The Royal Opera House has announced a partnership with the charity the MS Society to host a ballet residency for volunteer dancers living with multiple sclerosis (MS).
The 12-week residency is part of the Royal Opera House’s Creative Exchange Programme and sees over 20 volunteer dancers with all different levels of dance experience and mobility participating in a series of workshops hosted at the Royal Opera House.
Run by choreographer Bim Malcomson, these weekly workshops explore different principles of ballet technique, drawing inspiration from Cathy Marston’s critically acclaimed ballet The Cellist, which was performed by The Royal Ballet last October.
The ‘Cellist’ is a moving ballet about the life of prominent Cellist Jacqueline du Pré, who lived with MS. The condition affects the brain and spinal cord and impacts how people move, think and feel.
Ruby Wolk, Ballet Senior Manager for Learning and Participation at the Royal Opera House, said, “We have been working with the MS Society for over three years now to bring this residency to life, and we couldn’t be more thrilled that this incredible group of dancers will be performing together at the Royal Opera House.
This residency has been an inspiring and joyful experience for everyone involved, and we hope that the final performance will bring greater awareness to the importance of accessibility in the arts, the amazing stories of these dancers, and the fantastic work the MS Society does.”
The MS Society residency will culminate with a final performance at the Royal Opera House at 1 pm GMT on Friday, 9 February.
This performance will be a free, unticketed event as part of the Royal Opera House’s Live at Lunch series, where the dancers will perform an original piece in the iconic Paul Hamlyn Hall.
Nick Moberley, Chief Executive of the MS Society, said, “We’re proud to be a part of this exciting project and thank the Royal Opera House for offering this experience to the MS community. Over 130,000 people live with MS in the UK, and symptoms are different for everybody and often invisible.
What many people wrongly assume is that living with a condition like MS means dance and other forms of exercise are not possible. Our amazing group of dancers have proved that whatever your level of ability or experience is, ballet is adaptable and open to all.
Any type of exercise can be beneficial for people living with MS, and we hope this partnership will inspire others to try something new or follow a dream this year.”
Rae, 43, from Birmingham, one of the volunteer dancers, said, “I was diagnosed with relapsing MS 20 years ago, in my early 20s. I was initially quite isolated back in the years before social media. There was no positive representation in the media or inspirational figures to follow. I went to one support group but was the only person under 50.
This is the first time I’ve been with so many fellow MSers, and it has been a beautiful experience. I took ballet classes as a child, so this was a project I just had to be a part of.”
The Royal Opera House is honoured to be working with the MS Society on this project and hopes that audiences will not only be moved by this original work but they will also have a greater awareness of how they can make a difference in the fight against MS.