October 08, 2002
Rough Guide to Daniel Jones
I was 15 years old and it was 1989, when I first saw English National Ballet perform. It was all thanks to Sir Kenneth Macmillan, who was sitting down the row from me, Christopher Hampson, Christopher Wheeldon, and David Fielding. We had all won ‘The Kenneth Macmillan Award’ for choreography at White Lodge, (the Royal Ballet School), and the prize that Sir Kenneth had decided for us was to take us to see an opera, a concert, and a Ballet Company – as long as it was not the Royal Ballet. Sir Kenneth had told us that to be a choreographer we must be aware of what was happening out there in the outside world.
It turned out to be the most memorable evening, one that I continually reflect on at those times when I wonder ‘why do I do ballet?’ and ‘how come I’m so addicted?’ The programme that evening was MacMillan’s Anastasia, Christopher Bruce’s Swansong, and Harald Lander’s Etudes. All I can say is ‘thank you Sir Kenneth’. It convinced us that ballet was going to play a huge part in our lives.
Ten years ago in April 1992, I took class with English National Ballet during the Easter break from the Royal Ballet School. I was immediately offered a contract, and invited to start work the following day and I couldn’t resist. It’s now ten years later and it seems like yesterday. It’s quite amazing how much you can do in ten years: from magic lessons with Paul Daniels, Tai chi lessons in a temple in Hong Kong, to performing in such places as The Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne, Australia (home to the Australian open), the situations that I have found myself in, thanks to ballet of course, never cease to make me smile.
Newcastle-under-Lyme is where I was born (and survived!) before I left to go on my ballet journey down south. It was a small town which had a cattle market, lovely oatcakes and a town hall, and was a great place to be introduced to the world. But, what I could never understand was why when I came down south, most people would call me a Geordie. It took a while, but when I realised, it was quite sad to know that my Newcastle was hardly known, and that everyone around thought I was constantly trying to hide my Geordie accent.
I began going to ballet classes when I was 3 years old.I wouldn’t say that I was pulling on my parents’ legs at that age and saying ‘please Dad, let’s sit down and I will tell you why I should do ballet’. It was the fact that my Mother had started a dancing school, and rather than stay at home and be naughty, I went to ballet to be naughty instead. At the Marilyn Jones Dance Centre, I tried everything, from disco to gymnastics which were all to become very useful skills once I became professional.
It was also at the Marilyn Jones Dance Centre that I first had the opportunity to choreograph while I was, as my mother would give me little sections to create for her shows at the Mitchell Memorial Theatre. At White Lodge, it was our choreographic classes with Norman Morrice, that began to open my eyes as to how far this creative skill could be developed. Thanks to the choreographic competitions at the Royal Ballet School, and many choreographic workshops at English National Ballet, I have had a great opportunity to play with creative and theatrical ideas.
And Finallywas the title of my most recent work, which was performed at English National Ballet’s choreographic workshop. It was also a great pleasure as Thomas Edur, and Agnes Oaks had volunteered to be involved and we had a lot of laughs putting it together. The music had been created by myself, and Jonathan Still and had taken us many hours of experimenting to decide on what we should use to create the effect that we were aiming for.
Right now, it’s time to tour, down the lovely M4, to Bristol. English National Ballet’s new production of the Nutcracker (choreographed by Christopher Hampson with designs by Gerald Scarfe) will open on Thursday 10th October at the Bristol Hippodrome, and its all very exciting stuff. Time to pack the necessities, and everything else needed to survive life on the road with a ballet company.
Posted by Daniel at 08:25 PM