Prize for Ballet 2018


12 / 06


United Kingdom
Birmingham Royal Ballet



"Choreographer Juanjo Arques is interested in challenging the way audiences consume narrative work. His research starts with the choreographic translation of the emotions underneath the actions in the story: finding the motivation of the movements, rather than looking for actions that depict the story. This allows him to create a ballet full of meaning yet open to personal interpretation, that speaks to the senses directly rather than on a rational level of ‘making sense’.

Ignite will take the work of the British painter William Turner ‘The Burning of the Houses of Lords and Commons’ as the main source of inspiration. In contrast with a narrative work that is literally explained on the stage, Juanjo’s approach will be to take the viewer on a Colour Journey where the eye and mind of the spectator will be triggered emotionally in the composition of their own ‘symbolic narrative’.

The inspiration comes from the analysis of the work, translating its colours to choreography. Colour has a neural response – a biochemical reaction and psychological phenomenon. It resonates in our memory, instinct, body and all five senses.

Turner based the painting on the actual event of a fire engulfing the Houses of Parliament while Londoners gathered to gaze in awe at the horrifying spectacle.
He used colour to convey the magnificent light and heat of the burning building.
The image dissolves in brilliant swathes of colour and atmospheric effects that border on abstraction. This favours the elemental aspects of the conflagration that embodies Turner's theme. This in turn becomes the puniness and ephemerality of man's efforts in the face of nature, referred to as ‘the sublime’ in the Romantic period.

Alongside the rest of the artistic team, Juanjo’s aim for this work is to create ballet composed in time and space, using the music as a canvas for the choreography that - with movements as paintbrushes in different colours – will form the basis of the viewer’s own narrative of the work."

Artistic Team

Ignite will bring together a truly diverse artistic team, featuring members from three different countries with very different levels of experience. Spanish choreographer Juanjo Arques made his first ballet in 2010 and has since created works for ballet companies around the world. Ignite will be his first large-scale production and his first time working with Birmingham Royal Ballet. Juanjo will be supported by his assistant, Jose Carlos Blanco Martínez, with whom he began collaborating this year, and by up-and-coming Dutch dramaturge and former dancer Fabienne Vegt. The score will be created by British composer Kate Whitley, founder of the pioneering Multi-Story Orchestra (an orchestra based in a disused multistorey car-park in London) and recent resident composer at Rambert. Designs will be by Dutch designer Tatyana van Walsum, with lighting by Bert Dalhuysen, who between them have worked with many of the foremost ballet and opera companies in the world.

Juanjo Arques

Juanjo Arqués


Kate Whitley

Kate Whitley


Tatyana van Walsum

Tatyana Van Walsum

Set and Costume designer

Fabienne Vegt

Fabienne Vegt


Bert Dalhuysen

Bert Dalhuysen

Lighting designer

Jose Carlos Blanco

Jose Carlos Blanco Martinez

Choreographic assistant

Co-producing Partners


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