From MDI to Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake

We caught up with Royal Ballet star Matthew Ball, as he heads home to Liverpool to perform the lead role in Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake. Matthew danced with us here at MDI as a teenager, regularly joining in our ballet and contemporary classes, between training in London.

Hey Matthew, thanks so much for taking time out of your super busy week to catch up with MDI. Can you tell us a little bit about why you started dancing?

I started to take dance lessons when I was six years old, although I think before then I was copying moves from music videos and bouncing around very enthusiastically at Birthday parties and weddings. My Mum took me and all my siblings to ballet classes at one point or another growing up, as she had trained as a dancer herself. My brother lasted a week, and my sister until her mid teens, but for me it became an obsession, and within a few years I began taking classes more regularly in a few different styles.

Then you were accepted into The Royal Ballet School at a very young age – how did that feel?

It’s a big thing to move away from home at 11, and it took a lot of conviction, however, there was no doubt in my mind that it was the right thing to do. At that age I already acknowledged that to get to where I wanted, I needed this sort of experience. There was a period of adjustment as I settled in to living so far from home and not seeing my family for 6 weeks at a time, but it soon became my norm and it never stopped me from embracing the tough regime that ballet training dictates.

How’s it been to work with Matthew Bourne, after years of working with arguably more ‘traditional’ choreographers and teachers at The Royal Ballet?

It’s been really interesting to work with Matthew. He has a lot of experience and knows this ballet from back to front. Having worked with many choreographers at The Royal Ballet, I have learnt how varied and even contrasting creators and their processes can be. Since this ballet was premiered over 20 years ago there is a strong sense of who has danced it before and the details that have been woven in over the years. Matthew understands the value in creating detail and making a piece 3-dimensional in terms of characters and narrative. His approach and commitment to his work is exemplary and I have worked with few choreographers that are comparable.

What inspires you to dance now, after all these years of training?

Many things still inspire me to dance. You can’t rely on one thing when you are expected to be doing the same thing everyday – it is always bound to become mundane unless you continue to change. The dancers that I am surrounded by inspire me, so does music and art; the audience inspires me to impress them, and even guilt that I haven’t pushed myself hard enough keeps me motivated to keep at it.

I think your stunning career so far speaks volumes about your motivation –  what does it feel like coming home to Liverpool to perform?

It means a great deal to me to have the opportunity to come home and perform in Liverpool. Like I said, I left home at 11 and haven’t performed here since which I find very sad. At the time I left for The Royal Ballet, I wasn’t fully aware of how that commitment would mean cutting so many of my ties with home. For me this is an opportunity not to give something back (which is a future goal of mine), but to show people what I have been doing all this time and how I have changed. To share a small piece of myself and feel proud of how far I have come.

Matthew Ball is performing at the Liverpool Empire with New Adventures from Thursday 11 – Saturday 13 April, 2019.