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Theatre & Dance
Aaron (right) with Kylie in Paris
Aaron Sillis: Dancing the dream
By Martin Barber
Choreographing Kylie, dancing for Take That and hanging out with celebrity mates. Take a snap-shot into the life of Norfolk dancer Aaron Sillis as he prepared to make a visit home to star in Dorian Gray, Matthew Bourne's new work of dance theatre.
Aaron Sillis is living the dream. The 25-year-old from Norwich works with Kylie, he's danced in front of thousands on the Take That Reunion Tour and owns a personal photograph collection that views like a subscription to a celebrity magazine.
The Drayton boy-done-good returned to Norfolk on Tuesday, 16 September, 2008 to dance a principal role in Dorian Gray - the new and darkly seductive work of dance theatre from internationally acclaimed choreographer Matthew Bourne.
Aaron as photographer Basil Hallward
Alluring young man
Set in the image-obsessed world of contemporary art and politics, the work tells the story of Dorian, an exceptionally alluring young man, who makes a pact with the devil.
Aaron dances the role of Basil Hallward, the photographer who discovers Dorian and propels him to iconic status.
"It started [Aaron's working relationship with Matthew Bourne's company] when I auditioned for Swan Lake. Matthew offered me the Prince, but asked if I'd prefer to do Nutcracker as it was his new show and an original cast in London.
"I then left the company for a few years to do pop work and came back to The Car Man during which there was a point when he [Matthew] wanted to do some workshops.
"He wanted to see if he could get some sexy, masculine duets between two guys as it's something he hasn't explored in his shows before - out of that came the idea of Dorian Gray
In the workshops, "myself and Richard Winsor, who plays Dorian, created a duet and that's become the basis for one of our duets in the show."
Dorian Gray marked Aaron's second professional engagement at the Norwich Theatre Royal. He danced there in Nutcracker in 2002, but first stepped onto the theatre's stage seven years earlier.
Aaron in the cast of Peter Pan, 1995
In 1995, when Matthew Bourne was gaining critical acclaim for his all-male Swan Lake, a 12-year-old Aaron was studying at Taverham High School and dancing in the theatre's pantomime Peter Pan.
Spotted for his talent, he joined the Central School Of Dance in Norwich and then gained a place at a London stage school.
"I loved performing but I was ready to go onto A-levels and didn't think further than that," he said.
"It was until I arrived at [Bird] college I thought I could actually do this for a living. I'm really proud of being from Norwich, especially when the shows I'm in come to Norwich.
"I've got some really good friends and family there, so any chance I get I go back. If I get a month off I'll just stay at home in Norwich and rest and relax.
"It's my recuperating time. It's just nice to be at home. I love going into Norwich, the little coffee shops, organic cafés, chips and hog roast on the market."
Away from the world of contemporary dance in theatre, Aaron is well respected as a commercial dancer and is cutting himself a name as a choreographer in his own right, working as assistant choreographer on Kylie's X and Showgirl: Homecoming tours.
Aaron with Leona Lewis and Will Young
He's performed with some of the biggest names in pop including Take That, Lulu, Leona Lewis, Maria Carey and Emma Bunton. Aaron has also strutted the catwalk in Monaco dancing for Donatella Versace.
"I've been lucky enough to dance and choreograph so I've been on both sides of commercial dancing. I love dancing for people. It depends on the artist, but when you work for somebody huge like Maria Carey you can't really complain," he said.
"When I'm choreographing I have so much input into the shows. There's not as much narrative as in Matthew’s work as they are telling a story, but they have themes in Kylie's tours.
"When I was doing the Take That stadium tour it was 55,000 people. Then you go to a theatre and you do 600. But the intimacy is just as good as the vast crowd screaming for Take That.
"The money is a big difference. For the contemporary show it's really all for the love of the show, the integrity involved, the passion for doing it and what I get out of it.
"Whereas the pop you can do a dodgy job and get paid loads of money. You just have to weigh up where you are at the time.
A scene from Dorian Gray
"At the moment it's the integrity – definitely. Anything with Matt, that appeals to me, even if there’s a massive money job I'll turn it down.
Matt versus Madonna
"Recently myself and Michael Rooney, who's the choreographer for Kylie's tour who've I've assisted for the last four years, just got offered the Madonna tour. He asked me me to be assistant.
"Even though it's Madonna, who I've loved since I was five and is someone I've always wanted to dance for, I thought I wouldn't pull out of Dorian Gray for Madonna's tour.
"It's not about the money jobs at the moment, it's about the artistic work and something that makes me passionate."
Aaron may have a soft spot for dancing in the work created by Matthew Bourne - to the point where he's turning down profitable pop tours to do so - but he admits that working with Kylie on the X and Showgirls tours was something very special.
"It's just such an amazing experience, I love working with Kylie. It's such a high scale production, it's just one of the best jobs I could have been involved with.
"You have to get that mix of what she wants in her show, what the creative director wants, what we want as choreographers and what the fans want. It such a big thing to take hold of at times it can seem really daunting, but it just seems to come together."
Aaron's riding high on a career that most couldn't fail to view without a little envy and he's one of the nicest people in showbusiness you could wish to meet.
Nana Viv with Aaron at Sadler's Wells
Quietly confident, hard working, a cheeky smile. Aaron Sillis enjoys the support of his family - especially from his nana Viv - and rather than being affected by his whirling celebrity lifestyle, his feet are still firmly on the ground.
Living the dream
He's living the dream and sometimes can't quite believe it himself.
"When I was eight or ten, Kylie was one of the biggest pop stars and I Should Be So Lucky was a great song," said Aaron.
"There I was, from Drayton, sat in my front room waiting for Smash Hits to be delivered to the door looking at Kylie, to sitting in the VIP area at the O2 watching her and being part of that – it just felt unreal, I couldn't believe it.
"If you've got a dream, you've got to do it. I'm a prime example that it can happen.
Kylie and Aaron in Shanghai
"It was a lot of hard work, training and big dreams. I had aspirations to come to London and be successful. My determination has paid off. I think follow your dreams and don't give up.
"If you can get some work experience in Norwich, great. Do some shows, do some pantomimes, amateur shows are always great for experience, get some contacts.
"Learn your trade before you really decide it's what you want to do and then just work hard - it pays off."
Aaron Sillis performed in Matthew Bourne's Dorian Gray at the Norwich Theatre Royal from Tuesday, 16 to Saturday, 20 September, 2008.
last updated: 10/01/2009 at 14:04