World-renowned choreographer Matthew Bourne will meet with Davidson students and staff Thursday, Nov. 7, for an open questions-and-answers session. Bourne and his New Adventures dance company are in Charlotte this week as part of their U.S. tour of Sleeping Beauty, which opens at the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center Nov. 5.
"Blumenthal has really valued its connection with Davidson College students," Blumenthal President Tom Gabbard said. He has taught classes in Davidson's theatre department, serves on the board of Davidson's Friends of the Arts and will join Bourne for Thursday's session. "When we connect an artist with Davidson students and faculty, we know they'll have a stimulating conversation with bright, knowledgeable people and enjoy themselves."
Fostering such intellectual, meaningful interactions is in keeping with the goals of both the college and the Blumenthal.
"It's important for Blumenthal to dig deeper into the art form and subject matter of our shows, and the Davidson College community is a perfect partner to do that with," Gabbard said.
During the student session, which will begin at 11:05 a.m. in room 100 of the Cunningham Theatre Center, Bourne will discuss his artistic process and current record-breaking production, and share his personal story.
With more than 50 international awards for choreography, as well as Tony Awards for best choreographer and best director for Swan Lake, it's hard to believe Bourne found dance relatively late in life – at the ripe old age of 22.
"Twenty-two isn't too late to get into most professions, but it is late to get into dance," he said.
As a child, Bourne was interested in performing but never felt comfortable with his own voice, he said. He was drawn to dance because it is a way to communicate nonverbally, he said, and found it to be his favorite tool for both self-expression and storytelling.
He danced professionally for 14 years and served as artistic director of his first company, the acclaimed Adventures in Motion Pictures, for 15 years. In 2002 Bourne launched New Adventures with co-director Robert Noble.
Bourne believes his personal story may inspire students-particularly young men-who might think it's too late to pursue a career in dance.
"Bourne's is an amazing perspective for students to get," said Assistant Professor of Dance Alison Bory. "They will hear about the process of dance making, and be able to conceive how a career gets put together."
Dance is an inherently collaborative, creative process, and Bourne's example shows you can achieve great success through hard work, she said.
"I think some may find my personal story inspiring," Bourne said, "but they also will find my company inspiring. We don't look like a normal ballet company; we have dancers of all different backgrounds, shapes and sizes."
The diversity of Bourne's company members leads to more interesting casting and characters, he said. As a choreographer, he has been praised for remaining ever mindful of the audience while telling his stories in the best way possible.
"Being audience-conscious means making work that doesn't require prior knowledge to enjoy and understand it," Bourne said. "Our audience members don't need to have read a scenario ahead of time or know a lot about dance. All they need to do is sit down, and the curtain goes up, and I tell a story."
But while his stories are accessible, they are not "easy," he said, and they require concentration. Bourne's Sleeping Beauty is a dark interpretation of the classic romance that deviates from the traditional cast of characters and sequence of events. Bourne enjoys "playing" with what people already know of the story, he said.
The show completed a record-breaking run in London's West End a year ago, with unprecedented ticket sales and rave reviews, and most recently finished a stint in New York City.