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Photography by Ulrike RindermannMake-up by Kay Montano using CHANEL Beauty

FRANCESCA

HAYWARD

Born in Nairobi to a British father and a Kenyan mother, Francesca Hayward moved to the UK aged two to live with her grandparents in the seaside town of Worthing, West Sussex. It was there that she discovered a VHS video of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker, which turned her baby steps into pirouettes. Since then, she’s danced her way to the top; hired by the Royal Ballet Company in 2011, she became a principal dancer in 2016.

At her level, dance is a form of speechless narrative that uses both the body’s elegance and athleticism to communicate. The work of the body and the ability of the dancer to express grief, love, joy (or the complex hybrids of these that constitute emotional life) produce ballet’s particular muscular grace, and Hayward’s precise technique and raw emotional power makes her one of the most distinguished dancers at work today.

When preparing for her roles, she says, “I start by trying to devour anything that’s out there already about the story. If there’s a film or a book or other performances, I read and watch as much as possible and then make sure I only take the parts that I can understand on a personal level. With Juliet [in Romeo and Juliet], for example, how many different versions of her are there? You have to take her as who you think she is and understand her how you see her.”

This approach can bring its own challenges, partic-ularly because the stage itself allows for its own form of (late) interpretation. “Sometimes I don’t find a character until I’m actually in the show,” admits Hayward. “If I haven’t done the story from start to finish in rehearsal enough to really know the character’s journey, then I’ll be on stage and think to myself, well, this move doesn’t feel right at that moment, given what just happened before.” For Hayward, the performance itself is process.

In the autumn, Hayward and Alexander Campbell will lead the cast in The Limit, a new adaptation of Sam Steiner’s award-winning play Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons, which director Ed Madden and choreographer Kristen McNally have reimagined as a work of dance-theatre with an original score by Isobel Waller-Bridge. According to the show’s advertising, “the average person speaks more than 123 million words in a lifetime. But what if there were a limit?” It seems the perfect role for Hayward, already working at the sharp edge of where language defers to movement – but whose own capacity for expression is limitless. ◉

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All make-up by Kay Montano at C/O Management using CHANEL Les Beiges Summer To Go and CHANEL Hydra Beauty Micro Crème Yeux. All clothing by CHANEL and all jewellery by CHANEL Fine Jewellery.

Styling: Caroline Issa / Hair: Bianca Simone / Photography assistant: Sophie Guillouart/ Styling assistant: Emily Whitehurst