CHOREOGRAPHER OF THE MONTH As his witty and glamorous re-working of the Nutcracker returns to Scotland, we catch up with choreographer Matthew Bourne

What made you want to be a choreographer? I was always putting on shows when I was a kid, and taking part in local amateur things. I thought I wanted to be an actor, and I tried it when I was about 15, but couldn’t bear using my voice. I was quite shy and self-conscious of anything vocal, so dance became the way I could express myself and tell stories. And I never really separated the two dancing and choreographing were always hand in hand for me.

What was the inspiration behind your re-working of the Nutcracker? Lots of influences went in to it. I’m a big fan of MGM musicals and Busby Berkeley the colourful aspect of it. I’d also had an idea of doing something Dickensian, like Oliver Twist. It’s full of cultural icons from different eras that people might recognise.

What do you look for in a dancer? Although they have to be very skilled dancers, I’m looking for individuality and personality. Because dancers are so technically orientated when they’re training, I need people to have a mind of their own to create with, which enables them to play acting roles.

What do you hope audiences will take away from Nutcracker? Nutcracker! is pure pleasure really, pure joy and year-round joy we should say, it’s like a puppy, it’s not just for Christmas. It’s the ultimate feel- good dance show, and I want people to come away on a high. Matthew Bourne’s Nutcracker!, Edinburgh Festival Theatre, Tue 29 Nov–Sat 3 Dec.

114 THE LIST 17 Nov–15 Dec 2011

PREVIEW CONTEMPORARY DANCE NOWWHATNOW? Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, Thu 24 Nov

She’s one of the biggest champions of contemporary dance in Scotland, but Morag Deyes isn’t afraid to tell it like it is. The artistic director of Edinburgh’s Dance Base has put together a programme of choreographic comedy that takes an affectionate dig at the genre’s more serious side. ‘I think contemporary dance can sometimes get a bit

po-faced,’ says Deyes, ‘and when it’s really po-faced, it’s hysterical. I just wanted to tip everything over into that other place, where you’re allowed to laugh.’

The result is Nowwhatnow?, a one-night stand at the Traverse featuring four acts from home and abroad. Those familiar with the Scottish dance scene will know that Andy Howitt and Alan Greig have earned their stripes over the past 20 years, the former running YDance, the latter at the helm of X Factor Dance. So when they perform their duet, GOD (Grumpy Old Dancers), you know it comes from the heart.

‘Andy and Alan are doing Grumpy Old Dancers and that’s exactly what they are,’ says Deyes, ‘so they don’t really need to do much. I was watching them rehearse and they’ve got such stage presence. There’s a real love/hate relationship going on, and it’s a coupling I never thought I’d see, but I’m so glad we’re going to.’

Fellow dance stalwarts Steinvor Palsson and

Matthew Hawkins have teamed up to create a new duet, commissioned by Deyes. ‘Steinvor and Matthew are being quite serious, very beautiful, articulate dancers trying to keep it together,’ explains Deyes. ‘But then things start to unravel. Matthew has been told he’s a natural clown, and Steinvor loves choreographing comedy, so I knew they’d work well together.’ Adding to the mirth are Italian dance artist Valentina Sordo, with a solo compilation of all the contemporary dance divas she’s worked with, and Plutôt la Vie delivering a slice of their popular show By the Seat of Your Pants. ‘For me, Ian Cameron of Plutôt la Vie is one of the funniest people in Scotland,’ says Deyes. ‘He just has to sit there and I lose it.’ (Kelly Apter)


When Phoenix Dance Theatre (formerly Company) was created in 1981, the founders could scarcely have known how appropriate the name would prove to be. On many occasions the company has been re-born from the ashes of what went before. Today the company has much to shout about not least the fantastic new building it shares with Northern Ballet in Leeds. For artistic director, Sharon Watson (herself a dancer with the company in

the 1980s), programming the 30th anniversary year was an opportunity to celebrate and reflect. Featuring works by choreographers Aletta Collins, Isira Makuloluwe, Warren Adams and Philip Taylor, Declarations captures the past and present of this well-loved company. ‘We’ve been through some rocky times,’ says Watson. ‘So Declarations is really a statement of our being showing our audience where we stand right now in terms of our history, our current offerings and what we hope to offer in the future.’ Former Phoenix dancer Adams was inspired by the words of Barack

Obama for his piece The Audacious One; Makuloluwe, whose fluid Locked in Vertical forms part of the programme, also worked at Phoenix. Collins won an award for a previous Phoenix work and now presents Maybe Yes Maybe, Maybe No Maybe, and Taylor’s 1989 piece Haunted Passages is a bona fide Phoenix classic. ‘There’s a real athletic vigour about Phoenix, that sits within these works,’ says Watson. ‘The choreographers all understand the company and how incredibly versatile and diverse it is.’ (Kelly Apter)