Matthew Bourne: The Choreographer Series

4th February 2022

Matthew Bourne: The Choreographer Series
Georgia Carter

Georgia Carter

How much do you know about Matthew Bourne choreographer extraordinaire? We will fill you in on his life, his theatre dance company, the awards he won and lasting impact on contemporary dance.

Who Is Matthew Bourne?

Sir Matthew Bourne has truly updated what we know as the traditional ballet repertoire. He has created work with his company New Adventures, including; Swan Lake, Romeo and Juliet, Cinderella, Edward Scissorhands, & Red Shoes. He has been called ‘the undisputed king of dance theatre’ and there are no limits to what he can do. Matthew Bourne is the Artistic Director of the Sadler’s Wells and Center Theatre Group in Los Angeles, and was made an honorary Fellow of his former college, The Laban Centre in 1997. Is Matthew Bourne married you ask? He has been in a relationship with the Portuguese choreographer Arthur Pita for the last 25 years. Arthur is the artistic director of Ballo Arthur Pita.

When Was Matthew Bourne Born?

Matthew was born in Hackney, London on January 13th, 1960. He was inspired since childhood by musical films and theatre and started to take classes at London’s Laban Centre at the age of 20. He then took dance classes at 20 years old and the rest is history.

matthew bourne

Matthew Bourne Theatre Company

He toured with the company called ‘Transitions’ for 2 years after graduating from the Centre and people started to see his talent and respect his work as he took on more choreographic roles in theatre, television, and other dance companies. He also created his own theatre dance company called Adventures in Motion Pictures (AMP) in 1987. His trademark has always been an innovative reinterpretation of traditional ballets, which has made him such a success. Matthew’s work has at times been controversial, in that the settings are not what is to be expected.

Matthew Bourne Swan Lake

In his 1995 production of Swan Lake, the prince would be part of a dysfunctional family and he would then fall in love with a male swan. The swans would be bare chested and wear feathery looking trousers made of shredded silk. The commanding tone of Tchaikovsky’s music and nature were influences for Matthew to create the performance that would keep people talking about it for many years to come.

Matthew Bourne Red Shoes

In 2002, Matthew Bourne renamed AMP as New Adventures which went on to produce further acclaimed productions, such as Red Shoes (2016).

Red Shoes with music by Bernard Herrmann tells the tale – or should I say dances the tale – of the character Victoria Page and her ambition to be a world-class dancer. He won the prestigious Olivier award for this show. Bourne’s productions after this were Edward Scissorhands (2005), Sleeping Beauty: A Gothic Romance (2012), and Romeo and Juliet (2019).

Matthew Bourne Romeo and Juliet

Matthew’s production of Romeo and Juliet

His controversial production was set in a white-tiled Verona institute, whereby the young are drilled and drugged into submission, and at the same time, the performers told the age-old story of young love and tragic conflict.  He used a lot of dancers who were at the beginning of their careers. It was a roaring success and the energy on stage was stunning and electric.  

ballerinas on stage

Matthew Bourne Dance Awards

Sir Matthew Bourne was awarded a knighthood in 2016 by the Queen for his services to dance and also awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Award – which is one of the most reputable honours in the world of dance.

Since 1999, he has been given an array of awards, ranging from the Tony’s for the Best Choreography and the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Choreography to the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Theatre Choreographer in 2020. He actually won 9 Olivier awards in his time and I’m sure he will be due another one very soon. He truly is a dancing genius and one that all aspiring dancers should know very well.

In 2014, he was given the prestigious De Valois Award for Outstanding Achievement at the National Dance Awards and also in 2015, he was given The Stage Award for Outstanding Contribution to British Theatre presented by the UK Theatre Awards.

Bourne was presented with The Special Award at the Olivier Awards 2019, in recognition of his extraordinary achievements in dance. His ninth Olivier Award in 2020 (for Mary Poppins) makes Sir Matthew the winner of the most awards in Olivier Award history.

Matthew has always been a champion of wider projects worldwide and organises workshops to nurture and develop the choreographers of tomorrow, through the New Adventures Choreographer Award (NACA) This is all done through his company New Adventures and the future of dance is a cause which is very important to him.

Quotes From Matthew Bourne

‘I’m proud that for nearly 20 years, New Adventures has built an unprecedented audience for dance. Cinema plays a vital role in ensuring we can take our productions to many more places, both across the UK and around the world, than it is possible for us to reach with our live performances. I am delighted that our dance production of The Red Shoes, based on the Powell and Pressburger film that I have loved since I was a teenager, will now have its moment on the big screen.’

‘When it comes down to it, it’s giving people a good night out in a basic way and I think my company guarantees that. There’s always something new and something to excite us and surprise us, and that’s why people come back, I hope.’

‘I had daydreamed through many performances of Swan Lake, thinking the dancing tutus only ever conveyed one aspect of swans: their beauty gliding on water. I wondered what it would be like to use male dancers and bring out swans’ aggressive, muscular side.’

‘Fred Astaire is my real idol.’

‘People strangely revere dance. They see it as another world, and dancers are somehow mysterious – just because they don’t speak.’

ballerina tying pointe shoes

That’s Everything You Need To Know About Matthew Bourne

We hope you have had fun learning about Matthew Bourne and the Matthew Bourne Ballet Company performances and if you want to know more about his incredible contribution to dance over the past 30 years, and want to watch these productions in action ‘The Matthew Bourne Collection’ is a sumptuous collection on DVD of 5 of his most well-known ballet productions, including Red Shoes, Cinderella, Swan Lake, Car Man and Romeo & Juliet.If you’d like to read more on famous choreographers such as Merce Cunningham, Bob Fosse, Alvin Ailey and Jerome Robbins, check out the rest of our Choreographer Series.

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