By Lyndsey Winship
17 August 2020
The squeak of a jogger’s trainers and the ting of a bicycle bell are not the usual soundtrack to ballet, but then a stretch of the Regent’s Canal in Hackney is not where you’d expect to see dancers from the Royal Ballet perform.
On a warm Saturday afternoon, the threat of rain in the air, bare-torsoed Harry Churches swoops across a pontoon jutting out over the canal, the audience on the opposite side of the water. Partner Annette Buvoli enters the stage and their bodies etch out classical lines and when the dance ends with an embrace, a swooning sigh comes from a group of young women watching through the railings, canned cocktails in hand.
This free, Instagram-advertised event is DistDancing, one of the few opportunities to see live dance at the moment and its founder Chisato Katsura is a member of the Royal Ballet. Katsura, 23, moved to a new flat during lockdown and her landlord, Russell Gray, also owns Hoxton Docks, a former coal store turned performance venue. When he found out she was a dancer, Gray asked if she could come up with a performance for the canalside. Katsura and Royal Ballet colleague Valentino Zucchetti put together a programme of performers across various dance and circus styles, including Royal Ballet principal Matthew Ball and partner Mayara Magri, and contemporary dancer Maëva Berthelot, formerly of Hofesh Shechter Company.
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