Theatre & Dance
Aaron Sillis (left) in Dorian Gray
Norfolk dancer claims national arts award
By Martin Barber
Aaron Sillis is named as the winner of the prestigous The Times/South Bank Show Breakthrough Award, following his acclaimed performance in Matthew Bourne's Dorian Gray based on the classic novel by Oscar Wilde.
Aaron Sillis, from Drayton near Norwich, is dancing for joy having been awarded The Times/South Bank Show Breakthrough Award on Tuesday, 20 January, 2009.
The nomination for the public vote award came following Aaron's performance as photographer Basil Hallward in Dorian Gray, the darkly seductive work of dance theatre from international choreographer Matthew Bourne.
"It's amazing, I was overwhelmed. I didn't have a clue that I was going to win and didn't have a speech prepared," said 25-year-old Aaron.
The awards ceremony, held at the Dorchester on Park Lane, was a night where the stars were shining. Aaron's category was presented by actor Michael Sheen.
Aaron wins The Times Breakthrough Award
"When he started talking about the award, my heart started beating faster and faster. I thought 'I've got a one in 10 chance of winning this'," said Aaron.
"I was thinking I must not look too disappointed when I don't win, as the cameras were getting ready to pounce, but then Michael's speech started talking about people like Kylie and Mariah Carey who I've worked with.
"I was looking around the table thinking 'Surely none of these people have worked with them?' It suddenly dawned on me that I'd won.
"I started to freak-out and my hands were shaking under the table.
"I was taking a lot of deep breaths as the cameras turned on me. I was led to the stage and then, to be honest, it's all a bit blurry.
"I was staring at the crowd, looking at the celebrity audience, thinking 'God, I've got to say something'. I didn't have a clue what to say, so I just kept it short and said 'Thank you'."
The Times Breakthrough Award is awarded as the result of a public vote.
Award nominees with Aaron (right)
Aaron is delighted to be bringing the award back to Norfolk. He feels he couldn't have done it without the help of people in the county.
"I think the Norfolk people got behind me and put their votes in and I'm really grateful for that. Thank you everyone who voted, it's amazing," said Aaron.
"I know there were people in America and as far flung away as Japan voting for me. It was great that everyone was really going for it," he added.
Aaron's career path started at just 12 years old, treading the boards in panto at the Norwich Theatre Royal. He then trained at the Central School Of Dancing in Norwich and at the Bird College in Sidcup before joining Matthew Bourne's New Adventures.
He's now been dancing professionally for seven years with some of the biggest names in show business, including Kylie and Take That.
Aaron's delighted that it was for his work in dance theatre for which he was nominated for an award.
"It's great that this area of dancing is what gets the recognition and it's really nice that it was in Matthew's show," he said.
"It was such a fantastic part for me and I had role in creating it, so it all feels really worthwhile," he added.
Scene from Dorian Gray
Delight at success
Choreographer Matthew Bourne is delighted at Aaron's success.
"Everyone is very happy for him. It was his first leading role in the company, dancing a role that was created for him and performing with the company's stars Richard Windor and Michela Meazza, who have much more experience than him," said Matthew.
"For Aaron, and for dance, to be recognised in this way is wonderful.
"It's great for him and great for the company. We're hoping to do Dorian Gray again this year with the original cast, so I'm hoping Aaron will do it again, but maybe he'll be too expensive now!
"Everyone is so happy for Aaron and is thrilled he's gained this recognition."
The other nominees for the Breakthrough Award were:
Opera: Allan Clayton
In addition to winning The Times/South Bank Show Breakthrough Award, Aaron is also nominated in the National Dance Awards for The Spotlight Award: Male Dancer (Modern). Again, this is for his performance in Dorian Gray.
The awards in this section are presented by the Critics' Circle - the critics and journalists who see and review companies on a daily basis.
Aaron is nominated against Anh Ngoc Nguyen from Wayne McGregor/Random Dance and Alexander Whitley of the Rambert Dance Company.
The winner will be announced on Monday, 26 January, 2009.
last updated: 21/01/2009 at 19:49