Bradley Waller is a dancer with the acclaimed BalletBoyz, the unique dance company established by two former Royal Ballet dancers, Michael Nunn and Billy Trevitt.
Bradley didn’t start dancing until he was 16 yrs old, training in contemporary dance and ballet before joining BalletBoyz, and now works with world famous choreographers.
The Wonderful World of Dance spoke with Bradley about the BalletBoyz’ new production Life, currently on tour in the UK.
Firstly tell us about BalletBoyz’ new production ‘Life‘….
BalletBoyz commissioned two choreographers to create a double bill inspired by ‘life’. The first half is created by choreographer Pontus Lindberg, who’s renowned for more classically based pieces with a lot more technique with ballet influence. He’s created a lot of work in the past with ballet companies in Europe and he’s just been commissioned to do a piece with New York City Ballet.
The second half, created by the renowned Javier de Frutos, is completely on the other end of the spectrum. His approach to creating work is more theatre based, it’s more about the characters and the journey of each character.
‘Life’ is a delicate subject and when people read the title Life everybody has a different interpretation of what it means and what kind of life they want, they may go to see the show hoping to find answers or to ask questions, which makes it an interesting show.
Tell us about your experience of working with the company and the choreographers?
It’s always interesting especially when you have 10 young men in a small studio together with the choreographer, to see what we create. You can never predict the outcome which is one of the best parts of the job.
It’s also an intimate experience because there’s only a few of us and it gives the choreographer a chance to get to know us all quite personally. I think they like that because they use it when they’re creating the work, they use our personalities to choreograph the movement so that we show a little of ourselves when we dance or when we perform on stage.
Would you describe Life as a co-creation with the dancers and the choreographers?
Yes, definitely. I think some choreographers are inclined to work that way more than others. We look to the choreographer for inspiration and they also look to us for their inspiration. Some days they may come in and they may need us to show them something before they know which direction they want to take. The working process is a lot of collaborating with us and with them. It’s not just always the choreographer coming in and giving us the steps. Sometimes it’s the other way around. It’s almost as though we’re trying to give them the steps but then it’s the choreographer that really directs the piece. It gives it a lot more meaning and it takes it somewhere else. It’s great to work in that way.
Describe your typical day with the BalletBoyz…
A typical day depends upon our schedule, whether we’re on tour or working on a specific project – but generally our day will begin at 10.30am and we’ll take class in the morning, either ballet or contemporary depending on what work we’re doing during the day and then after class we’ll go straight into rehearsals. We’re warm and we’re ready to work and then we’ll take an hours lunch break at any part of the day really, depending on when the choreographer, or whoever is working with us, feels it’s right and then after that we’ll continue to rehearse up until about 6pm. It’s a full day working as soon as we get into the studio.
BalletBoyz dancers all have different backgrounds, how does this affect the way your work?
It’s great to have a company where the dancers have such different backgrounds and experiences as it makes us thrive. As individuals we bounce off one another and we complement each other.
I think it helps us grow and makes us stronger as a group because everybody has such different strengths and weaknesses. And we work really well because we’re so close all the time and we’re really aware of each other or help each other. We’ve got quite a strong bond in the company which is great. I think that also reflects onto the stage and shows the way that we work in the studio.
What inspired you to start dancing and when did you know you wanted to become a professional dancer?
I didn’t start dancing until I was 16. I’d gone through the whole of high school without ever getting into dance and then I suddenly started dancing.
Looking back on it now, it almost feels as though it happened almost overnight. Growing up I I’d always been active and into sports but there wasn’t anything that I felt really passionate about.
It was my sister who insisted that I join her for a dance class and for weeks asked me to go with her. I was reluctant but I thought if I just go once she’ll stop asking. So I went to a hip hop class and I was hooked and went every weekend.
I eventually started to take it more seriously and I remember having a discussion with my mum at the time and I explained that I was interested in maybe pursuing dance as a career. My mum then said that if I wanted to dance professionally, I would need to learn ballet. And again I was reluctant to go, but before I knew it I had tights on, I had ballet shoes on and I was in the studio! And it just took off from there – I’d never been as passionate about anything before.
After training with Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance, you worked with choreographers such as Mark Baldwin and Kerry Nicolls, and Michael and Billy, this must’ve been an extraordinary experience?
It is astounding to think of how you continue to find things that inspire you. When I went to Rambert I discovered all these new things which helped me flourish. Working with people like Mark Baldwin and Kerry Nicholls was a real eye opener. One of the biggest breakthroughs in my training was working with Kerry as it gave me a taste of how dance could be outside of dance school.
In my 3rd year at Rambert I was fortunate enough to become an apprentice with the BalletBoyz after Michael and Billy observed one of my classes. The first piece I then danced was another double bill choreographed by Liam Scarlett and Russell Maliphant, Serpent and Fallen, which was one of the biggest eye openers. It was my first professional show and it was a real baptism for me. At dance school I only lifted girls, and I remember having to lift one of the other BalletBoyz in rehearsal and being shocked at his weight!
What are your future aspirations?
I feel very, very happy with where I am. BalletBoyz is such a young man’s company and each year we continue to work with such interesting varied choreographers and it always interests me to work with people that I wouldn’t necessarily always choose. We work with people that I absolutely admire which is amazing, but it’s also great to send myself outside of my comfort zone. BalletBoyz continue to create interesting work with interesting people so it’s quite refreshing.
What advice would you give to other young male aspiring dancers?
Don’t be afraid of taking a chance or trying things, to give things a go whether they feel wrong or right and through doing you’ll discover so many new things.
Check out BalletBoyz Life BalletBoyz Life tour dates.