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Ravi masters Paris performance

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Ravi Cannonier-Watson onstage at Palais Garnier, the world-famous opera house (Photograph supplied)

Ravi Cannonier-Watson took to the stage at Palais Garnier, the world-famous opera house, mindful of a very clear instruction: don’t let the ballerina fall.

It is a well known edict in dance but it was especially pertinent for the Royal Ballet School student, who was performing most of the pas de deux in Steve McRae’s adaptation of Frederick Ashton’s Rhapsody.

“To put it into less complex terms I was the one who was lifting and turning the girl. There were moments where I’d lift or throw her up in the air and I’d catch her above my head. And I’d have to make it look easy,” Ravi explained.

“As the male partner in ballet, it is your responsibility that the girl does not fall and if she does fall, you catch her and she does not touch the floor. That is the bottom line for all ballet. The girl is almost never in the wrong. It’s a lot of responsibility and I think it was a huge responsibility for me to do such a thing in Paris on a stage that was raked.”

Ravi Cannonier-Watson makes a lift look easy at Palais Garnier, the world-famous opera house (Photograph supplied)

Although rare now, sloping stages were once common in theatre. Their raised backs enabled a better view of the stage from all seats in the audience.

Today most auditoriums are sloped instead.

Ravi was one of three Royal Ballet School dancers selected to perform in the Dance School Gala, a showcase of dancers from the world’s top institutions.

“For all three of us that was our first time on a raked stage. So it was like learning how to dance again at first. We acclimated to it quite quickly, but I think the first time we stepped on to a rake it was quite an alien feeling. It's quite different, a really interesting experience,” he said.

“First of all, you have to keep your weight very far back. Because if your weight goes forward at all, if you're off balance, you're gonna go into the orchestra. So you have to make sure that your weight placement is correct. And again, from working on a flat stage or a flat surface pretty much my whole dance career, it was like relearning the basics. So that was quite difficult. We only had a couple of days there to actually get used to it. So it was quite the challenge, but we rose to it.”

Ravi Cannonier-Watson, right, onstage at Palais Garnier, the world-famous opera house (Photograph supplied)

The response to the piece was “just phenomenal”.

“To be chosen to perform was a huge achievement in itself,” said Ravi, who had never been to Paris before the April 11 to 18 trip.

“It became more dreamlike as we got closer to the time. And I think it hit me when we actually stepped on stage to do the first performance. I think the whole time I was in Paris it was almost like I was living a dream, which I most certainly was because I've always wanted to go to Paris and dance in Paris – a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. My gosh, I was just blown away. Absolutely blown away.”

Even more pleasing – the performance went well. At curtain call there were shouts of “bravo” and an applause unlike anything Ravi had experienced at the Royal Opera House in London.

“The last performance was the best that we’d ever done it and when we finished the lights went to blackout and came up again and we were met with this just thunderous clapping and roar of the audience that I've never really heard before.

“It was a very passionate audience that we were met with. I wanted to stay on the stage for ever just to feel that. I wanted to encapsulate that moment where it was just us on stage met with this thunderous roar of the audience.”

After repeated curtain bows the trio left the stage. For Ravi, the joy was also in being able to execute difficult movements gracefully.

“It’s perfecting the art of making something look easy. With something like ballet, the most difficult thing to do is to conceal the strength that you need, or the strength that you're outputting – the force, the power. You have to kind of conceal it to make it look effortless,” he said.

“As a male it's very difficult because you have to almost make it look like you're not there. You have to make it look so smooth and effortless – she may be above your head but she has to look like she's just flying on her own, or she got up on her own. There has to be an element that you're just kind of the background workings. You have to maintain the importance on the girl because at the end of the day she is the elegance of the lift, the turn, the movement that you need to make sure is maintained. You’re just all the background hard-working stuff.”

Ravi Cannonier-Watson onstage at Palais Garnier, the world-famous opera house (Photograph supplied)

As such, it is important that all male dancers spend time in the gym. For more junior students at Royal Ballet School there is a resident shape and conditioning coach. Now that he is older, Ravi works out as his schedule allows, usually after he has finished ballet classes for the day.

“It's really just staying on top of it. It's not like I'm lifting crazy heavy weights, or I'm squatting hundreds of hundreds of pounds. It's just consistent building of strength,” he said.

“It's the strength that gives you the ability to correct the problems. You can have the technique, you can have the co-ordination with the girl but if things go wrong you want to have that strength to fix it. You need to be the strong foundation, the base that the girl needs.”

Ravi has only a handful of performances before he becomes the first Bermudian to graduate from Royal Ballet School.

The school year concludes with a three-hour show at the Royal Opera House on July 6.

For more information, visitwww.royalballetschool.org.uk/

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Published May 06, 2024 at 8:00 am (Updated May 07, 2024 at 8:07 am)

Ravi masters Paris performance

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