Primeiro Bailarino Shows Thiago Soares Striving to be Better Than Himself


 Primeiro Bailarino (Principal Dancer): Regent Street Cinema, London, 7.11.2018. (JO’D)

Thiago Soares in Primeiro Bailarino

Cast – Thiago Soares, Alessio Carbone, Lauren Cuthbertson, Sarah Lamb, Marianela Nuñez

Director – Felipe Braga

Choreographer and Movement Director – Deborah Colker

During a post-screening talk in the auditorium of the Regent Street Cinema, Thiago Soares made it clear that the documentary Primeiro Bailarino is not about him being ‘better’ than someone else. It is not meant as a celebration of a trajectory that saw a fifteen-year-old hip-hop star from Brazil become a principal dancer at The Royal Ballet. In one of the film’s many revealing moments Soares himself says that memories at The Royal Ballet, where he has been for sixteen years, are short. However good your performance on a particular night: ‘In three days you’re old news.’

Instead of tracing a rise-to-stardom narrative, Brazilian director Felipe Braga (whose previous documentaries have been about a footballer, a fighter and an ice-skater) simply films the dancer at a particular stage in his career. Hand-held, restless, the camera tracks Soares from behind as he walks through the streets of London and the passageways of the Royal Opera House, as he rehearses Kenneth MacMillan’s Romeo and Juliet and Wayne McGregor’s Raven Girl in a studio. Staying close to its subject (it is there as he cuts his toenails) the camera seems to be still only when it lingers on Soares’s nearly naked, dancer’s body as he sits in a dressing room or alone on the floor of what could be his flat, with an ice-pack balanced on his knee.

In voiceover or on film, in Brazilian Portuguese or in English, Soares talks of ‘artistic humility’, of performing in shopping centres and in the rain on the beach at Cannes, of at one point eating twelve bananas a day. Most of all, perhaps, he talks of pain. ‘Pain is my little friend,’ he says to explain that it is no use for a dancer to complain about something that is always there. And even when it isn’t there, the memory of pain is so strong it can still be felt.

The middle section of the documentary switches from London to Brazil, where the dancer both produces and performs in a programme of four works: classical, neo-classical, contemporary and dance-theatre. Positioned in wings of Rio de Janeiro’s Municipal Theatre, the camera films him, with fellow principal of The Royal Ballet, Marianela Nuñez (his ex-wife), in the ‘black’ pas de deux from Swan Lake. At the end of 2018 Soares will become a Guest Principal with The Royal Ballet. This Brazil episode, overlong and slightly tedious as it is, may be intended to show the work he will be doing, and where he might be doing it, in the future.

Thiago Soares with Kevin O’Hare (Director of The Royal Ballet)

Back in London, the dancer is seen rehearsing Romeo and Juliet as Director of The Royal Ballet, Kevin O’Hare and Senior Teacher, Alexander Agadzhanov, look on. In voiceover, Soares explains, with humility, that he cannot hope to impress either of them by the way he dances the steps: Kevin O’Hare worked with MacMillan, Agadzhanov with Nureyev. He can only hope to bring something to the role that comes from the ‘nuances’ of his life; to be better, as he says in another part of the film, ‘than myself’.

John O’Dwyer

Primeiro Bailarino (Principal Dancer) will be screened in the Linbury Theatre of the Royal Opera House on 21 January 2019 at 7.30pm. To book tickets click here.


Leave a Reply

Recent Reviews



Season Previews

  • NEW! Bampton Classical Opera’s 2019 Performances of Stephen Storace’s Gli sposi malcontenti __________________________________
  • NEW! Nevill Holt Opera’s 2019 Season __________________________________
  • NEW! 2019 Aldeburgh Festival at the Snape Maltings in June __________________________________
  • NEW! Garsington Opera’s 2019 30th Anniversary Season __________________________________
  • NEW! Clara Schumann Festival at St John’s Smith Square – 22 to 24 February 2019 __________________________________
  • NEW! Venus Unwrapped: Kings Place’s Year-Long Focus on Women Composers __________________________________
  • NEW! Opera Buenos Aires in 2019 – Largely Traditional __________________________________
  • NEW! Looking Ahead to the 2019 Lucerne Festivals __________________________________
  • NEW! Opera Holland Park’s 2019 Season __________________________________
  • NEW! The Met: Live in HD in 2018/19 __________________________________
  • NEW! The Royal Opera House’s Exciting 2018/19 Cinema Season __________________________________
  • UPDATED! Zurich Opera in 2018/2019 and Beyond __________________________________
  • NEW! Salzburg Whitsun Festival 7 – 10 June 2019 __________________________________
  • NEW! Bolshoi Ballet 2018/19 UK Cinema Season __________________________________
  • NEW! 2018-2019 Geneva Grand Theâtre Season __________________________________
  • NEW! 2018/19 Hallé Season in Manchester __________________________________
  • NEW! 2018/19 Tonhalle Orchestra Zürich __________________________________
  • Subscribe to Review Summary Newsletter

    Reviews by Reviewer

    News and Featured Articles

  • NEW! Arthur Butterworth and David Jennings Premieres in Lancaster on 1 March __________________________________
  • NEW! Ivan Putrov’s Against the Stream Ballet Gala Night on 7 April __________________________________
  • NEW! English Symphony Orchestra Bring Music from Wagner’s Epic Ring Cycle to the Swan Theatre __________________________________
  • NEW! London To Hear Long-Overdue Revival of Parry’s Oratorio Judith in April __________________________________
  • NEW! Russian Ballet Icons Gala 31 March 2019 at the London Coliseum __________________________________
  • NEW! Ik zeg: NU: I say now, now … an interview with Richard Causton __________________________________
  • NEW AND UPDATED! SOME OF SEEN AND HEARD’S REVIEWERS LOOK BACK AT 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! SOPRANO ELENA MOȘUC IN CONVERSATION WITH CASEY CREEL __________________________________
  • NEW! A Q&A WITH GERMAN SOPRANO PETRA LANG __________________________________
  • HOW TO CONTACT SEEN AND HEARD INTERNATIONAL __________________________________
  • Search S&H

    Archives by Week

    Archives by Month