#IWD21: Maryam Paruk set up a small business to recognise Ireland’s cultural diversity

Dominique McMullan

Lynn Enright: ‘With spring’s arrival, I’m finally ready to go back to real clothes’

Lynn Enright

Is marketplace feminism stealing the limelight from real female-driven issues?

Amanda Cassidy

Women-led charities and social enterprises to support this IWD and beyond

Amanda Kavanagh

‘The industry is on its knees’: Wedding planners call for more clarity and support from...

Jennifer McShane

#IWD21: Therese Wright’s wellness doll takes children’s worries

Dominique McMullan

IWD: 8 Irish women in the beauty business on what their biggest failure taught them

Holly O'Neill

#IWD21: Sharon Keilthy is on a mission to promote sustainable play

Eoin Higgins

5 essential supports for female entrepreneurs in Ireland

Erin Lindsay

Image / Editorial

Bourne To It


by Jeanne Sutton
19th Feb 2014

We catch up with the principal dancer in’the critically acclaimed Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake, Chris Trenfield, as the company arrives in Dublin. Read on to see how the life of male ballet dancer ends up encompassing cricket, human rights, disco dancing and wedding plans.

Chris Trenfield first started disco dancing aged five.

?I was actually going disco dancing from the age of five until about nine. I gave up dancing altogether when I was about nine. And then I played football for a couple of years, and cricket as well. I played a lot of cricket. Then I just sort of missed it and went back dancing when I was twelve and didn’t start ballet until I was 16.? An unusual late bloomer for such an established star Chris initially never gave a thought to a career in ballet, wanting to do more musical theatre and singing. ?That’s what I was after when I was a kid. I loved it. Saturday Night Fever and West Side Story, which was the first musical I did out of college.? The turnaround occurred during his teenage years when he was attending summer schools in the Laine Theatre Arts school in Surrey – where he eventually ended up studying – and dreaming of West End numbers. ?The dance teachers there said you have the right sort of physique for ballet dancing, you should really give that a go. So I did. I followed their advice. Although it wasn’t what I wanted to do it was where I ended up.?

Touring since 2009 with the company, it was four years ago as an understudy that Chris got his big break. ?I covered the part of the swan and one of the lads that I covered hurt his back and that’s how I got my opportunity to go on.?

Ballet dancers are constantly at risk of injury. The company has a physio on tour because of the physical demands placed on the dancers. ?She’s got her work cut out. Once we’re actually on the road it should be a bit easier because we’ll be getting two days off.? And how does a swan spend his downtime? Clue: They don’t seem to do lounging like us plebs. ?I’m not on this evening but I’m actually going to do a work out,? Chris admits. ?When you do repetitive shows your body develops more in certain areas. It’s like a balancing act. You’ve got to then work the opposite leg and things like that so you’re not imbalanced. That is when injuries can occur – when you get particularly tight on one side.?

The lead part in?Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake?is basically claiming a prime position in the dancehall of fame. When it premiered in 1995 it took cultural circles by storm. Totally unique Bourne took Tchaikovsky’s?old reliable and plucked it from politeness. The female corps became an army of male dances, all musclar bare chests and feathered trousers. The?choreography?became guttural?and modern. Bourne’s decision to upend the gender roles of the play saw many classifying it as gay version of the classic and it was surprisingly controversial.?Trenfield’doesn’t feel intimidated by this history. “I’ve never seen the original?Swan Lake, the original classical version. It is something everybody knows and loves. They know what they’re going to see. I think people have come to expect something different from Matthew Bourne by now. (His?Swan Lake) was made 25 years ago. It was definitely a shock back then and people were taken aback – men don’t sing and dance with other like that, all that male love. I think that was more of an issue when it first came out now it’s actually looked over and I think is more about the prince’s desire to be free. I think the production is a lot more current now, especially with what is happening in Russia at the moment as well.? This?Swan Lake?always seems to have currency. ?The last time we did it there was a lot of trouble out in America, people getting beaten up because of their sexuality.? This was during the suicides that inspired the It Gets Better slogan and wave of videos of support from President Obama and Dan Savage, amongst others. ?We had a lot of feedback from Americans who came to see us. I think it does raise awareness and helps a lot of people who are in difficult situations.?

Chris is recently engaged – proposing on New Year’s Eve and all – to a fellow dancer. Her most recent job has been an overtly political gig with Gay Mountain a Channel 4 produced viral video to mark the Sochi Winter Olympics where a Soviet town hall is overtaken by feathers, sequins and leotards. Ostensibly a good luck message to the athletes, the video is also a flamboyant critique of Russia’s shocking stance on human rights for LGBT people. The couple has just set a date for the end of August next year. They haven’t decided on their first dance yet.

Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake runs in the Bord G?is theatre from February 25th until March 1st. For more details about Swan Lake and to book tickets see here.

Jeanne Sutton @jeannedesutun

Also Read

essay collections
EDITORIAL
6 brilliant essay collections for when you can’t commit to a whole book

Time these days is a contradiction.  Slow-moving, yet somehow passing...

By Jennifer McShane

Christmas trifle
EDITORIAL
Avoca has shared the recipe for their decadent Christmas trifle and we’re digging in

No festive spread is complete without a traditional Christmas trifle...

By IMAGE

Aoibheann MacNamara
EDITORIAL
Inside a house conversion brimming with Scandi-Galwegian chic

Artistic dynamo Aoibheann MacNamara has loved every moment she’s spent...

By IMAGE Interiors & Living

EDITORIAL
GoFundMe CEO: ‘Ireland is the most generous nation in the world’

These days, it’s easier than ever to give something back....

By Jennifer McShane

EDITORIAL
Here’s how you can watch a new short film starring Paul Mescal

Paul Mescal fans, this one is for you… A 14-minute...

By Jennifer McShane

Christmas cost
EDITORIAL
What I Spend at Christmas: The 37-year-old digital marketer earning €25k who isn’t buying presents for her siblings

Christmas cost the average Irish family €2,700 over the festive...

By IMAGE

Elizabeth Day
EDITORIAL
Elizabeth Day: ‘Life is full of failure. But it’s never too late to change your life’

Failure is a natural element of the cycle of life....

By Jennifer McShane

sore eyes UTI period
EDITORIAL
Health Check: What are prostaglandins and how do they affect my period symptoms?

If you find yourself suffering with symptoms like cramping, sore...

By Erin Lindsay