this year, Jonathan Ollivier wowed the Milton Keynes Theatre with
his sensitive portrayal of Lysander in A
Midsummer Night's Dream and a very brief pair of boxer shorts!
September, he's returning to MK in Swan Lake, equally empassioned,
but wearing a few more clothes!
the spring we
spoke to him about his very own Billy Elliot story, now
he has told us more about his life as a dancer and his latest role.
production of Swan Lake is very different from Northern Ballet Theatres
A Midsummer Nights Dream, but again its not all tutus
and tights is it?
Ollivier in the Northern Ballet Theatre's Wuthering Heights
No its not. The original story is about a prince and its
a real fairy tale where a swan turns into a lady and Prince Siegfried
falls in love with her.
version is pretty similar but its about a normal, young middle
class guy raised in America in the early 1900s.
just about his experiences of growing up. Hes a very complex
man and he feels like he just doesnt fit in anywhere. His
best mate Simon likes him. This girl Odelia likes
him too. He just doesnt know what to do, so he lays down by
the lake, closes his eyes and has a vision of this perfect swan-like
being and falls completely in love.
were the classical side of the original story comes in, but the
rest of it is quite neo-classical so theres plenty in it for
both the purists and for those who like something a little bit different.
play Anthony, the Siegfried character in the production. It sounds
like hes undergoing some kind of sexual awakening where hes
not quite sure which way to go?
Yes, its just like that. Its a sexual awakening and
he really is very confused, so much so, that hes just not
happy with anyone. His destiny is really to be a dreamer forever.
He just doesnt feel part of this world. He doesnt feel
like he fits in.
does he make a decision one way or the other?
No, not really! But I think hes influenced in his decisions
like a lot of people are. Theres one moment when hes
very, very close to Simon but his mum sees him. So to prove to his
mum that hes not like that he marries Odelia his
does seem to be a lot more acting in Northern Ballet Theatre productions
now. Do you have special acting coaches as well?
Yes - we have Patricia Doyle whos done a lot of stuff with
RADA etc. She helps us when the piece is being choreographed. She
sets the scene and we do workshops with nearly every ballet that
weve done. When youre deciding how to interpret it,
she helps you along and gives you ideas.
lot of ballet seems to moving in that direction now. To actually
see a traditional classical ballet is getting quite rare! Do you
see it as the duty of a dancer nowadays to move them on a bit?
Not necessarily because classics are classics. I think its
just that people are trying to interest a wider audience. A lot
of people still think that ballet is guys running around in tights
and I think that nowadays they are trying it different ways. For
example with Swan Lake, theyve tried it with men being swans.
There are so many different versions and I think it really is just
to let people see different ways it can be done.
I think that classical ballet still has a very big niche as well.
There are a lot of companys that still do purely classical stuff.
But doing something where the audience have to think a little bit
is something that Northern prides itself on.
know people who were dragged along to MK and absolutely
loved A Midsummer Nights Dream so its obviously working!
Yes. It is going through a big change and a lot of stuff that the
company do is very butch and very masculine. Except for this one
where Anthonys a bit confused!
was a great ballet to bring people to for the first time because
everybody knew the story. Its the same with A Midsummer Nights
Dream and Romeo and Juliet. People know the story so its really
good for them to come if they are seeing ballet for the first time.
you're getting ready to perform, do you have a routine you like
I do yes. Some people are very funny about their routines - they
have to put this bit of make-up on first etc. I normally have a
little snooze if I can, then I jump in a hot shower for about 5
or 10 minutes, do my make-up, go through some stuff and then warm-up
and stretch for the show which takes about 20 minutes.
havent got any superstitions then?
There are a couple of things, yes! I think that a lot of dancers
and people who go on the stage have funny things that they do. But
I wouldnt say what mine are because I feel theyre so
small and I wouldnt want it to bring me bad luck!
youre training and learning you get told about these things
- dont walk under ladders etc and whether you believe them
or not you don't do it! You want as much luck and peace of mind
as possible before you go on!
part involves a lot of torment and anguish. How do you relax afterwards?
Does it stay with you?
With this particular production its not so bad really because
its such a different part of life that Im playing. Im
just guessing what its like really, so I get into it as emotionally
as I possibly can but it never feels real.
with other productions like Wuthering Heights and Romeo and Juliet
you know how it is to fall in love and to be hurt so its quite
hard to come down from that and feel a bit normal afterwards.
Lake is very physically tiring though, so I do like to just have
some good food afterwards and a drink! Im lucky. My wifes
in the company as well so we go and have something to eat together
and have a chat and either forget or talk about the evening.
it like working with your wife?
I love it! I wouldnt have it any other way.
on tour so much, I suppose it would be hard if you werent?
There are couples in the company who have found it very hard when
the girl has stopped to have children, because we tour for about
30-32 weeks per year.
get the best of both worlds. I love spending time with my wife -
and vice versa I hope! And we still have so much to talk about.
We dont get to see each other very much during the day anyway
because were in different rehearsals - so its great!
I love it!
Ollivier as Death in NBT's Requiem
you ever both get home to a base?
Yeah - my wife and I have just bought a flat in Leeds and thats
our base. Thats where the company rehearse but we havent
been there for a month now!
dont ever feel a need to rehearse at home though do you?
never! I suppose we could do but I wouldnt want to! Its
quite strange because when we're at home you would think we wouldnt
want to think of anything about work at all.
we both love watching dance videos because we dont ever get
to see other ballet dancers. We love to see things that are on TV
that are to do with dance.
were also been nominated for dancer of the year this year. That
must have been quite exciting.
It was wonderful - very unexpected. I was nominated the year before
as best male newcomer and I was over the moon with that.
then I got a nomination again this year and it was against some
huge dancers - William Trevitt and Carlos Acosta - who are both
world class so it was absolutely amazing being in the same category.
I was very chuffed with that. My mum and nan were very happy as
it put any kind of extra pressure on you once youve had a
nomination for that kind of thing?
Not really no. You just try and do your best whether youve
been nominated or not because people pay money to watch a show and
they want to be entertained. I got nominated because I try to do
the shows to the best of my ability which is what Ive always
done and that wont change.
youre getting to be a bit of a star in the dance world?
Yeah - Im getting known a bit more now and its lovely.
Its just great to read nice things about yourself every now
and again. But even if its bad things I dont mind too
much because youre still being spoken about. Its a nice
feeling. Its what you strive for when you start dancing as
a little kid.
nice to know youre making an impression on someone whether
its good or bad. Hopefully its good most of the time
and thats such a nice feeling - one of the rewards of the
they say that all publicity is good. Do you read your reviews?
read all of them yes! And if I get constructive comments then I
will definitely try and do them. If someone says they dont
think my first act is strong enough then Id look at why and
try and make it better.
there are nice things said, then Ill know that that bits
OK and Ill try and keep it like that. I try and use it all
constructively. But if there are just silly comments then you cant
really do anything about it.
you ever go blank like actors do? Do you ever forget your steps?
And if you do, can you make them up and get away with it?
Yes it does happen! We take four ballets on tour a season which
is for three or four months and we do a different ballet every week
so thats a lot of steps that you have to remember. Its
happened to me a couple of times and its an absolutely horrible
feeling. Its bizarre. If its a huge blank you have to
do something, you cant just stand there so yes, you do make
can cover it up if youre clever enough, but sometimes you
blank and you have no idea whats going on.
I was in a box that I had to come out of as my entrance when we
were doing Jekyll and Hyde. They had lights in the box and it was
really, really hot. By the time I got out, I got such a head rush
that I just blanked and forgot everything. I was like that until
I felt cool which took about five seconds but it felt like an eternity!
Its a really strange feeling.
NBT's A Midsummer Night's Dream
one thing I have to ask - I hope you dont mind! Those boxer
shorts in A Midsummer Nights Dream - did they ever rip? Were
you ever worried about that when you were dancing?
I wasnt really worried about it no. They were so skimpy anyway
that if they were to rip it wouldnt have made that much difference!
But they were not re-inforced, they were pure silk boxer shorts!
you ever been worried about any costume?
Its actually worse when youve got trousers on and theyre
a bit tight. You feel a bit more exposed in trousers because youre
completely covered and it would be horrible to have a tear and people
looking at you. But in Midsummer, they were such short boxer shorts
that I already felt quite naked anyway!
the worse thing theyve put you in?
The worst thing was in Jekyll and Hyde. I was Hyde and it was a
very sado-masochistic costume. It was all latex and really, really
hot - and very uncomfortable to dance in as well. It was quite restrictive
and tight and I was in it for the whole show.
that was how the choreographer wanted the costume to look and I
really had to just make do with it. But the majority of time they
would rather have you in stuff that you are comfortable in and can
move around in.
you prefer something a bit skimpier then?
- I like something skimpy! We work so hard trying to get a nice
body and to cover it up all the time really seems a shame. I suppose
thats a bit of the vanity side of all dancers coming out!
sure the audience dont mind either!
I hope not!
our review of Swan Lake
dreams are made of?
Read our last interview with Jonathan Ollivier
our review of A Midsummer Night's Dream