Dancers to dazzle at Bermuda Civic Ballet
Sam Archer and his wife, Steph Elstob Archer, danced circles around each other for years. They moved in the same ring of London's dance community for a decade before they met at famed London theatre Sadler's Wells. The couple will perform together for the first time at the Bermuda Civic Ballet's summer show this weekend.
This is Mrs Archer's fourth time here and her third performance with Civic, a company that has been bringing in dancers since 1973.
She and her husband are both accredited teachers at celebrated English choreographer Matthew Bourne's company, New Adventures; the latter is a principal dancer.
“I was performing in Edward Scissorhands at Sadler's Wells. [Civic organiser Helle Patterson] came and said she'd love us both to come and teach the students some of Matthew's work because they've never had anyone from New Adventures over here,” Mrs Archer recalled. “Of course we said we'd love to.”
Her husband added: “It's difficult to commit to something so far in advance, but luckily it worked out that we were free and able to do it.”
They both started dancing at a young age — and for similar reasons. She wanted to follow her best friend, now a lawyer, and he wanted to try what his older sisters were doing. It wasn't long before they were hooked.
She studied at the Royal Ballet School in Birmingham and got into London's Central School of Ballet at 16.
“That's when it became serious,” she said.
Her husband studied dance and drama and took voice lessons, landing a role in Oliver at the London Palladium when he was 12.
“That's when I first met Matthew Bourne,” the 34-year-old said. “And then I went on to do the National Youth Music Theatre for two or three summers and one of our shows went to the West End, so again I was lucky to do professional stuff at a young age.
“I come from a performing background. My dad, granddad and nan were all musicians and, growing up in a pub, we used to put on shows so it was always kind of there.
“Matthew Bourne came and did a piece in my second year. That's when he first approached me about doing something with the company.”
He joined the American tour of The Car Man, Sir Matthew's working of Georges Bizet's Carmen, when he was 19. The 2001 production was cut short because of September 11.
“We've done just one show together. We did La Bohème at the Albert Hall together, but we weren't partnered,” Mrs Archer said.
Her husband added: “And we've both done the same show with Matthew Bourne, but at different times.”
Working on the same show was “lovely”.
“It's good. With this job it's always difficult because you're always travelling and working apart, so having the chance to travel into work together was quite nice,” Mr Archer said. “Being home at the same time, being in the studio, food shopping; even though we weren't partnering we were very much working together.”
It was also a bonus for their families to see them on one stage.
“Sam's parents came and sat in the second row from the front,” Mrs Archer recalled. “I was playing a prostitute and had to kiss someone else and it was really awkward because his parents were literally right in front of me. I had to apologise directly after.”
The dancers will play lovers in a pas de deux from The Car Man this weekend. They'll also perform three pieces from Sir Matthew's Sleeping Beauty, with local dancers.
“We've got ten of the girls and we got them to create movement like we would develop movement in the company,” Mr Archer said. “Part of the company's called Re:Bourne. We do workshops in schools or companies where we work with students on original material, teaching them how we create material. Matthew's allowed us to come here and teach because we've both been trained by Re:Bourne to take workshops.”
His wife added: “It gives them a chance to learn and perform some of Matt's stuff.”
• Performances are at 8pm on August 5 and 6 at the Earl Cameron Theatre, City Hall. Tickets: Adults $40, seniors $30, students and under-18 $20. For details visit www.ptix.bm or call 278-1500.
For 44 years, Bermuda Civic Ballet has given dance students the chance to perform on their home turf and take classes from visiting professionals.
This weekend’s production features a wide selection of dance styles and choreography. Local choreographers include photographer and Civic veteran Ally Lusher Tatem, who studied at the School of American Ballet and has worked with esteemed Balanchine ballerinas.
Mrs Lusher Tatem has choreographed Think of Me for five dancers.
Alexis Richens, an instructor at DanceSations, is another Civic veteran. Her piece, Feeling Nostalgic, is set to a modern track, Never Be Like You by Flume. Jackson School of Performing Arts teacher Angelina Hayward Simas holds a popular hip-hop class at Saltus Grammar School. Her It’s a Hard Knock Life brought the house down last year. She is hoping for a similar success with this year’s number, Ratatata, danced to a remix.
This year marks the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. Civic director Coral Waddell has created an Ode to Shakespeare in the bard’s honour.
Marianna Tsortollia and Brian Flynn, of New York dance company Rioult, have taught classes and are staging two pieces. Crystal Wings was choreographed by Marianna, Dream Suite was choreographed by Pascal Rioult. Also performing is Damien Johnson of Ballet Black, who danced in the Bermuda Festival of the Performing Arts in 2014, and returned that summer to dance with Civic. This year he is teaching, and dancing Balanchine’s Square Dance.