Meet the Balletboyz

talks to Edward Pearce and Matthew Rees about life with the all-male ballet company

Balletboy Edward Pearce always wanted to be a dancer. “Ballet was actually a suggestion from my mum because I always said I wanted to be a dancer but didn’t really know how to realise that. My mum said every dancer needs a good ballet training, which I found out later not to be completely true. But it definitely helped me, so it was my mum who sent me to ballet classes.”

Photo courtesy of Balletboyz

Photo courtesy of Balletboyz

Co-dancer Matthew Rees on the other hand got into ballet by chance. “It was compulsory. I went to secondary school in Kent and we had to do dance in Year Seven. I fell into it.”

Before he joined Balletboyz, Matt was in the first stages of becoming a Royal Marine.

There wasn’t any Billy Elliot style stigma for Matt and Ed dancing when they were growing up. Ed says, “No one dances in my family but yeah, they were happy for me to be a dancer. My brother’s the clever one so at least they had one.”

For Matt’s family the decision to be a ballet dancer “was unexpected. I think they got used to the idea of me going to Plymouth (to train as a marine), but then I said, ‘Actually, I’m not going, I’m going to be a dancer’. Much to the delight of my mother to be honest.”

Becoming a member of the award winning Balletboyz was more cut-throat for Ed than for Matt. Ed’s was an open audition. “Yeah it’s quite cut-throat, very competitive. You have to be quite confident and have a lot of self-belief when you audition”, says Ed. “I was invited in my third year of dance school. There were about 250 guys and they selected four of us. It was a two day process, having to do class everyday and also performing some repertoire.”

The selection process was different for Matt. “I heard about an audition that was coming up for a company with them. So me and a few of my mates thought ‘that’s good’ and got in from there.”

There’s so much strength and there’s less bitchiness..which is a plus.

Matt goes on, “I think because it was the first ever audition it wasn’t as big as when Ed did it. There have been about four or five auditions and that was quite a small one. I think because I hadn’t had as much training as the others it was very different back then. Now its a lot more relaxed and I’m used to how every thing works.”

So, how does being an all male company set Balletboyz apart? “There definitely is a different atmosphere to our dance show because it’s all male.” says Ed, “It’s very different from things like Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake because there’s no actual story to our dance, so it’s all much more contemporary. I think we can achieve a lot more daring lifts and strength work than maybe a mixed company can.”

Matt also thinks being an all male group creates something different “There’s so much strength and there’s less bitchiness..which is a plus.”

That may change soon, as there are rumours of a collaboration for the Balletboyz with female dancers. Ed says: “We’ve done a few research weeks with the girls, I think there are some plans to do something in the future – but it’s all very much in the planning stage. I think it will bring a different quality to Balletboyz.”

Matt noticed how the atmosphere did change when girls were thrown into the mix. “It was nice to have a go in the studio, but we’ve got the typical male banter with each other and when the girls came we kind of behaved ourselves a little bit! We’d still like to dance with females again, but it would be…interesting, I think.”

Photo courtesy of Balletboyz

photo courtesy of Balletboyz

With everyone coming from such different dancing backgrounds, I ask Ed if it was difficult to merge into one homogenous company. “It should be difficult but actually it wasn’t. It was actually really easy and I think it works really well that we’re all from such different dancing backgrounds because it means we can try different things which shouldn’t really work on paper but it does.”

A day in the life of a Balletboy can be pretty hectic. “We start at half past ten in the morning, which is quite usual for a dance company, then we go on till 6 pm. That’s six days a week. On show days it’s a bit longer so we usually start around 1 and go on to about 10 at night, then we’ll have class the next morning at half past ten so it’s quite a hectic schedule when we’re on tour.”

With such a busy schedule, I ask whether nutrition is something the boys find themselves paying particular attention to. For Ed, it doesn’t matter that much. “Some of the boys do obviously watch what they eat. I find the more you eat the better. I like a good McDonalds – I had an egg McMuffin this morning. I see them always advertised in the paper on the train so I feel like I always have to get it!”

Matt chimes in, “Unlike Ed who eats McDonalds constantly, I tend to try and watch what I eat. However, sometimes when things are a bit hectic the only things available are fast food – so when you haven’t got a choice you tend to go for the fast food option.”

You can see Balletboyz at the Grand Opera House, York on March 12th.

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