As Matthew Bourne's Nutcracker is set to grace the stage at the Theatre Royal Nottingham, Tina Clough caught up with lead dancer, Adam Galbraith, to find out what it is that makes him tick, what continues to make the Nutcracker such a success and why dance is even more accessible than ever before.
What got you started as a dancer and how long have you been dancing for?
I used to do a lot of acting as a kid and it was actually the ladies that got me into it. I saw a lot of girls in a ballet class one day and I thought I want go give that a go! One of my teachers at school told me I had great legs for ballet - I didn't, I had the skinniest legs. It was just her way of getting me into the class and it kind of escalated from there. I ended up going to London Contemporary Dance School and did the three-year degree course.
What was your first biggest performance?
The New Adventures Company saw me in a dance production at my college and I have been here ever since. I have been with the company a total of nine years now. My first big break was after I got a phone call from the management saying they wanted me to star in Cinderella, which was a twelve-week tour based in LA.
Out of all the productions you have starred in which one was you favourite?
Each performance has a different spark in it that keeps me coming back to it, but the Nutcracker will always be close to my heart. I did the Nutcracker for the first time back in 2002, and this is my second time of starring in it. I generally get a lot out of all the shows I do. Swan Lake is such a well-received show, but there are elements from all the shows that I love.
You play the characters Doctor Dross and the Nutcracker in the production. Are they very different in terms of personality?
This season I do play both characters. Obviously the Nutcracker is the title role, which is fantastic, and I share this part with Alan Vincent. I also play Doctor Dross who runs the orphanage where all the children in the first half are treated very badly. In the second half of the show he then transforms into King Sherbet who is a much more lively, pink, kitsch royal figure so there is a contrast. The play is centred on one of the orphans, Clara and her dream, about how she hopes to escape the orphanage.
The Nutcracker has been around for 110 years now, what is it in your opinion that keeps it so popular and keeps drawing in audiences all over the world?
It has to be Tchaikovsky. There have been so many different interpretations of the Nutcracker over the years, from the traditional ballet, the Royal Ballet and our interpretation. Tchaikovsky's score is such a fantastic piece of music, there are so many times that I walk around the shops at Christmas and hear the Nutcracker sweet song. It is also a Christmas tradition many people go to see it at that time of year to treat themselves. It has such a fantastic longevity to it and you don't ever sicken of the music.
Do you think that The Nutcracker would appeal to anybody or just those with a taste for the arts?
That is the great thing about New Adventures and Matthew's company. We try to take traditional productions and give them a modern edge and a twist, in order to make them more accessible to a much wider audience. As much as the traditional ballet is great in its own right, it is only accessible to a certain audience. I would say 90 per-cent of the shows we do are family orientated with a lot of under-toned adult humour. It is also great for people who haven't been to the ballet before as there is such a clear narrative.
Describe your favourite scene of the show
The end of Act One is the snow section, where we are dancing on a frozen pond. It is quite magical and a very lovely thing to watch, as it is a whole company dance number.
My other personal favourite is a licking dance in Act Two where everyone plays different sweets. It is a lovely dance number but it has a lot of adult humour to it. On top of that the set and costumes make a great visual highlight for the audience.
How many dancers make up the team?
We have 30 dancers altogether and there are quite a few people involved in the production. The way casting works is that most people perform a couple of shows. So in an ideal world most dancers will do around six shows a week and have a rest show.
Take me through a typical day if the life of a dancer
If we just have one show in the evening we will probably be called around 2.30pm and we will have an hour and a half of ballet or contemporary class. We will also usually have a note class with Matt or with one of the other associate directors. After that we will have dinner and then receive our half hour call around 6.55pm for our 7.30 show. The show usually ends around 9.30 then it is off to socialise. When we are touring it can be very intense. We also have to be prepared for injuries.
Who were your inspirations when you first started?
There were two inspirations to me, a couple of lads in the year above me at school who I used to watch on stage. I have admired a lot of dancers along the way who I have worked with. I worked with Adam Cooper and having worked with him he was an influence on me.
I also love the old school Fred and Ginger as they were always great to watch. I even like the boys in the Rat Pack who have their quirky numbers it is especially great to see how they gel together.
What is the best piece of advice anyone has given you as you were starting out?
Just to believe in your ability and to believe in yourself. You have to have the self-belief and drive to push yourself forward as it is such a hard industry to be in.
What is it like working with Matthew Bourne and so many other talented people?
It is fantastic. Matthew is so easy-going. I have worked with directors before who have been cracking the whip but here it is a much more casual but very professional environment. This is why I have stayed for so long and devoted so much time to the company.
The Nutcracker will play at The Theatre Royal from Tuesday 19th to Saturday 23rd February 2008