English National Ballet

I have been working with the English National Ballet to develop a series of live drawing events to take place during rehearsals at the Coliseum. The events will be aimed at artists and art students to offer a unique opportunity to glimpse the ‘closed world’ of the dancers practising their choreography and the discipline of warming up the body at the bar. ENB hope to run a pilot in December and then in Spring 2013, with a view to taking the concept on tour with the company around the UK.

I had the opportunity to observe a studio rehearsal recently; although I am experienced life drawing workshop leader, the focus, concentration and rareified atmosphere of this unique space was something entirely new for me. I quickly realised I would have to develop strategies for a response through drawing without disruption or distraction to the dancers and also the sheer physicality and rapid movement of the subject. The immediacy and directness of drawing from life is a powerful force, the life room is of course an artificial construct, there is nothing very ‘life-like’ about a static reclining model, but here in the rehearsal studio there was constant shift and exertion, sweat and stress. I was also fascinated by the dancers observing themselves in the mirrored walls – there is constant self-scrutiny, a heightened self-consciousness (or self-objectification?) here. In the drawing event the dancers as subjects would be watching themselves being watched. It is a really challenging and exciting proposition.