Dancer’s eye view of Swan Lake at Norwich Theatre Royal

Jonathan Ollivier and Dominic North in Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake

Jonathan Ollivier and Dominic North in Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake - Credit: Archant

Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake is roosting in Norwich again. ABIGAIL SALTMARSH talks to principal swan Jonathan Ollivier about the ground-breaking production.

When Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake first took flight in 1995 it sent ripples through the world of dance. Now, 18 years later, as it heads to the Theatre Royal in Norwich on its latest national tour, it is thrilling audiences as much as ever, according to principal swan Jonathan Ollivier.

'This version of Swan Lake is so successful because like all Matthew's productions it manages to be different,' he says. 'It has strong characters and a good story line and, of course, it is known for having male instead of female swans.

'This is a great concept but there is far more to it than that. People are drawn into the story and find the dance incredibly powerful.'

The world-renowned ballet, which has won awards around the globe, is being staged in Norwich until November 23.


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Now the longest-running ballet in London's West End and on Broadway, it sees the transformation of the traditional fairy tale into a very dark, menacing piece of dance.

'As soon as it came out I knew I wanted to do it,' Jonathan admits. 'I told Matthew I was interested because I knew it would be a very rewarding production to be part of.'

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Jonathan, who has performed the role of lead swan in the ballet once before, started dancing almost by accident. Raised in Northampton, and with three older sisters, he would accompany his mother when she took them to classes.

'The teacher told my mum it was fine to leave me while she went off to do some shopping and I started joining in,' he recalls.

'When my mum came back the teacher told her I was actually quite good. So I joined the class and stayed until I was 16!'

Jonathan, who admits he never enjoyed playing football but did like karate, relished the technical discipline of ballet.

'I found doing ballet challenging. I knew from a fairly young age that I wanted to make a career of it. When I was about 11 or 12, and at school, I had to write down what I wanted to be when I grew up – I said I wanted to be a dancer even then.'

At the age of 16 he moved to London, where he trained at Rambert dance school. From there he moved to South Africa for two or three years, where he became a principal dancer with Cape Town City Ballet, before returning to the UK to join Northern Ballet Theatre.

'But I was always interested in Matthew Bourne's work,' he says. 'I do love doing the straight classic and contemporary dances but there is much more acting involved in Matthew's productions.

'He also allows you to create your own character and works with you on that – and there are not many companies that do that.'

Dancers do not sign up as part of Matthew's New Adventures company, rather they are chosen for their suitability to a particular role within a specific production. Jonathan has appeared in the choreographer's Play Without Words, as well as Swan Lake.

'It feels more like a family than a company,' he says. 'You can go off and do other things but then might get a call from them to ask if you are interested in a production they have coming up.'

The lead swan in Matthew Bourne's ballet requires great stage presence and well as outstanding technical skills.

'I am a fairly big guy and the male swan does have to have good size – he dances with other men and has to be able to swing them about!

'I am 6ft 2ins and quite broad and some of the other swans are 6ft 3ins and 6ft 4ins - altogether we are quite striking.'

Jonathan, who was nominated by the National Dance Awards' Critic's Circle as Best Young Male Dancer (2003) and Best Male Dancer (2004), has danced in Norwich on numerous occasions and is keen to reprise his Swan Lake role in the city.

'I like the Theatre Royal and Matthew Bourne always goes down well there,' he adds. 'Norwich is really supportive of the arts and so it is always a great place to dance.'

Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake continues at Norwich Theatre Royal until Saturday, November 23. For more information or to book call 01603 630000 or visit www.theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk

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