worked a lot with Liam Scarlett, the first piece was Of Mozart in the Linbury and Liebstrom, also in the Linbury, and then he got his first commission for the main stage, Asphodel Meadows. She loves Liam’s choreography. It makes her feel truly who she is and it just suits her. People ask do you inspire him or vice versa? Every experience with Liam in the studio is amazing. Sometimes she feels she is categorised as a dramatic artist but then doesn’t get the roles. With Liam he always does it for her and makes her feel good about herself when she isn’t sure of herself as a dancer. He likes different types of dancers, ages and abilities which she loves. With his choreography, Asphodelwas brilliant and it was great that she moved to the second movement last time round. Frankenstein is like Marmite, some people love it, some hate it, but everyone feels they need to tell her what they think! It was Liam’s first three act ballet and he had had the idea of Frankenstein in his head and wanted his first three act to be a gift to Laura. Perhaps it was the wrong ballet as it is more about Frankenstein and the creature and he wanted to make something big for the corps so there were a lot of needs he wanted to fulfil. Perhaps he could have looked at it from Elizabeth’s viewpoint and what she was going through. But once they were in it, they truly believed in it while realising that perhaps some things weren’t working so well but you always make the most artistically of what you are doing. When they looked at it again in San Francisco, she and Federico tried to make it a bit more loving whereas initially it had been about him being traumatised and her constantly seeking his love. Hansel and Gretel she absolutely loved. It was such a big character and when Liam gave her a cigarette in rehearsal (she’s never smoked) she changed into a completely different person. It was very collaborative and he made something special for her and working with Benn made for happy times. She was just coming back from having ripped her hip in Manon, and it made her feel as if she was part of it again.
Viviana Durante approached her with a project for Seven Deadly Sins but finally it didn’t work out. It was really traumatic and she had to take a week off because she was weeping. She wanted it to work so much and everyone wanted to do it because it was Kenneth MacMillan and Viviana with a Royal Ballet dancer but it was not possible to bring it off . It was all set up and they were there till the bitter end when everyone was in tears. Laura hopes it will happen some time. Apparently, Kenneth was not happy with his version and was trying to make another. When Deborah MacMillan met cabaret singer Melissa (stage name Meow Meow) she was doing a one woman show of Seven Deadly Sins and Deborah felt Kenneth would have loved how raw that was and would have been inspired by it because he loved different sorts of theatre. They took the best from his other works so the choreography was MacMillan’s but the vision was Kenneth and theatre together. That’s what interested Laura, looking at options and taking her out of her ballet role so it opened up her mind as an artist. She always wanted to work at the Wilton Music Hall which is such an amazing space. The production was set up perfectly but when it was pulled Justin took her to Madrid to see her mum as she was so upset. On what should have been opening night they read an article saying it was the show to watch but it didn’t happen which was very sad as it’s rare that you can create such a buzz around a show. For Laura it was more of a disaster, as she wasn’t coming back to anything at the Opera House. Month in the Country was on which she thought would be good for her but she wasn’t in it which was hurtful and she wondered what was her place but everyone in the Company shows her love and respect and appreciates her as an artist. People say nice things and it can help a dancer to pick themselves up and it’s important that the company support each other.
What is next? Laura absolutely loves dancing, getting on stage with music, working with her partners, getting into character research. This year she was taken out of Onegin as she had done it for a long time and they couldn’t bring in anyone new so she was the sacrifice and she was devastated as she felt if those sort of roles go, she is nothing. But it almost made her accept her career is coming to an end. She still has Nutcracker and Coppelia. and feels happy doing those roles. She’s rarely ill but did have a freak accident when she fell and hit her head and was out for three hours. When she came round she knew her head wasn’t right but she had Giselle the next day and wanted to carry on. She passed out again when her knees gave way and she fell backwards. It was very traumatic in hospital and her face all bruised. But now if her health is OK she feels able and wants to do those mature roles. She can start planning and can let go. So, she’ll be enjoying everything she does and hopes next year has a lot of things she can say goodbye to. There’s a whole new Company behind her and if she holds on she’ll keep suffering. Kevin needs to make room for younger people. Yasmine and she share a dressing room and Yasmine replaced her in the way that she replaced other people. That’s life.
Justin still runs workshops and introduced Ric and her to teaching. After that they became a team and the students reacted well. She went to teach at the summer school in Yorkshire where she took a stage craft class with older girls and had a great connection with them. She knows she was lucky to be made principal as aesthetically she felt a bit different and thought perhaps she didn’t belong to this world. It is no longer an issue, though there’s been a lot of heartache. She has been in the pits and felt not worth anything as a dancer, but picked herself up and feels better in her skin when her career is coming to an end. She wants to let kids know that it is OK to be different and if you have something special you have things that others don’t have, so keep that in mind. You can be at the top and still have the same problems as a member of the corps. They are all in the same boat so if she can help someone not to go through some of the heartache she experienced, that is good. Students appreciate her honesty and she treats them with respect. She loves being part of this and making people feel good. Would she be a repetiteur in the Company? Laura said they are in talks about different things but when any job comes up you take it. She’s had such a long career and now wants to spend more time with Justin when it’s not all about her and her schedule. For the first time her Mum recently said she needs her around a bit more so a lot of things have to be considered. It’s good for Ric and her to work together and it’s about trying to shape your future the best way you can but for the moment teaching and helping others is good.
David said it’s always wonderful talking to Laura. BA members have followed her career with enormous enjoyment. She has been a big supporter of our dinners, even heckling the speeches when needed!. We look forward to the next time and to seeing what she does in the future, and we are all looking forward to seeing her Swanilda. Laura thanked everyone for their help and for making the dancers feel special, coming to performances and to the stage door. As an artist it is wonderful to have that support.
Report written by Liz Bouttell and edited by Laura Morera and David Bain.
© The Ballet Association 2020