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Kirsty Hopkins On ... Rambert Dance Company's Labyrinth of Love

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Soprano Kirsty Hopkins studied music at Manchester University. She returns to the North West as part of Rambert's new production Labyrinth of Love. We caught up with her to find about about the production, this innovative dance company and her love of Manchester.

Can you tell us a bit about Labyrinth of Love. What's the concept?
It is a new ballet set to music by American composer Michael Daugherty and choreographed by Marguerite Donlon. It's a song cycle for soprano and orchestra made up of 7 songs using poetry by women over the last 2000 years about love. The ballet explores the heart-break, the joy, the confusion and vulnerability that relationships can cause. The singer is on stage throughout the ballet, moving amidst the dancers.

What are the best things about being involved with Rambert?
I've really loved the sense of collaboration on this project. I've not been involved in a ballet before and it has been a very different rehearsal process compared to what I'm used to. Because the work has been choreographed as we've gone along, it's been constantly changing and Marguerite and the dancers aren't afraid to try something and if it doesn't work try again and again until they find something that does. In other work I do, I rarely get to be involved so early in the creative process. On top of that, the dancers are a) incredible and b) gorgeous to be with. They are such an amazing team and have made me feel really welcome.

And the worst?
Watching these wonderful artists work has made me have to finally admit to myself that my childhood dream of becoming a prima ballerina will probably never happen!

How long is the rehearsal period and has it been intense?
The dancers and Marguerite worked for four weeks in June, then revisited their work in August for a fortnight. Sarah (Gabriel, the other soprano who I share the project with) and I have dropped in throughout that time and now we are in the final run-up to the premiere in Salford. The rehearsals have been very intense because there's so much to remember. The music is very complicated at times and is all from memory. The dancers have such incredible physical memory and assimilate changes to choreography immediately. It takes me a while longer!

How much input have you had?
Because this is a work set to various poems, there is no narrative as such, but I hope that the way I am singing the piece gives a real sense of continuity to the work. My singing is as far as I go on creative input - better to leave the rest to the experts.

What did you last see on stage that blew you away?
I don't get to the theatre very much at all unfortunately because my busy work schedule simply doesn't allow it. I was really lucky recently though because when up in Manchester for rehearsals earlier in the year, I managed to catch Wonderful Town which my friend James Burton was musical director for at The Lowry. Connie Fisher was awesome and the whole show was simply brilliant.

What made you want to sing for a living?
It's a bit of an addiction really, which can be a blessing and a curse. I'm very lucky though. I love my job. I get to travel all over the world and have made some wonderful friends along the way.

If you weren't performing, what would you be doing?
I've done a fair bit of producing which I love. I'd love to also run my own business one day. Watch this space...

What is your favourite section in the show?
For lyrics, the sixth song in the cycle uses things Elizabeth Taylor said about her relationship with Richard Burton. It's incredibly moving and poignant. One of the dancers Estela is handed from man to man in the most heart-breaking choreography. It knocks me sideways every time.

How does it feel coming back to the North West?
Brilliant! It feels like a home from home. It makes such a difference to able to tour to places you know well, with favourite restaurants and shops. It makes you feel much less homesick! On top of that, Manchester has such a fantastic cultural scene. It's wonderful to be able to contribute to that.

Lastly, why should audiences come and see the show?
I've fallen completely for this project. The dancing is amazing. The music is beautiful. The visuals and costumes are outstanding. It's just really really special.

Rambert Dance Company's Labyrinth of Love is at The Lowry from 10 - 12 October.  

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