Interview

Lewis Turner talks about his career so far

In summer 2015, Leicester-born Lewis Turner was promoted to First Artist. Now, as he begins another busy season with Birmingham Royal Ballet, he looks back as well as forward.

'Romeo and Juliet was the first production I was in as a company member’, remembers Lewis. ‘After my second year at upper school I worked with the Company as an apprentice. It was my first full-length, and it’s a lot of fun! I’d love to dance Mercutio; I think he’s a really interesting character’. Lewis will have to wait until 2016 to see if he gets the chance to dance this role in Romeo and Juliet.

Lewis has been cast in the lead role, Le Roi Soleil, in The King Dances for shows in Plymouth. He first danced this role last June. ‘It was the first time my name had been at the top of the casting and my first time in a principal role. That had its own pressures along with the responsibility. In the studio things could be running smoothly, but then there were lots of variables when we got to the stage. Suddenly we’re in costume: we had these long wigs which were going in our faces and the floor was quite slippery. We were in heels too, which we had worn in rehearsal, but not on the slippery floor. With it being my first major role it was quite difficult’.

‘It can be quite difficult to get into a specific character in the studio where it can be quite cold and bare. But once you put your makeup and costume on, that’s when the character breathes life’.

Explaining his recent promotion to First Artist and he says ‘It shows you’ve reached a standard. Generally with a promotion you’ve done a certain number of featured roles; you’ve been given a shot and you’ve proven yourself. It’s nice to have recognition for the hard work you’ve done’.

Talking about his favourite experiences at Birmingham Royal Ballet, he exclaims ‘International tours are a massive perk of the job! Last season we got to go to Japan for three weeks. We’re doing a job that we love and we’re travelling the world with it. We get to see some pretty cracking places that we possibly wouldn’t have were it not for ballet'.

'Dancing is my first passion in life'

‘My dad has always said "do what you love and then work isn’t work. It’s not a chore". My brother and sister and I grew up doing what we loved. Dancing is my first passion in life’.

Discussing his first ever dance lesson, Lewis says ‘I hated it! My mum took us all to the village hall and my brother and sister both did it for a year or two. But I cried and I screamed and I sat on chair at the side and refused to join in! That was the end of my dancing career’ he laughs. ‘Then when I was about nine, somebody came into my school, similar to the programme we have here with Dance Track, and ran a workshop to look for children with an aptitude for dancing. If you did, he invited you to do a year of "movement", and after that you carried on with more contemporary dance or ballet. It’s all just snowballed from there really!’

‘I had a beloved VHS of Cats and so it was my dream to be in it! I didn’t want to go to a ballet school, I loved jazz and tap and modern and I didn’t want to only do ballet. My teacher suggested Elmhurst, where I could carry on with other kinds of dance as well. After a year I realised "actually, I really want to do ballet!", so I stayed on at Elmhurst for five years. I did an international competition called the Prix de Lausanne and was lucky enough to be one of the winners, which meant I was awarded a scholarship to join a company of my choice, which is when I chose Birmingham Royal Ballet.

Despite leaving for Elmhurst at such a young age he says ‘actually I really enjoyed it! It was nice being in a school where everyone had that same driving force and passion. There we did five hours of dance every day and I loved it’.

‘My parents were very open to us trying new things out, and wanted us to explore lots of different avenues. I think that’s really important. It shouldn’t be that “if you’re a boy you do football, if you’re a girl you do dance”. I think public opinion is swaying. Dancing in England is enjoying a bit of a revolution and I hope it continues!’