Backstage with choreographer Christopher Marney


Chris came to dance in his early teens, and eventually trained at Central School of Ballet, London, under the direction of Christopher Gable. After graduating he joined Matthew Bourne’s company and was soon dancing main roles in Swan Lake and The Car Man before joining BalletBoyz as a founding member. He then moved to Europe where he was a dancer with Gothenburg Ballet and Ballet Biarritz, dancing in productions of The Nutcracker, Romeo and Juliet, L’Apres Midi d’un Faun. Chris then returned to London, working freelance as a dancer and choreographer with commissions for Ballet Black, Images of Dance and our very own Ballet Central. During this he has also continued to perform regularly creating the title role in Will Tuckett’s dance-play, The Thief of Baghdad and guesting for Bern Ballet in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, under the direction of Cathy Marston. He has also remained a part of Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures as a principal and rehearsal director.

1. When did you start to dance?
I didn’t start ballet until I was 14 but from the age of 11 I was doing jazz and drama. I wanted to go down the musical theatre route but I decided I wanted to hone my training and have a good basis from which to build my dancing career. Therefore I applied for Central School of Ballet!

2. So you, yourself, were part of Ballet Central. What is your abiding memory of the experience? I was in Ballet Central the year that the co-founder of the school Christopher Gable sadly passed away. There was therefore a special poignancy to the whole experience of Ballet Central, particularly the piece we opened with Celebration, the last piece he choreographed. He was such an inspiration to me – a performer in every sense of the word in dance, acting and choreographing. His artistic aims focused on creating a well-rounded dancer and performer, not just concentrating on technique but developing the artistic side as well. His ethos has and continues to inform my career as a dancer and choreographer.

3. What are your career highlights? My first highlight was joining New Adventures with Matthew Bourne, straight after being at Central and then being asked to learn the Prince from Swan Lake after only a few weeks – the experience I gained with Ballet Central helped to cope with the demands needed for the role. Then, going to Europe particularly at Gothenburg Ballet and learning pieces by Jiri Kylian and William Forsythe helped to build my technique making me a better and more mature dancer.

4. When did you start choreographing? At Gothenberg Ballet, there were opportunities to choreograph for some dance workshops. With such a fantastic resource of keen dancers and a great theatre, I could play around with lots of ideas. Returning to the UK, I had several commissions from a variety of companies so I was able to develop my style even more.

5. How would you describe your style? My style is narrative, definitely. I love creating a piece around a strong plot, particularly with a contemporary theme so that the audience can be drawn in emotionally. A narrative also gives an awful lot of scope for different movement and opportunities to play with the audience’s humour. Even without an obvious storyline, there has to be an intention, an emotive purpose to every movement.

6. What inspired this piece? I have always been interested in trying to bring sport and its physicality together with dance in some way – and then I heard a piece from the ballet Sylvia by Léo Dilebes and I really began to explore my idea further. I was also impressed by the strength of the dancers in Ballet Central and knew that I could use them to create a strong narrative piece.

7. How did you choose the music for your piece? My starting point was the music from Sylvia. From there I outlined a story about a girl, who reads many books and whose imagination sends her on many adventures. So I chose pieces like Aquarium from the Carnival of the Animals by Camille Saint-Saëns and a romantic Shostakovich waltz, both of which gave ample opportunity to be creative with the piece. Philip Feeney, the musical director has also kindly composed some parts to link all the pieces together.

8. When choosing dancers, what do you look for? I particularly looked for dancers who could act and tell a story through their body. I was confident that every dancer could do the steps I set, but I was looking for that something extra special – the ability to physicalise their emotions and relay a character on stage. For example, I set a particular combination I told them that I wasn’t looking at their legs and feet but I wanted them to look into each other’s eyes and respond to each other through movement.

9. What advice would you give to an aspiring dancer? I think the best advice I could give is to follow instructions –sometimes key details can be lost and the choreography becomes something entirely different to what you were intending, which can be quite frustrating when you have a vision for your piece. Though, I think it is great when dancers can give their own interpretation and put their own mark to the movement you have set, it mustn’t be to the detriment of the choreography and overall intention of the piece. Needless to say, Ballet Central has been fantastic with balancing this fine line.

10. What has been the highlight of working with Ballet Central? The dancers have been great to work with – they are so eager and willing to do your piece justice and do their best that it has been a joy to collaborate with them. I have also really valued and feel lucky to be working with the entire Ballet Central team including Philip Feeney, Richard Gellar in the wardrobe department and Ed Railton Ballet Central’s lighting designer.

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Backstage with Jack

May I welcome you to our second interview with Jack Cussans!

1.How is Ballet Central going?
Really well. We have started learning most pieces for the tour. It’s a massive change from 1st and 2nd year but really fun.

2.What pieces are you learning?
I am in Kenny Tindell’s and Dane Hurst’s pieces. Both are equally challenging but really enjoyable nonetheless.

3.What is your favourite piece and why?
I love Kenny’s piece – the movement, expression and intention is wonderful to learn. I particularly enjoy bucking the trend of conventions and doing pas de deux with the guys in the piece – in all honesty it is much easier to lift a guy than a girl!

4.What is it like working with different choreographers?
Kenny and Dane are both very different to work with. Dane expects us to work very hard for the entire rehearsal. If he is working on a particular part with someone else, the people not used have to work at the side either listening to what is going on or working on bits and pieces that we have just been taught. I find this approach challenging, but on the plus side it is really good to learn new ways of processing information and helps with sustaining concentration.
Kenny works with groups in intensive bursts, getting the best out of us on an individual basis. Last week I was able to work with him for private coaching with my pas de deux partner, Victoria, which was really helpful and a fantastic experience.

5.When did you start dancing?
I started dancing at 4 years old. I lived in Newcastle and was training in football at the Newcastle Academy but for convenience and to keep fit when I wasn’t doing football, I joined my sister at her dancing classes. We then moved to York and I carried on dancing and eventually my teacher recommended going to The Hammond School, which teaches performing arts to 11 year olds and upwards.

6.Who inspires you to dance?
Watching other dancers and new choreography is my biggest inspiration – watching Steven McRae is always a pleasure but I love watching pieces by Akram Khan – they really push the boundaries of what dance means.

7.What’s the best advice you have been given?
I know this sounds like a cliché but the phrase ‘never give up even when you have setbacks’ really resonates with me. At the end of 2nd year I was given the news that I may have to repeat the year due to having a growth spurt. Obviously I was really disappointed but I sat down with one of the teachers and just talked it all through and realised that it wasn’t a setback but rather an opportunity to keep learning and training. I have to say that extra year helped me enormously grow.

8.What are you most looking forward at Ballet Central?
Going on tour – being on the road is something I am really looking forward to and to experience all the different theatres and audiences…I can’t wait!

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Backstage with Ballet Central – Merry Christmas!

To all avid readers, I hope you enjoyed the interview with Aisling – our next interview will be blogged in the new year. We have now finished for the term and for the past three months we have been rehearsing non-stop for the upcoming tour as well as doing photo shoots, preparing graduation solos and on top of that continuing to train to work up to auditioning for jobs in the new year once Ballet Central is over. It never stops! We wish you all a very happy and restful Christmas and a fabulous New Year.

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Backstage with Aisling

Ballet Central; Audition PhotosMay I welcome as our first blog interview 3rd Year student Aisling Brangan!


  1. How is Ballet Central going?

It’s going really well, thanks.  I love how you are treated like you are in a company in the final year compared to 1st and 2nd Year when you are in training.

2.    What pieces are you learning?

Stacey Haynes’ and Kenny Tindall’s.  Stacey’s is a fun and free, ‘lovin’ life’ jazz piece and Kenny is neo-classical with massive amounts of intention and purpose to every movement.

3.   What is your favourite piece and why?

It’s impossible to choose between the two because both explore different ways of dancing.  Stacey’s piece is to a Beyoncé track, very different but I love the freedom and energy compared to the classical training that we have been drilled in the past couple of years!  Kenny’s is all about challenging the perception of what classical dance is, pushing its boundaries, exploring a new way of dancing entirely. 

4.   What is it like working with different choreographers?

Both of them are really fun to work with – I enjoy the relaxed nature of Stacey’s piece and although she works us hard it is always fun to rehearse.  Kenny is great because you really start to understand that every movement has a purpose – no movement is just flung out, its got a resistance, an image, an idea, a process.  I have to say that at the beginning my muscles were agony – luckily I am now used to it!

5.   When did you start dancing?

I started when I was 5 years old, initially Irish dancing which I didn’t really like as it is quite restrictive.  But I eventually started ballet and built up from doing it once a week to doing it several times a week and then as people stopped dancing and I kept going, I started to think that maybe I want to continue doing it professionally.

6.   Who inspires you to dance?

I don’t think there is one particular person – I just enjoy what I do and try and get the most out of every day.

7.   What advice would you give to someone thinking about training?

You need to constantly remind yourself why you want to dance – remember what you get up in the morning for, remember why you are doing that ballet class every morning; reminding yourself that despite the aching muscles you know what you are eventually aiming for.  So if a particular day your turns were bad or you messed up an exercise, just keep remembering what your end goal is.

8.   What are you most looking forward at Ballet Central?

Just experiencing going on tour – setting up the theatre with the get-in and get-out and of course performing onstage.

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Welcome Ballet Central Fans!

Hello and welcome to Backstage With Ballet Central. Already, many of the pieces for the tour are well under way and shaping up to be memorable audience pleasers. This year we will be doing a range of interviews and articles with the students, choreographers, musicians and teachers exploring every avenue of Ballet Central 2013. I do hope you enjoy it…we would love to hear comments and feedback from the Ballet Central fans!

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Ballet Central revealed

Not sure what kind of show Ballet Central put on? Check out our new promo film to see the range of dance styles – from classical ballet and contemporary to jazz and narrative!

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First day back

Today the 30 members of the 2012 company came together for the first time. A mixture of new students and those who have come up through the school, this year’s group come, not only from the UK, but also Japan, Spain, Greece, France, Canada, Malta, Sweden and South Africa. Here they are in their first company class of the year!

Ballet Central's first class of the year


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