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    Mica Bradbury 2021

    Lukas Bjørneboe Brændsrød & Mica Bradbury

    Soloist & First Artist, The Royal Ballet

    Interviewed by David Bain
    American International Church, Fri 07th Oct, 2021


    The evening started by talking about the current season. Romeo and Juliet is a nice ballet to start the season with, and isn’t too taxing for most of the girls, which is good. It’s an opportunity ‘to get the whole company together.’ It’s quite theatrical, and not too technical. Both dancers a taking on quite a few roles. Mica is doing one of Juliet’s friends, a harlot ‘which I love.’ It’s one of her favourite roles. She is making her debut as the nurse. ‘A new role for me.’ It’s a character role involving acting, and is providing good experience for her. Mica wasn’t expecting it, and didn’t know what to think at first, but it’s a good learning experience. She doesn’t want to get it wrong for the principals. She’s been working with Chris Saunders and Lesley Collier closely. ‘I love Lesley! She’s so brilliant. I feel lucky actually.’

    Lukas feels Romeo and Juliet is a ‘really great’ ballet to start with. The Company is very young at the moment. Several people recently joined, and it’s a great ballet for everyone to get to know each other. You have to be really creative. New roles for Lukas this run of Romeo and Juliet are Paris and Escalus. Escalus is only on for a couple of minutes, but it’s a really difficult role. There are some silences that you have to fill as you are walking round the stage. It’s good to see the production from different angles and perspectives. There’s always something you can learn, and different angles to see it from. Lukas has been working a bit with Ed Watson and Lesley Collier, and it’s Chris Saunders who knows the most. He has the book, and knows the original intentions. Lukas has also been taking tips from others who have done the roles. As Paris, you realise in the ballroom something is going on. You’ve been promised it will all be great for you. Juliet is really distant in Act 3, with all that has gone on with Romeo and Tybalt that Paris isn’t part of. It can be a bit tricky, character wise.

    With The Dante Project, Mica is working on Inferno, which has already premiered in Los Angeles. There’s a whole new cast. It’s nice to be involved with Wayne McGregor. It’s challenging in quite a different way. It’s a very quick and dynamic piece, with lots of lifts. It’s between classical and contemporary, and quite specific. They had a stage call the following morning. The set is incredible. It will feel very different doing it on stage. Mica’s cast were working with Wayne’s assistant Amanda Eyles. Amanda and the original cast have been really helpful. They are learning it, and finding their way to do it. Wayne was in the day before. Wayne had been busy creating parts 2 and 3, which is why Amanda was around to teach part 1. Lukas is in parts 2 and 3 this time, and is second cast to William Bracewell ‘which is big shoes to fill.’ Mica’s first cast is Meagan Grace Hinkis. Wayne likes it to be the same, but different.

    Over the summer, Lukas went home for the first time since lockdown. He hadn’t seen his family for 18 months. He didn’t do any dancing, and spent as much time as possible with his family. Mica was involved with a gala in Valencia ‘which was very exciting.’ As the summer break was four weeks this year, the gala took up a lot of time. It was nice to have the opportunity that the corps de ballet don’t often get. The gala was organised by Federico Bonelli and Hikaru Koboyashi. It was quite last minute, because of Covid. Mica performed the pas de deux from Raymonda, and a Draftworks by Ashley Dean. Working on the gala was a very different process. It was very hot, and the performance started at 10.30pm. It was ‘quite an epic challenge’ in such a short space of time. Laura Morera, Federico and Hikaru did the coaching. She really enjoyed doing it. Laura helped Mica with the Raymonda solo. The dancers also had coaching sessions during lockdown. Mica thought they were amazing. A principal could coach someone. It was amazing to work on a solo you don’t always get to do, and you could get to know the principals a bit, and to take all their amazing advice. It was a nice experience.’ Laura was really inspiring, and helped with character.

    During the end of last season, Lukas got to sweep Mayara Magri off the stage! Mayara is ‘really fun’ to work with. Kevin’s been really amazing at giving opportunities to the younger dancers. It was an unexpected opportunity to be in Mats Ek’s Woman with water. Mats Ek is very particular in what he wants. The dancers spent a lot of time just on the little sections. The preparation was ‘hugely inspiring.’ When Mats came to see the Company, there would be 10 girls to workshop – mainly principals, a couple of 1st Soloists, and a couple of corps de ballet, just to be in the room. This was then whittled down to 4 couples, then the 2 couples. Because of time. Natalia Osipova and Mayara ended up doing the shows. Mats is incredible, and knew exactly what he wanted, and it was great to have such clear directions, even if you’re struggling initially. He created a nice environment in the studio, and had a great sense of humour. It’s professional, but in a fun way. It was ‘a light and easy process’ in a way. Mats wanted it to be quite vague in some ways, and told the dancers just to focus on what they were focussing on. ‘Now your attention is here,’ or ‘now you attention is towards the woman. Very simple’ The piece is already creepy and sinister, and anything there does it by itself. It’s very interesting. There is a film version with Sylvie Guillem out there. Lukas had seen some, but not much of Mats’ work before, but will watch more now. The version they performed was originally created for Swedish Ballet.

    Mica started dancing when she was three years old. Her nan took her to her first dance lesson. ‘I just loved it.’ She was always copying what she saw on videos or TV. Her parents worked a lot, but they supported her. She went to a local dance school, and the JAs, not having heard of the Royal Ballet before. Once she was in the system, they took her through, and she auditioned for White Lodge. Mica remembers Miss Gaines and Miss Fairbairn as teachers. Miss Fairbairn then also taught her at White Lodge. Mica attended JAs at the Royal Ballet Upper School. It was a lovely day out, and a real treat. It was all amazing. White Lodge wasn’t initially the plan, or what Mica aspired to. Once she saw it and got offered a place, she felt ‘it was so cool.’ Her parents weren’t keen, but Mica felt it was a sacrifice worth making. She really enjoyed White Lodge, and went home every single weekend.

    Lukas started ballet when he was about 11. He was initially into breakdancing when he was six, but his mum pushed him to try ballet, and so he started. He found a nice group of friends at ballet school who made it fun, and he found a love for it, so he worked harder. In Norway, Lukas went to an ordinary school during the day. There is a system to make it work if you juggle it well. You can miss out on PE and Music lessons to go to the ballet school. There is no boarding school option in Norway. It was only when he came to London at 15 for the summer school that he boarded. He originally wanted to stay in Oslo with his friends, but the Royal Ballet School was too good an opportunity to turn down.

    Mica went through White Lodge, then joined the Upper School. It was a big shock and change. Less than half her year got into the Upper School. You are comfortable with where you are in your year, then you find there is lots more competition, the workload and the expectations are higher. It was ‘a big shock, but really great.’ You have to work even harder. Her teachers included Miss Spelli, who left in the February. She was a brilliant teacher. Gailene Stock taught the year when Miss Spelli left. Gailene ‘really was an amazing teacher.’ Meelis Pakri taught the boys. Mica prepared solos for the Young British Dancer of the Year Awards from Act 1 of Giselle, and the Queen of the Dryads solo from Don Quixote. Other teachers Mica had included Anita Young, David Peden, and Gary Norman. It was the last wave of those teachers. Her third-year teacher was Nicola Tranah, who was a great influence on her. During the summer performances, Mica performed a solo from RaymondaAct 3, and the principal couple in a Marc Annear piece in her third year. Mica danced with Lukas in a piece about a ballroom, also by Marc Annear. Mica also danced in an ABT exchange gala. Caesar Corrales was also there, and they did the exchange together.

    Lukas had Meelis Pakri teaching him. He was a great teacher, but really tough. He was hard on them, but it made Lukas a lot stronger, and more confident with jumps and partnering. Meelis has come back to teach and coach the Company. He’s more relaxed now he’s not their teacher. He’s not as scary now. It’s a nice atmosphere when he comes in. David Peden also taught them. Gary Norman left just before the third year, so Jay Jolley took over, who was great. He was ‘really good with us.’ Others came in, when Jay had to take care of his other responsibilities. Jonathan Cope came over to teach Swan Lake, and Romeo and Juliet. David Peden and Gary Norman left during his second year. For his school performances, Lukas performed in a piece by Antonio Castillio ‘which was quite fun.’ He also performed the Marc Annear pas de deux with Mica. Lukas performed Jean de Brienne in RaymondaAct 3 in the Linbury, and Reece Clarke came back to perform the role on the main stage. He also performed Chanson by Derek Deane, which was ‘really tough, but really beautiful.’ Lukas learnt it from watching the video on YouTube with Alesandra Ferri and David Wall, who were the originals. Derek Deane came in, and added another 20 seconds that he wanted put in the middle ‘which I think is quite cool. I take pride in that.’ He also performed in Jiri Kilyan’s 6 Dances. It was unusual, but fun. The third year ‘was my favourite.’ It’s hard to be funny on stage. He doesn’t know if they were successful, but ‘we had fun at least.’

    Mica knew quite early on that she would be going to the Royal Ballet of Flanders. She got her contract in the first wave of jobs at the end of January. She loved the city of Antwerp. A best friend of hers was there. The company had a mixed repertory, which is why she went there, and ‘I kind of grabbed it.’ She stayed for two years. Sidi Larbi took over, and the company became very contemporary. The classical repertory was being phased out. Mica had a brilliant relationship, and had some wonderful opportunities, and so it was bittersweet to leave the company. He created a piece on her, which was an amazing opportunity. It was a tough decision, but you can’t turn down an opportunity to dance with the Royal Ballet though. It was great to come home. It worked out really well for her.

    Lukas found out he would be joining the Royal Ballet about two-thirds of the way through his third year. He went into the office, and Kevin was there. There would be five new apprentices. Kevin came to watch class. Lukas was nursing an injury, so sat for some of the class, but Kevin gave him a job anyway. Lukas joined as an apprentice. It’s a good thing. You can stick together, and support each other because of the apprentice scheme, and so it’s a great way for people to feel comfortable to come into the Company. It used to be more daunting than it is now.

    Mica performed in every show, alongside doing auditions with one other girl from the beginning of the year to the April. She had much more experience, which doesn’t happen so much now, which is a shame for the school. The apprentice scheme is a good system for the Company though. It really helps with the workload and everything. All Lukas’s year got contracts. They included Harry Churches, Leo Dixon, Isobel Lubach and Julia Roscoe. Letitia Dias came later, after spending time with Birmingham Royal Ballet. Chisato Katsura got a full contract at the same time.

    Lukas’s first ballet when he joined the Company was Romeo and Juliet. It’s a great way to get to know the Company, have fun and get comfortable. There was then The Nutcracker over the Christmas period. He was also part of the creation of Obsidian Tear. Wayne McGregor took a chance on him. He was second cast to Calvin Richardson, which was really challenging and fun. Lukas appreciates it more now. Kevin usually tells apprentices halfway through the season whether they will be taken on full time, so they can go and audition if they need to. Wayne McGregor is kind of mysterious in a way. He’s very intelligent and mathematical about his choreography. Wayne’s work is more difficult for the brain than the body sometimes. Lukas was quite intimidated to start with, but has got more comfortable, and can sort of understand how Wayne works a bit. It can be difficult if you haven’t worked with him before. Lukas shared an award for choreography at school. He took a chance, and they liked it. He’s done Draft Works as well.

    Mica had an easier time of it, having already been a professional for two years. The Company were performing La Fille Mal Gardee, and Crystal Pite was working on Flight Pattern. It was such an epic adventure for all of them. It was a massive piece, and Mica felt very comfortable in it, having just come from a contemporary company. The Company were also performing The Nutcracker, and Giselle. This meant lots of dancing. The workload was double what it was in Flanders, but it’s what she wanted. She got bad cramp in the classics, getting used to dancing them again. It was ‘a shock, but in a good way.’ In Flanders, the dancing was all very grounded, and Mica was bruised for nearly two years! Ballet class was not so important in Flanders, whereas it’s sacred with the Royal Ballet. It was more flexible, and was a contemporary style ballet class. It was quite free, and wasn’t as strict as it is at the Royal Ballet. Mica remembers her first named role as possible being a Harlot or a Mirliton. Being a Harlot certainly sticks out as getting the ball rolling. There was also being a courtesan in Manon, which was one of her favourite roles. She will still be performing Benvolio’s harlot this time around. It’s ‘a really, really fun role.’ It’s very free and theatrical. It’s also fast and rhythmical, and a really good challenge. The actual dancing is quite hard. You have to help carry the story.

    Lukas performed the Mouse King in The Nutcracker, which is ‘great fun’ in his first season as an artist. ‘They just needed someone tall to come out of the trap.’ He also did the Arabian dance. There’s always something in The Nutcracker. Lukas hopes they go back to the original battle scene. It was a bit more fun to do. It’s great for the children to do it, but understands why it was changed for last season. He performed in Obsidian Tear and Carbon Life in the second cast the following season. His first big role was as the Gypsy in The Two Pigeons. He’s also performed the second movement in Concerto with Melissa Hamilton, ‘which was huge for me,’ and as Gremin in Onegin. The Gypsy is quite a fun part. He’s head of the gypsies. There’s lots of jumping, and some good acting. There’s also the great, musical choreography by Ashton. He danced with Claire Calvert, and the Young Man was Reece Clarke. This meant it was quite a tall cast. Concerto was lovely, but really, really hard. It was also Melissa Hamilton’s debut in the role. They were learning it together, and worked with Gary Avis. He loved working with her on debuts. It was very exposed. You have to make it look the part, and there’s lots of pressure to do it justice. It’s a big heritage work, and he really enjoyed the process. He’s looking forward to the opportunity to do it again. Lukas wasn’t initially supposed to dance Gremin, but Reece then moved over to dance Onegin when Natalia Osipova needed a tall, strong partner. Reece was perfect for the role. This gave Lukas the chance with Marianela as Tatiana, ‘which was wonderful.’ Lukas got told to go to a rehearsal with Marianela. Reid Anderson came to watch. Lukas ‘just did it.’ Reid then told him ‘great. You’ve got the part.’ Working with Marianela was a dream. She is just amazing. She is everything you’d expect from the world’s prima ballerina. She made his job so easy. She put herself in the right place. He was 23. ‘They had to put a lot of make-up’ on and grey in his hair. He had to think about his walk as well. The main correction he received was ‘you look too young.’

    Mica was involved with Medusa, which was ‘weird, but good for me.’ It felt like coming full circle. It was really interesting to work with Sidi in the different environment. It was about the vision, and the feeling of things. It can take a while to get used to. It was very different to what they’re used to. They get something else, rather than specific notes. It’s calming, but fun in the studio. It was also great to dance with Natalia Osipova for a bit as well.

    Lockdown was ‘a real shock’ in the beginning. They’d done five performances of Swan Lake out of about 25. It’s one of the hardest ballets for the corps de ballet and soloists. It was ‘a real killer’ for the girls, and it was such a shame. It was all they’d been training for, and it felt so abrupt. Other theatres were closing, but they didn’t think it would happen. There was no sign of them closing. It felt very strange going from one of their busiest times, to suddenly doing nothing. They all felt pressure to stay in shape. It was quite stressful. Mica went home to see her family, and spent time in the garden, which is such a luxury. She is the oldest of four. Lockdown was hard at times, but it was a special time as well. It had its challenges, but felt she was very lucky.

    Lukas stayed in London during lockdown. It was hard at the beginning not knowing what to do. Do you stay in shape? Do you relax? It was really hard to do class, trying to be considerate of the neighbours and everything. He had just moved into a new flat with his girlfriend, so he spent time settling in, and focussing on themselves. Time went slowly. He won’t take anything for granted again, and it made him miss the performances and everything. It was such a relief to hear live music coming from the piano again, and move around, and have the space. It was tough, but something good came out of it. There’s so much new passion and drive there. You can feel it in the company. Everyone’s come back with fighting spirit, and feeling ‘super grateful.’ ‘We’re so lucky at the Royal Ballet.’

    How does Mica prepare for playing the Nurse? Chris Saunders spoke to her just before the casting came out. They wanted to reboot the role, and bring back the role being played by someone younger again. Juliet was 14, so the nurse would have been young as well. They’ve gone back to the original, and wanted it fresh. Mica wants to be as fresh, natural, and motherly as possible. The nurse is almost more motherly than Lady Capulet. She’s watched recordings of Gerd Larsen, and consciously played the role differently. She tried to bring herself to the role as well.

    Report written by Rachel Holland, edited by Mica Bradbury, Lukas Brændsrød and David Bain.

    © The Ballet Association 2022