Between ballet and choreography
Interview with Valentino Zucchetti
Valentino Zucchetti was born in Calcinate and began training locally aged four. Aged 11 he moved to Milan to study at La Scala Ballet School. Aged 16 he was offered a scholarship to study at The Royal Ballet Upper School and while there won the 2006 Genée International Ballet Competition and the 2007 Solo Seal award. In his final year he created a role in Christopher Hampson’s Three Dialogues for the School’s annual matinee. He subsequently joined Zürich Ballet and moved to Norwegian National Ballet in 2009. He joins The Royal Ballet in 2010 as an artist, promoted to First Artist in 2011 Soloist in 2012 and first Soloist in 2014.
His repertory in Zürich and Oslo included Gurn (La Sylphide) and Prince (The Nutcracker). Zucchetti’s repertory with The Royal Ballet includes Rhapsody, blue boy (Les Patineurs), Lescaut and Beggar Chief (Manon), Brother Clown (The Winter’s Tale), Gypsy Girl’s Lover (The Two Pigeons), Lensky (Onegin), Espada (Don Quixote), Hilarion (Giselle), Puck (The Dream), Hans-Peter and Prince (The Nutcracker), Mercutio and Lead Mandolin (Romeo and Juliet), Bronze Idol (La Bayadère), pas de trois (Swan Lake), Bluebird (The Sleeping Beauty), Fool (The Prince of the Pagodas) and roles in ballets including Scènes de ballet, Symphonic Variations, DGV: Danse à grande vitesse and Within the Golden Hour. He has created roles for Carlos Acosta, Kim Brandstrup, David Dawson, Alastair Marriott, Liam Scarlett, Heinz Spoerli and Christopher Wheeldon, among others. Zucchetti won the School’s Ursula Moreton Choreographic Award in 2005. He choreographed Sonata for Six for the School’s 2013 matinee and regularly creates pieces for The Royal Ballet’s Draft Works. In 2013 he choreographed Orbital Motion for New English Ballet Theatre. We have had the pleasure of asking him some questions about his career as a dancer and his future projects.
Would you be so kind as to tell us something more about the beginning of your career as a dancer and how you entered the Royal Ballet?
After my school training that started at the age of 4 through a local R.A.D. Ballet School then at La Scala Ballet and The Royal Ballet School I initially didn't get into The Royal Ballet as the director at the time, Monica Mason, wasn't sure about me so I went to Zurich Ballet for a couple of years. In the meantime I kept sending Monica videos of various roles I performed in Zurich as I was always convinced I would one day come back at the Royal Ballet, I could really see myself in this company and I thought that the repertoire would really develop me as the kind of dancer I wanted to become so I kept trying to re audition. After two years of trying to come back Monica was impressed with the progress I made in Zurich and had the intention to offer me a contract but at the time she gave all the contracts away so for one season I moved to Oslo where I spend a very fruitful interesting season before finally joining The Royal Ballet.
What do you think are your biggest inspirations as a dancer?
I started so young and ballet has naturally always been everything to me, it was almost like a calling, so I now find that is the most comfortable form of self expression. The need of portraying emotions through movement and to play different characters on stage motivates me to keep up this often difficult career path.
Are there any dream roles you have always been fond of and why?
There are many roles I would like to dance like Mac Millan's Romeo and the troubled Prince Rudolf in Mayerling, Cranko's Onegin or Roland Petit's Le Jeunne homme et la mort. All of these roles have a huge amount of emotional involvement, they are the kind of roles that I think dancers find more fulfilling, at least I do. Each time you come back to dance them you can add another layer of thought and interpretation, they are like journeys that never really end and they develop alongside your own development as a person.
Do you prefer classical ballet or contemporary dancing and why?
It's a very broad question but I would say that I love the good version of both; there is good and bad ballet as there is good and bad contemporary. There is also the question of what I like to perform or what I like to watch which are two very different experiences, I think. I love dancing both styles, although I have danced mostly classical and neo classical styles, there are contemporary choreographers I worked with that really have made a mark on my whole outlook of being on stage and the psychology behind it as well as a new way of moving. I love watching ballet or any type of dance performance that is imaginative, choreographically coherent, well-constructed in theatrical timing and musical, so any type of dance performance that meet these personal requirements has my attention.
Are there any project aside ballet you are working on?
Well, I am also a choreographer so when I have time and people approach me to choreograph little project pop up in that field to. At the moment, I'm working with Sergei Polunin and his team on his Project Polunin which involves many different aspects of dance, fashion, movies and dancers management and promotion. I can't say too much about it yet but there are going to be very exciting things to come for dancers and audiences alike from this project/company and I am excited to be part of it and help the art form develop and fellow colleagues to prosper.
In the past you have also worked on choreography, do you have any projects in progress at the moment?
Yes. I am working on a new piece I will be making for the New English Ballet Theatre here in London which will premier in Nov at the Peacock Theatre in west end. Then some other projects which are still in the talks. I'd love to do more as I really enjoy choreographing it gives me a totally different kind of satisfaction then dancing does.
Will you also dance outside London in the near future?
The Royal Ballet will be performing in Japan for 4 weeks this summer so I will be performing Romeo and Juliet and Giselle. I will be performing Cinderella in Kiev with the Ukrainian National ballet at the end of May and I have some gala performances in Italy and Colombia during the summer.