Suffolk dancer James Muller performs regional premieres with Richard Alston in Norwich
- Credit: Archant
For Suffolk-born dancer James Muller even an opportunity to dance in Norwich feels like a homecoming. James trained with The Royal Ballet School before joining Northern Ballet. He then worked in Denmark and Germany and two years ago joined the renowned Richard Alston Dance Company.
“I’ve performed in Norwich a couple of times with Richard Alston and with the Northern Ballet but as yet I’ve not had an opportunity to perform at the amazing Dance
House in Ipswich and I would love to. It looks amazing and I’ve heard the facilities are brilliant but I’ve not had the chance to work there.”
James is part of Richard Alston’s company performing at The Norwich Theatre Royal as part of a UK tour of new work. “It’s rare that I get to dance in this part of the world, so even though it’s in Norwich it feels like coming home. It means that my family can travel up and see me dance and we can get together afterwards, so it feels good.
“We are bringing four pieces to Norwich I don’t think people in East Anglia will have seen before. We have Stronghold, a new piece from Martin Lawrence, our associate choreographer, which will be spectacular because it’s an ensemble piece and features the whole company. The music by Julia Wolfe features a whole load of double basses which sounds just amazing. We have ten dancers performing and creating new rhythms on top of the music.”
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In addition to Stronghold, James will also be dancing the regional premiere of Mazur. “It’s another new piece and I will performing it for the first time in Norwich. It’s a duet for two men with music from Chopin. It’s about two friends who have been cut off from their homeland. It was an autobiographical piece from Chopin when he was exiled in Paris, so the music and the dance piece is very moving.”
James, like fellow Royal Ballet alumni Gary Avis, started his dance career at the Linda Shipton School of Dance in Ipswich.
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A pupil of Sidegate Lane Primary School, living in Tuddenham
Road in Ipswich until he joined the Royal Ballet School, he started dancing as a result of seeing his sister dance.
“I was dragged along to the usual end of term shows and I asked my Mum whether this (dancing) was something that only girls did. She signed me up to classes and one thing led to another. But, Linda was instrumental in me having a career in dance because she pushed me towards the Royal Ballet School. Once I was in vocational training my goal was always to be a professional dancer.”
He said that his introduction to the world of dance happened before the story of Billy Elliott empowered young men to take to the dance floor. “I knew what I wanted to do from a very young age. I was never worried about peer pressure or anything like that but it was homesickness that really got to me at first. It wasn’t the workload. I was never worried about the commitment but I was terribly homesick when I first moved to London but at the same time I discovered who I was as a dancer and it made me determined to become a professional.”
After leaving the Royal Ballet School, James joined Northern Ballet before gaining a place with the Peter Schaufuss Ballet in Denmark, Ballet Ireland and then the prestigious Theatre Ulm in Germany and in 2011 he took part in the German Young Choreographers Platform creating a piece called Prisoners Cinema which was performed by Theatre Ulm.
“I met my girlfriend in Germany and she was instrumental in me returning to the UK and auditioning for Richard Alston. I had been doing ballet until I was 27. We both danced for the same company and I had been there for five years by this point and we both thought it was time for a change. My partner got offered a job with Rambert, I came back home with her without a job to go to and learned that Richard had lost some dancers very late on in the development of a tour. I heard about this and turned up for class and Richard took me on for a year, initially, and I’ve kept my place and this was just a couple of days after I had arrived back in the UK.”
The move from classical ballet to contemporary dance has provided fresh challenges for the young dancer and a new way of looking at the dance world. “In one way it’s not that different because you have to learn the choreography whether it’s old or new but I suppose when you are working on a new piece with Richard the rehearsal period is more collaborative because Richard tends to use the talents and skills of the dancers in his company.”
James performs with the Richard Alston Dance Company at Norwich Theatre Royal on February 4-5.