Born: London, England.
Trained: Central School of Ballet, London & The Arts Educational School, Tring Park.
Joined Scottish Ballet: 2009. Promoted to First Artist in 2014 and to Soloist in 2016.
Why did you become a dancer?
I grew up surrounded by dance, music and drama; with my mother putting on shows and teaching ballet, tap and modern to children and adults of all ages and ability since before I was born. Although I also played rugby, football and cricket and was encouraged by my family to follow a career in anything I liked, I decided from a young age that performing was for me. I have always been happiest when on stage and entertaining others.
Do you remember a moment when you decided or realised that you wanted to be a professional dancer?
Turning 12 and in an all-boys school, I was faced with a choice between choosing one very clear pathway of education towards becoming a business man or lawyer in the city, or a completely uncertain and unknown path towards becoming a stage performer. In the type of education system I was in at the time, even at such a young age anything other than good exam results and a clear career choice was frowned upon, and there would be no room for any 'distractions', as my head teacher at the time once told me. And so, the next day I applied for an audition at what was then known as the Arts Educational School Tring Park, and was accepted a week later.
Describe something about your dancing that has changed since joining Scottish Ballet. What caused this change?
My mixed training in various art forms at Tring and then my classical ballet training at Central had me unusually prepared for the breadth of styles that have always made Scottish Ballet’s repertoire so appealing to dancers and audiences alike. When I joined in 2009, I had been given a contract based primarily on my performances with Central School of Ballet’s 3rd year touring company Ballet Central; A wonderful experience that had me ready for the touring life. Finding employment based almost entirely on a performance that showcased all that I had to offer as a young dancer gave me a chance to explore who I wanted to be as a dancer, rather than constantly having to fit into a mould that might not necessarily make the most of me. To arrive at a company filled with dancers of all backgrounds, and many different trainings and styles alongside their classical training made me feel welcome, and helped me find my own unique place as part of the team.
What’s your pre-show ritual?
It can really depend on the specific productions requirements and casting, however the goal of my pre-show ritual is to achieve a feeling of consistency wherever I am in the world and whatever the time of the show. During a heavier season, and certainly on a double show day, most of the guys in my dressing room can be found power napping under our dressing tables, myself included. I usually get my makeup and costume sorted an hour before curtain up, and allocate at least half an hour to warm up my body. The timing of all of this, along with eating, and putting time aside for a wig every now and then, is an essential part of touring, especially internationally, and often can help negate the time difference.
Tell us about your recent ventures into choreography. What inspired you to start making work?
Even without perhaps always being consciously aware of it, I have always been a creator, and from an early age I would be encouraged to create in dance, music, drama and many other art forms as part of my education. When Christopher Hampson became Artistic Director in 2012, he proposed new and informal conditions for creating work. At first starting with a group of interested dancers meeting once a month and setting us some well thought through Creative Challenges, without the pressure of any formal showing of work. With so many keen choreographers becoming interested in joining this process, the challenges really started to expand each individual’s creative direction and drive. In 2015 this led to me co-creating a short film, and putting pieces on at Glasgow’s Cottiers Dance Festival and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. I continued to make work beyond this, including for the students of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, and in 2017 I was awarded a place on SB Creates, a programme headed by Kerry Nicholls and Christopher Hampson.
Are there any dancers or artists that inspire you?
Strong female dancers have always been the people I look to for a measure of what hard work looks like. Although a lot has changed about the landscape in my time as a dancer, women in dance have constantly inspired me to work harder and continue to improve. My partner both on and off stage, Constance Devernay, who is Principal of the company, sets a standard every time she steps into the studio, and I always look to her for an example when finding my way through the complex maze of choices and decision making that we face as performers.
Outside of dance, I am a big fan of physical comedians and stand ups such as Sebastian Maniscalco, and I often look for ways to capture their mannerisms and caricatures on stage with my own performances and creations.
What are a few words that would describe your personality in the studio?
I’m loud, excitable and full of energy most days, but I can also focus and direct my energy when needed. I always try to find the funny side in every situation and my favourite part of the job is getting on stage and dancing until I can’t walk straight!