Principal Jamie Bond on learning to dance, leaving The Royal Ballet for Birmingham and bringing characters to life on stage
'I was born and raised in Southend, Essex, where my dad, Michael, is a carpenter and my mum, Joanne, teaches ballet. When I was a little boy I would often spend tie at mum’s dance school and began going to her classes when I was three.
'The lessons spanned ballet, jazz, tap, drama and even singing, which at one point made me want to become a performer in the West End! I now know that such an early introduction to the arts had quite an effect on my life.
'I really enjoyed dancing, but I was also a good swimmer. I had a lot of potential and was approached by the England squad when I was nine.
'Having two hobbies I seemed to excel at eventually caused a lot of conflict of interests; both needed intense training and demanded a considerable amount of time. Inevitably, I had to abandon one for the other, and, with my parent’s support, I chose ballet.
'It was around this time that the opportunity arose to go to the Royal Ballet Summer School. The experience was so enjoyable and confirmed in my mind I had made the right decision. During the Summer School we were taken to see Birmingham Royal Ballet perform Romeo and Juliet at the Royal Opera House. I can still remember it vividly - how ironic that it happened to be the company that was to become my home and Romeo, one of my all-time favourite roles.
'When I was at the Summer School, one of the teachers asked me if I’d be interested in coming to White Lodge full time. At that point, dancing was something that really enjoyed but it hadn’t occurred to me that it could be anything more than a hobby. So, in 1994, I auditioned for The Royal Ballet School and out of the 600 auditionees, I was offered one of only 11 boy’s places.
'At my audition for the Upper School things suddenly clicked into place. I realised that ballet was absolutely what I wanted to do. It was no longer simply something I could do well and enjoyed. My drive to improve was kicked into consciousness when an American boy standing in front of me at the barre extended his leg up to his ear; a move I certainly couldn’t perform. As well as motivating me, the audition gave me a confidence boost; I became aware that I had a strong jump and started to realise my own potential.
'The Royal Ballet Company was still based at Talgarth Road during my first few months of Upper School. It was an invaluable experience being able to watch them rehearse and take class in between my own lessons.
'I noticed that Carlos Acosta always stood at a certain place on the barre in class. Watching him was so inspiring that I decided I would stand in the same place as him during my classes, in the hope of one day being as good as him.
'In my second year of Upper School I was offered my first contract by David Bintley but chose not to accept it. Instead, I stayed on at school for a third year of training. At this point, I had my heart set on joining The Royal Ballet and when the former director, Ross Stretton, offered me a contract, I jumped at the opportunity.
'Working with The Royal Ballet was a good experience but after 18 months of doing mostly walk-on roles, I was becoming frustrated and craved a real challenge. During that time, David came to the company to create Les Saisons and cast me in it. Creating a new work with a world-renowned choreographer was an exciting process and gave me the buzz I had previously been missing.
'I later approached David about joining his company and, thankfully, he offered me a contract. It was a difficult decision to leave, as London was home, and The Royal Ballet had been all I had known up until that point, but I wanted to make my career happen. It was the best decision I ever made!