Interview

Feargus Campbell celebrates 10 years with the Company

Feargus Campbell has been with Birmingham Royal Ballet for 10 years, having joined as an Artist in 2005. Here he talks about how both he and the Company have changed over the past decade as well as some of the challenges he's faced.

Feargus Campbell.

‘I’d like to say I’ve got better since I first joined!’ Feargus laughs, ‘I feel I’ve matured as a dancer. Some people graduate from school and already look really professional, whereas I don’t personally think I did. I joined and I learnt my craft in the Company.’

Born in the New Forest, Feargus trained at the Royal Ballet School, dancing with both the Royal Ballet and Birmingham Royal Ballet while still a student. As he explains, life as a professional dancer proved to be one of continued development.

'You really learn how to dance on stage when you join a company', he says. 'When you’re at school you spend a lot of time in the studios to develop your technique, and of course you learn all the steps, which is important. But when you’re on stage, you have to maintain a character, and consider the whole ballet around you.

<p><em>Faster:</em> Feargus Campbell and Steven Monteith</p>. Credit: Bill Cooper.

‘I believe I got my job for being a fast-learner. It meant that if someone went off injured, then I could go on for them at short notice.

That's how I got the chance to dance some fantastic roles early on. During one season of Romeo and Juliet, I was asked to dance the role of Paris [Romeo's rival for Juliet's affections] with only a few weeks' notice. The season had already begun, and I was already dancing other roles, so I had to learn the part in between performances and existing rehearsals.

'I learnt the role during morning class, took part in the stage rehearsal that afternoon and then went on stage in front of an audience in the evening.'

Then another time the Company was on tour in Plymouth and it was the morning of the opening night of The Dream. As I was walking in to work for the stage call I got a call from Marion [Tait, Assistant Director] asking me to perform the role of Demetrius! So I learnt the role during morning class, took part in the stage rehearsal that afternoon and then went on stage in front of an audience in the evening. It was a success, and I did the next two shows too.'

FeargusTrepack.

Looking even further back, Feargus reflects on how his confidence has grown.

‘I was part of an extremely talented year group at the Royal Ballet School. If you look around Europe, quite a lot of the people doing really well in ballet are actually from my school year. Compared with them I didn’t feel like an amazingly good dancer - confidence is a big part of dancing but as a student I didn’t have an enormous amount of self-assurance.

'But over the years my diversity as a dancer has grown and grown, which has definitely developed me as an artist. I've been cast in some really great roles, and the more time you spend on stage doing roles of a certain level, the more confident and comfortable you become. And the more relaxed you are inside, the better you’ll be able to perform. Everybody gets nerves; the trick is to learn how to control them.

Faster: Jenna Roberts, Steven Monteith and Feargus Campbell. Credit: Roy Smiljanic.

His ability to keep calm in stressful situations has not not only been called upon artistically.

‘Since I was a teenager I’ve had difficulty with hypermobility in my shoulders', he says. ‘Flexibility in the rest of your body is great, but with your shoulders you want stability for lifting. If I hold someone above my head, then the downforce through my shoulder sometimes pushes my arm out of the socket.

Over the years it’s done that so many times it doesn’t cause that much damage. I’ve been on stage when it’s popped out and I've been holding somebody above my head!

It depends on the lift, but you can often save it by transferring the weight onto the other arm, sorting out the problem shoulder and then transferring the weight back. I mean it’s not ideal - it does hurt a little but it’s not the worst!’

Feargus maintains his fitness through a very specific routine of exercises, explaining that simply going and training in the gym can actually make things worse.

'It’s more about using the whole chain of muscles rather than isolating them', he reveals. 'You can do bicep curls until you’re blue in the face, but ultimately your bicep doesn’t ever do anything on its own. I feel the best way to keep strong is to keep partnering; then you’re functionally strong. It's better to keep active with your whole body, so you're maintaining your core stability as much as the individual muscles that you’re working on.'

'Flexibility in the rest of your body is great, but if I hold someone above my head, then the downforce through my shoulder sometimes pushes my arm out of the socket.'

Over the ten years that Feargus has been a professional dancer, he agrees that there has definitely been an increase in the standards of care that dancers show their own bodies.

‘Dancers look after themselves better these days, and we try to eat really good square meals regularly. Ten years ago we’d be staying in B&B’s or hotels, and have limited food options, particularly late at night after a show. But now we try to get digs with their own kitchens so that we can cook ourselves a good wholesome meal to help us recover properly for the following show.