Festival of New Choreography, Joshua Junker

The Festival of New Choreography is a yearly series of performances, events and activities taking place across the Royal Opera House that embrace and champion new, diverse voices in choreography. The Festival, which took place from Monday 5 February to Sunday 25 February on the Main Stage, in the Linbury Theatre, Paul Hamlyn Hall and Clore Studio, 'is part of The Royal Ballet’s commitment to choreographic innovation and nurturing the future of the art form.’ (ROH)


Four Royal Ballet world premieres were featured together on the Main Stage as part of the Festival’s mixed programme. These works, all Main Stage debuts, were created by Gemma Bond, Jessica Lang, Mthuthuzeli November and Royal Ballet First Artist Joshua Junker.


And it is Joshua Junker’s ‘Never Known’ that stole the show, it’s affect lingering long after the performance.

‘Never Known’ was inspired by Junker’s background of breakdance and the years of professional ballet training. Junker set out to explore to connection between technology and human experience, the perpetually reinventing, upgrading technological innovations and the affect they have on how humans relate to each other. At times complementing, and at others contrasting, the piece was combined playful and unexpected movement with precise unison.


The combining of breakdance and ballet broke into mainstream western cultural reference in 2001 with Save the Last Dance, a film and time we remember that with deep nostalgia and a small cringe.


This was not that.

Junker’s work is inherently cool. Removing itself from those noughties tropes so completely and effortlessly.


The androgyny, softness and strength of the performers is at the centre of this work. The costumes by Noemi Daboczi, further reiterating this through the comfortable, pastel, pyjama-like tops and bottoms. When the movements became angular and twitchy, the effect remained soft. Soft like cold butter and the back of a metal spoon.

They moved together in liquid-like motion, occasionally peeling off in ricocheting effects, pausing on and passing through bodily positions unexpected in a ballet piece, considered and elegant. Never not elegant.


Set to ‘All Melody’, the folk techno by Nils Frahm, the music gave the work contemporary relevance and human warmth. A warmth further bound and confronted by Zeynep Kepekli’s subtle lighting. Beacon-like at times, worshipped by the dancers, the pastel glow subtle and responsive, washing the stage and drenching the dancers.


This world, imagined and created by Junker, was entirely absorbing, transporting, consuming. It was completely mesmerising.

Joshua Junker's Never Known ©2024 ROH. Ph Andrej Upenski
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March 22, 2023
Festival of New Choreography, Joshua Junker
Emma Stones