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'I lived the life I wanted to lead and I have loved it': Sir Matthew Bourne talks ahead of The Red Shoes performance in Birmingham

Theatre & Comedy | Published:

He is widely hailed as the UK’s most popular and successful choreographer, and this week Sir Matthew Bourne brings his adaptation of the legendary film The Red Shoes to the region.

Matthew Bourne

The story, based on the 1948 movie starring Moira Shearer and Marius Goring, tells the tale of obsession, possession and one girl’s dream to be the greatest dancer in the world.

And it is a film which is close to Sir Matthew’s heart. “I was in my teens when I first saw the film and it was my introduction to classical ballet,” he said.

“My parents told me to watch it and I always feel I have been aware of it.

“The film was an introduction to the world of ballet.

“It’s very intriguing and eccentric and the characters are very passionate about what they do,” he said.

It was 2016 – the year he was knighted – when Sir Matthew’s New Adventures dance company first created The Red Shoes show. This revival sees many of the original cast members return to the roles they created, including Ashley Shaw – who won a National Dance Award for her role as Victoria Page.

The Red Shoes

But the show does have some slight changes from the 2016 production.

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“There are a few changes since the last time it was in Birmingham, just little things as it’s been a gap of more than three years,” Sir Matthew added.

“There is some new choreography, we have a ventriloquist act and the prima ballerina has a dog she carries around with her,” said Sir Matthew. Although it is set in the 1940s, I think we have to bring it into the 21st Century. We have to accept that some things fit to the period but I think the character of Vicky is different to how she was portrayed in the the 1940s.

“She is a bit more in control of her destiny and is a stronger character. She really tries to make a life for herself out of dance. Both her and the composer are ambitious and both want their artistic life as well as a life together.”

Sir Matthew, who started his dance training at the age of 22, took the dance world by storm in 1995 when he replaced the female corps-de-ballet with a menacing male ensemble in his production of Swan Lake. But he admits that he does not think the same sex dance partners work in Strictly Come Dancing.

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“It’s great that it happened in Swan Lake. But Strictly is ballroom, it’s a particular dance. Some styles lend themselves to men and women dancing together.

Matthew Bounre's Swan Lake

“Also, it’s funny how people think of two men together but never mention two females dancing together, but you could do it. It could be the right thing for a contemporary dance.

“But basic ballroom does not work, it’s not the right style. I’m all for same sex partners in any story but not sure it’s right for Strictly Come Dancing.”

Sir Matthew turned 60 last month and admits working with young dancers helps “keep him going”. “I don’t feel 60 but I do feel that I have been around for a long time. The thing that keeps me going is working with young people,” he laughs. “I barely know anyone who is older than myself.”

The Red Shoes tells the the tale of passion, obsession and sacrifice. So does Sir Matthew see any of himself in Boris Lermontov, the show’s ballet impresario? “I have a healthy obsession,” he grins. “I’m not Boris Lermontov but I do understand what he feels like when someone’s relationship has got in the way of something.

“I’m not a dictator, I like our dancers to contribute.

“I hope I am someone to help inspire them and guide them.

Matthew Bourne wins the Special Award presented by Darcy Bussell and Richard E Grant at the Olivier Awards at the Royal Albert Hall in London

“But I haven’t sacrificed anything. All dance has done is given me things. I lived the life I wanted to lead and I have loved it.”

The Red Shoes runs at Birmingham Hippodrome from Tuesday, February 11 to Saturday February 15.

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