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North East boys rise to the challenge for dance version of Lord of the Flies

Meet some of the North East boys who are rising to the challenge of a dance version of Lord of the Flies


Inspiration is akin to perspiration and if you need proof, look no further than the eagerly-awaited new dance work from Matthew Bourne.

You could say Lord of the Flies is a bit different to previous Bourne creations, such as Swan Lake, Edward Scissorhands and The Car Man, that have packed the Theatre Royal and other theatres around the world.

It is a product of Bourne’s New Adventures company and its charitable arm, Re:Bourne. It will feature, along with established dancers, boys from across the North East, some very new to the world of dance.

But before a rehearsal at Newcastle’s Dance City, where the sprung floor will rattle and thud and the atmosphere will throb with good natured exertion, tour director Adam Galbraith swiftly knocks that idea on the head.

The young lads, he says, were chosen to be part of a Matthew Bourne company.

“They were definitely not brought in to be bit parts. Experienced dancers will play the main principals but our guys are fully involved in the piece.

“The choreography was created in such a way that it’s tiered to cater for the different ages and degrees of athleticism.”

He urges Bourne fans to expect nothing less than the norm from Lord of the Flies.

And he knows what he’s talking about, having performed in seven Matthew Bourne productions and a shoot for the climactic scene of Billy Elliot, the film.

He remembers: “It was filmed at Nottingham Theatre Royal. Little did we know what a spectacular success that was going to be.”

Dancers rehearse for a production of Lord of the Flies, at Dance City
Dancers rehearse for a production of Lord of the Flies, at Dance City

Billy Elliot highlighted the issue of boys doing dance and that is what this project is all about.

Adam explains that in 2011 the Scottish Arts Council decided to give boys the opportunity to perform and commissioned New Adventures to come up with something.

This dance adaptation of the William Golding novel, which tells of boys forced to fend for themselves on a deserted island, is the result.

It was a huge success in Scotland and Adam says the company is still in contact with a lot of the boys who took part. Several have gone on to train as dancers.

“One little lad in Inverness is now grabbing anything that comes up dance-wise. He was a little rugby lad who was bullied by his mates for going to the audition but he’s kept it up.

“He wouldn’t take any rubbish and when the schools came to see the show, his mates realised this was a really cool thing.”

The Scottish experiment has now come to the North East but without, says Adam, the “luxury of time” enjoyed by those working on the inaugural production in Glasgow.

The Theatre Royal has worked with Dance City and the Matthew Bourne company on Lord of the Flies, with ‘dance ambassadors’ Kate Pilbeam and Hannah McGhee holding workshops for the boys.

In the region that spawned Billy Elliot, there was no shortage of volunteers. Adam reckons around 400 boys put themselves forward with the number whittled down to the final 16 who will be seen on stage.

Adam says they looked for youngsters who could handle the dance moves but also gel. “We wanted a team that would work together, the big guys looking after the little guys.

“It is giving all these lads an experience they might never have had before. The motto of the show is changing people’s lives through dance but I think often the lads don’t know what an opportunity they have been given.

“This is a really special, big thing. They’ll probably only realise that later on.”

Dancers rehearse for a production of Lord of the Flies, at Dance City
Dancers rehearse for a production of Lord of the Flies, at Dance City

John Hansford, who is 19 and from Peterlee, has a bit of a Billy Elliot tale to tell.

He explains that his two older sisters were taken to dance classes while he was taken to karate. But he discovered street dance from films and taught himself, imitating the moves in his bedroom.

“I’d just left school at the time and I started because I was bored. I had nothing to do. I locked my door so my parents didn’t find out.”

When they did find out, they encouraged him. He has been dancing for about four years now – “break dance, bodypopping, a bit of hip hop” – and has become proficient enough to compete with his dance crew, Amicus.

He has also been invited into his old school to teach some of the current pupils.

“My mum told me about the auditions for this but I’d done a performance at Dance City and they asked me to come along. It’s challenging because I haven’t done contemporary dance but I was over the moon when I got a part.”

Nathan Denton, 13, from South Shields, swears he’s been dancing for 12 years.

“I started when I was one. My brother used to go to dancing and I used to bounce along to the music.

“My brother quit when he was four but I started dancing as soon as I could walk.”

Stage fright won’t be a problem for Nathan. He was one of Fagin’s pickpockets in Oliver Twist at the Theatre Royal and was also in Annie at the Customs House, South Shields.

Twelve-year-old Louis Swanepoel, from Jesmond, Newcastle, is candid about his involvement in Lord of the Flies. “I hadn’t danced before. It was my mum who just said do it. I didn’t know it was for a performance until the second audition but I was fine.

“It is becoming more intense now but it’s not really something I find difficult.”

Dancers rehearse for a production of Lord of the Flies, at Dance City
Dancers rehearse for a production of Lord of the Flies, at Dance City

Watching a workshop in Dance City’s studio four, I see that these lads have what it takes, if that is boundless energy and personality to match.

Later Anthony Baker, director of Dance City, tells me: “It’s brilliant to be involved in such an amazing project. As the dance agency for the North East, getting boys into dance is something we are really passionate about.

“The project is unique and inspiring and it shows just what’s possible for boys and young men who are hoping for a career in dance.”

To build on the success of Lord of the Flies, Dance City runs classes called Boys Only and Just for Boys, for lads aged seven to 16. A special event called Boyz Moves is taking place there on November 23 at 7pm. Find details on www.dancecity.co.uk or tel. 0191 261 0505.

Lord of the Flies is at the Theatre Royal, Newcastle, from November 5-8. For tickets tel. 08448 112121 or online via www.theatreroyal.co.uk


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