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Screening brings Giselle to a cinema near you

For anyone who enjoys dance, it's the hottest of tickets - ballet superstar Carlos Acosta partnering Natalia Osipova in the Royal Ballet production of Giselle.

Giselle wil be shown at more than 1300 cinemas across 27 countries
Giselle wil be shown at more than 1300 cinemas across 27 countries

Osipova, born in Moscow and trained at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy, is fast becoming one of the most acclaimed ballerinas of her generation and the pairing resonates with "wish I was there" appeal.

On a January "school night" in Thurso or Hawick, Glasgow or Edinburgh, the stage at London's Covent Garden seems a faraway pipe-dream, but if you head to your local cinema a live screening that's being beamed all across the globe has the Acosta-Asipova Giselle, with the added treat of some behind-scenes footage that only cinema-goers can enjoy during the real-time interval.

"It really does allow audiences outside London to get closer to what we do," says Royal Ballet director, Kevin O'Hare. "As a company, we don't really tour the UK, but that doesn't mean we're not aware of the interest people have in what we do. And it's not just in the UK. Dancers like Carlos (Acosta) and Natalia (Osipova) are world famous - a live screening is a way for the world to see them, and here at Covent Garden we're lucky enough to have the facilities to make that possible. We're in a brilliant building with the kind of technical resources - such as the editing suite two floors down, under the stage - that very few companies have, and as we get more and more used to what's involved in live broadcasting, we're definitely up for doing more and more of it."

The learning curve has, at times, been nerve-racking. O'Hare chuckles as he recalls one of the very early attempts. "A few years back, we did a Nutcracker. I'd gone to watch it in a cinema, just to see how it was working. At one point I noticed that one of the trapdoors wasn't closing properly, and I'm thinking - 'have they noticed on-stage?' because if that door doesn't close, we'll have to stop the show now, before they start to trundle on the children! It did close and I doubt if the rest of the cinema audience noticed, but, in a way, that's the essence of the live broadcast. And yes, you do wonder 'do we really need to put ourselves through these additional pressures?', especially since we started making recordings of ballets in our repertoire. When you saw them in a cinema they were right and the performances were superb, but they just didn't have that extra 'bite' you get when it goes out live."

The Giselle that will be broadcast on Monday, January 27, will go out live to more than 1300 cinemas across 27 countries, and a score or more of those will be scattered across Scotland, from Thurso (the UK mainland's most northerly cinema) to Hawick in the Borders. For Laura McCulloch and Christina Arestis - both from Glasgow and both of them now soloists with the Royal Ballet - these live screenings carry an additional emotional charge, as McCulloch explains.

"My family come and watch me as much as they can in London. But friends, family - they all have everyday commitments, so it's not always possible for them to be there. Live broadcasts really bring us all together. My brother's over in Australia now - he went to see our Nutcracker out there, and it feels a bit crazy but totally wonderful when he says 'I can still watch you!'. Because of how these screenings are filmed - with the camera able to zoom in - every person in that cinema really has the best seat in the house, no matter where in the world they are."

Arestis points out that this kind of in-the-moment outreach can make even a familiar role seem extra special - but perhaps a tad more stressful - to a dancer. "The company is now so international, we have dancers from all over the world including Japan, Russia, Cuba and America, so its wonderful that so many of the dancers families get to see them perform. On the night, knowing that our audience has gone from a couple of thousand to hundreds of thousands we all feel a little added pressure! I wouldn't want my old ballet teacher watching in Glasgow to see me fall on my face, that would be embarrassing!"

Come Monday, you can see for yourselves how this star-cast Giselle is on the night.

For full details of all cinema screenings, visit www.roh.org.uk/cinema

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