The Royal Ballet will partner with the MS Society for a three month community residency with people living with multiple sclerosis (MS).
The participants – many of whom have never danced before – will be developing a response to award-winning choreographer Cathy Marston’s new ballet, The Cellist.
Inspired by the life and work of acclaimed musician Jacqueline du Pré, who lived with MS, The Cellist will receive its world premiere at the Royal Opera House on 17 February, and is relayed live to cinemas on 25 February. The MS collaboration will culminate with a ‘Live at Lunch’ special performance in the Royal Opera House’s Paul Hamlyn Hall on Friday 27 March.
MS damages nerves in your body and makes it harder to do everyday things, like walk, talk, eat and think. Bea Pulco, 43, lives in London, and has the relapsing form of MS. She lives with symptoms including fatigue, pain and balance problems, but leapt at the chance to join the Royal Opera House project.
Bea said: “I’ve always been passionate about ballet and danced for years when I was younger. But when the time came to go to ballet school – meaning leaving my parents and moving 300 miles away – I had to give it up. I’ve sometimes regretted the decision as I would have loved to be a ballet teacher. Dance makes me feel free.”
“When I was diagnosed with MS 15 years ago I became very depressed, as I didn’t know what it would mean for my future. But now, to be able to dance somewhere like the Royal Opera House is truly a dream come true. I honestly can’t express how much it means – I feel like I can do anything!”
The weekly dance workshops will be delivered by choreographer Bim Malcomson, and encourage participants to find their own response to The Cellist while exploring the principals of ballet technique.
Director of Services at the MS Society, Ed Holloway, said: “This is a really exciting project and one we’re proud to be part of. MS is unpredictable and different for everyone, but many people wrongly assume having a condition like MS means dance and other forms of exercise are off limits. That is thankfully far from the truth – whatever your level of mobility or experience.”
“All kinds of movement can be good for people living with MS, helping improve mood and even some symptoms. We’re grateful to everyone who has helped make this project a reality, and hope it will encourage others with long term conditions to challenge themselves and embrace something new for 2020.”
Jillian Barker, Director of Learning and Participation for the Royal Opera House, adds: “It’s fantastic to be able to welcome this wonderful group of participants to the Royal Opera House as part of this special project. After recent successful collaborations with Culture Device and Magpie Dance, I’m really looking forward to seeing what this project yields throughout the series of workshops and the final Live at Lunch sharing.”