The Royal Ballet has two new principal dancers: Reece Clarke and William Bracewell.
Reece Clarke, 27, was not the first in his family to dance, and he followed his brothers Ross, Russell and Ryan to join The Royal Ballet School. 6ft 3in (1.90m) Clarke joined the company during the 2013-2014 Season and was promoted to First Artist in 2016, Soloist in 2017 and First Soloist in 2020. Clarke grew up in Airdrie, North Lanarkshire and entered White Lodge in 2006 (the first time that four boys from the same family have all trained at the School).
Welsh dancer William Bracewell joined The Royal Ballet as a Soloist in 2017 and was promoted to First Soloist in 2018. Now he becomes the company's first Welsh Principal. The 31-year-old is from Swansea and joined The Royal Ballet School when he was 11. He danced with Birmingham Royal Ballet before joining The Royal Ballet in 2017.
In an exclusive for The Sunday Times, Bracewell said that when he began studying ballet (to “burn off some of that energy” that the hyperactive child had in abundance) he told his school friends that he was learning martial arts,
That was probably my own fear, the reality might have been different. I hope it would be different now.
As money was tight with four children studying dance in London, Clarke was helped financially by his local community with neighbours and local businesses chipping, including Albert Bartlett, a potato producer, all helping to fund his dance training though the school provided full scholarships. Clarke said,
There have been a lot of people on this journey with me. I feel proud for me and also for them as well.
The Royal Ballet's director, Kevin O'Hare, said:
Both dancers have excelled this Season, going from strength to strength as the Company has returned to full repertory following the onset of the pandemic. Their recent involvement at our special fundraising performance of Swan Lake for Ukraine, where they were among the four male dancers partnering the Company's most established ballerinas, is testament to the fantastic qualities they bring to the stage. Both dancers are wonderful examples of the strength of training at The Royal Ballet School and will be an inspiration to the younger generation of boys studying dance. I know audiences will share in our delight at their good news and we look forward to seeing how their careers continue to develop.
William Bracewell trained at the Pamela Miller Ballet School in Swansea and joined The Royal Ballet School when he was 11 years old. On graduating from the School in 2010 he joined Birmingham Royal Ballet (BRB) where he was promoted to First Artist in 2012 and Soloist in 2014. Bracewell joined The Royal Ballet as a Soloist in 2017 and was promoted to First Soloist in 2018.
His roles with The Royal Ballet and BRB include Prince Siegfried in Swan Lake, the Prince in The Nutcracker, Romeo in Romeo and Juliet, Franz in Coppélia, Oberon in The Dream and Salamander Prince in David Bintley's The Prince of the Pagodas. Ballets also include Symphonic Variations, Dance of the Blessed Spirits, Les Rendezvous, Dances at a Gathering, Elite Syncopations, David Bintley's Tombeaux and Hofesh Shechter's Untouchable. He has created roles including Le roi soleil for David Bintley's The King Dances and in Wayne McGregor's Yugen and The Dante Project, Christopher Wheeldon's Corybantic Games, Alexander Whitley's Kin and Jessica Lang's Lyric Pieces.
Bracewell's accolades include the 2007 Young British Dancer of the Year Award, the grand prix at the 2010 Youth America Grand Prix and the award for Outstanding Male Performance (Classical) at the 2015 Critics' Circle National Dance Awards.
Reece Clarke and his three elder brothers joined The Royal Ballet School in 2006 – the first time in the School's history that four boys from the same family had all trained at the School. He graduated into The Royal Ballet during the 2013/14 Season, and was promoted to First Artist in 2016, Soloist in 2017 and First Soloist in 2020.
Clarke's performances with the Company include Albrecht in Giselle, Prince Siegfried in Swan Lake, the Prince in The Nutcracker, Prince Florimund and Florestan in The Sleeping Beauty and Onegin. Among Frederick Ashton ballets he has performed in Symphonic Variations, Monotones II and as the Young Man in The Two Pigeons and as Aminta in Sylvia. In Kenneth MacMillan repertory he has featured in Elite Syncopations, as Romeo in Romeo and Juliet and as Des Grieux in Manon. He has also featured in principal roles in George Balanchine's Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux and in Dances at a Gathering by Jerome Robbins. In more recent repertory he has performed in Christopher Wheeldon's After the Rain, Within the Golden Hour, as Polixenes and Antigonus in The Winter's Tale and as Dr Samuel-Jean Pozzi in Strapless. He performed in Wayne McGregor's Carbon Life and Obsidian Tear and in the pas de deux In Our Wishes by Cathy Marston. He created roles in Liam Scarlett's Symphonic Dances and Charlotte Edmond's Meta.
Clarke's awards while at The Royal Ballet School included the Young British Dancer of the Year in 2012, the Lynn Seymour Competition in 2013 and an award from the Ballet Association. After joining the Company, he received the Emerging Artist Award at the 2016 Critics' Circle National Dance Awards.
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano') about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman's Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia' column for Dancing Times magazine.