Elmhurst student James Lovell is set to graduate Birmingham’s renowned ballet school Elmhurst a year early to make his debut with New Adventures in Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake 2018/19 tour as The Prince.
“It has been my dream since forever,” he said. “I went to see Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty years ago and it changed the way I felt about dance. Ever since, all I wanted to do was dance with New Adventures.”
James started dancing at the age of three when he was introduced to ballet by his best friend. “She was going to ballet classes and I really wanted to go, so I started begging my parents to take me,” James said. “My dad really wasn’t too keen, he said it wasn’t a boy’s job it was a girl’s hobby, it was kind of a Billy Elliot situation because he loves it now.”
Ballet didn’t run in the family at all, so when James got to 16 he wasn’t sure where to audition for. Whilst doing the Senior Associates programme with Royal Ballet, his teacher suggested he auditioned for Elmhurst Ballet School in Birmingham. “I auditioned for a few schools but Elmhurst had such a vibe and I just knew I wanted to go there,” he said. “The whole experience has been so lovely and hasn’t changed a bit. The novelty never wears off and you still come in and appreciate it every day.”
James first got involved with Matthew Bourne’s company New Adventures when he was doing the National Youth Ballet Summer School last year. “I was in quite a few of the dance pieces and Matthew Bourne came to the gala,” James explained. “I got an email a month later inviting me to a private workshop to learn the Swan Lake repertoire and to prepare us for our annual auditions.
“I was so confused so I emailed them back to ask if they meant me for the auditions as well, as everyone in the company is around their 20s and I wasn’t even in my graduate year. But they invited me to a second workshop and then I got an audition.”
After being given the role of ensemble and having to learn multiple parts, he was then given the role of the Prince. Each lead role is danced by a few dancers that alternate performances, so James has to learn both his lead role and numerous ensemble roles too.
“We start rehearsals five weeks before the show opens in Plymouth, but we are always constantly rehearsing throughout the tour. We’ve got to keep it going for fifteen months which will be tough, but such a great challenge,” James said.
Matthew Bourne was James’ dream company, and he has achieved that dream before even graduating. “I couldn’t believe it, I actually felt a bit lost as I’d reached my ultimate goal, so what do I set as my goal now?” he said. “Now I just want to stay with the company and play some more incredible roles.”
About to embark on the biggest moment of his life, I asked James the most important thing he learnt at Elmhurst. “I guess it’s that you just have to keep going at it. You can’t sit back for a minute, it’s hard work but that is what makes it exciting,” he said. “My advice to anyone is to just take any opportunity you can to perform on stage, because that is what keeps the passion burning.”
James Lovell makes his Debut in Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake on tour across the UK, tickets and information can be found online here.