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Kerry Biggin in rehearsal with Matthew Bourne
Photo by Clark Thomas Photography

10 Minutes With Kerry Biggin

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You have been associated with New Adventures for a long time…what is it about Matthew Bourne and his work that attracts/feeds you?

I am attracted to the unique storytelling style of the work. The movement is led by the focus of the story and as a dancer in the company you get to be so many characters on stage. Each story is different and brings a new approach.... a new era, a new character and relationships to explore and develop. I appreciate how important the audience is to New Adventures and to Matthew, and his work and the opportunity to grow and develop a story within it is an incredible experience.

Tell us what your role is in the company now….what is a Resident Artist?

I have been fortunate to have a long journey with the company, from dancer, principal dancer, dance captain to rehearsal director and resident tour director. All these skills are embedded in my role as Resident Artist where not only do I continue to work with the Professional company (I have just re-staged the current Swan Lake) I also creatively lead on our engagement and community work. New Adventures works extensively with many different groups, schools and people of all ages to inspire and experience dance through the work of the company. I also facilitate and deliver our talent and development programmes, inspiring the next generation of dancers and embedding an understanding of the style of New Adventures and our approach to the work.

The production of Swan Lake is a hit and changed the way contemporary/neoclassical dance is perceived by audiences. What is it about the twist in the tale that Matthew has given the piece that you think has given the production such global appeal?

Matthew Bourne tells stories in a way that audiences can relate to. His use of humour invites the audience into the world on stage. The clever use of a group of male dancers to embody the aggressive, majestic qualities contrasted with the grace and elegance of a flock of swans is so powerful for the audience to experience.

Who is your favourite character within the New Adventures Swan Lake story and why?

I do like The Girlfriend. She is a duck out of water and so funny…. I enjoy all her faux pas! But I have always been moved by The Prince’s journey. He is so starved of love and affection and uncomfortable in his world. The pure joy he feels after meeting The Swan and then the utter desperation and pain he is in at the end of Act 4 moves me to tears every time.

Tell us about being in the studio with Matthew…how does he approach the making of a new work and what is he looking for in the dancers he has surrounding him?

Matthew Bourne is looking for dancers of a high technical standard who can perform and really connect with an audience. The dancers in the company are adept at multi tasking and able to adapt to many different styles and genres of movement. They can take on and dance detailed choreography and also create movement and develop characters.

Working with Matthew on a new production is a dream…. he will research for a long time before any dancers are called into rehearsals and then there will be a series of smaller workshops that happen to look at movement ideas and solos/ duets. In the meantime, Matthew will give the dancers an idea of research that would be helpful to start developing the characters/story. This can be film to watch, books, pictures, historical events etc, so the dancers can start to build a character profile.

Once we are in full swing, rehearsals are fast paced. Matthew works very closely with the musical score and has usually shaped a full synopsis. He will give the dancers tasks to develop both movement and character and build relationships. Alongside this Matthew will be collaborating closely with his creative team on the design and music.

Do you have any top tips for young dancers of today trying to get their break in the industry?

Be resilient and persistent. Versatility is a huge strength. Do your research and look into the company you are interested in/auditioning for and see what they are about and what they are looking for. Seek out learning opportunities to develop and build your skills in different ways.

Be brave and be yourself!

And finally....what will you be sharing with the dancers attending your workshop in December?

I will give the dancers a real experience of the way the company works. Learning detailed choreography and using some of the creative devices that New Adventures uses within the work. On top of this we will be looking at the unique storytelling style of the work and what the company looks for in its dancers and how to hone this performance practice. The company works incredibly hard but always with a sense of humour and I will be sharing this ethos too!

Book for Kerry's Swan Lake workshop on the 5th and 6th December here

Swan Lake returns to Sadler's Wells, London for an eight week Christmas season from 4 December 2019 - 27 January 2019