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On Point with the American Ballet Theatre's Liam Scarlett

On Point with the American Ballet Theatre's Liam Scarlett

Boyish British choreographer Liam Scarlett created Asphodel Meadows, his first major work—and sensational hit—for London’s Royal Ballet in 2010. Now the 27-year-old serves as the company’s artist-in-residence, and this fall mounts world premieres for New York’s American Ballet Theatre as well as the Royal. He spoke to T+L about the new ballets and his cultural agenda for the season.

Q: Tell us about your first piece for American Ballet Theatre.

A: It’s a chamber piece with four couples, debuting on the opening night of ABT’s 75th anniversary season. I’m looking forward to working with the exceptional Marcelo Gomes and the talented Misty Copeland and Sarah Lane (Oct. 22–Nov. 2).

Q: Why have you chosen to set a ballet to Leonard Bernstein’s Symphony No. 2, The Age of Anxiety, for the Royal Ballet?

A: Because it’s difficult, and I feel I can take risks with my home company. Bernstein was inspired by W. H. Auden’s epic wartime poem, in which four troubled strangers interact in a New York City bar (Nov. 7–17).

Q: What cultural events will you try to get to in New York?

A: I tend to arrive uninformed, open a guide, and see what looks interesting. Lucky for me, the season includes the 52nd New York Film Festival (Sept. 26–Oct. 12), where I can see what’s fresh and innovative in world cinema. The 11th annual Fall for Dance Festival (Oct. 8–19) provides a smorgasbord of 24 first-rate international companies and individual artists for only $15 a ticket—amazing!

Q: What would you recommend in London?

A: As a bit of a traditionalist, I’m interested in historical adaptations, especially the Royal Shakespeare Company’s stage dramatizations of Hilary Mantel’s Tudor novels, Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, now playing in London, which are absolutely thrilling (through Oct. 4).

Photo courtesy of Andre J. Upenski

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