Matthew Bourne was born in Walthamstow, East London in 1960. He’s a graduate from Laban Centre where he studied Dance Theatre and has loved musical from a very young age. This has all had an influence on his work, especially the technical skills and performance techniques required for his, as he describes them, ‘shows’. These skills are one of the elements that make his works so popular. Another popular element of his show is his references to popular culture, this is what gave Bourne his commercial success which really helped to fund his company ‘New Adventures in Motion Picture’ in the late 80s, as Margaret Thatcher cut the arts fund. However just because his shows are popular doesn’t mean they’re easy, Bourne’s shows are difficult to perform and require dancers a range of skills and technique.
Bourne’s works use an eclectic approach, i.e. use a range of different dance styles. This requires dancers to have specific techniques such as, bodily control, alignment and movement memory to successfully achieve the range of different styles. For example in his rendition of ‘Nutcracker!’ (2002) Bourne uses ballet, social dance, contemporary, Spanish dance and many more to convey the characters to the audience. The original ballet of ‘The Nutcracker (1892) was one of his key influences on the dances, especially ballet. The ballet within Bourne’s ‘Nutcracker!’ requires a range of technical skills for example, in Act 1, Scene 1, Episode 1 Fritz and Sugar perform their duet, joined by the other orphans. The steps include hops in arabesque, and supported pirouette. They stand in turn out and use pointed feet in their walks. At the beginning Fritz also leads Sugar on to the stage with an exaggerated grand entrance, this is a parody of a ballet pas de deux. The ballet is used to emphasise the narrative by showing that Sugar and Fritz have some dance training and have a much higher status than the orphans. Bourne mocks a ballet pas de deux to create a comedic effect and keep the audience entertained, this is another element that makes his works so popular. ‘Nutcracker!’ has kept relatively close to the original in terms of the other dance styles as Bourne kept the flavouring of the national dance divertissements in Act 2 for example, the sharp, fast, staccato style group movement for the ‘Marshmallow Girls’ in act 2, scene 4, episode 7. This required control of pulse and pace and precision of ensemble as the dancers moved very quickly in unison. Precision of ensemble is an essential skill for dancers in Bourne’s productions as a key feature of his productions are large ensemble numbers, for example the ‘Licking Dance’ in ‘Nutcracker!’ These large ensemble numbers are influenced by his love of Hollywood musicals and musical theatre. Bourne has even directed a few musicals in the West End.
Matthew Bourne hires dancers that can act as well as dance to enhance his narrative. When he casted ‘Nutcracker!’ he looked for adults that could play children. Once the show was casted Bourne liked his dancers to create a personal identity for each character so they research and write a life story of their character. Bourne sometimes directs their research and often this involves looking at films. For example, the Knickerbocker Glory in ‘Nutcracker!’ was based on the comic film actor, Terry Thomas. To portray their different characters dancers need individual body and facial expressions to show their characters age, gender, emotions etc. this also helps enhance the narrative. As Bourne’s productions often involve witty humour and pantomime dancers have to be able to perform in comic roles. To successfully achieve this dancers need to consider facial expression, body language, characterisation and timing. An example of exaggerated pantomime facial expressions in ‘Nutcracker!’ act 1, scene 1 when Fritz and Sugar have smug facial