Christopher Moore talks to Ed Hill about his bid to make ballet appeal to a broader audience with new production, The Snow Queen

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SINCE the success of the film Black Swan, ballet has seen a resurgence. One man hoping to help continue the trend and bring the art form to a wider audience is Christopher Moore, the artistic director of Ballet Theatre UK.

He will be bringing his latest production, The Snow Queen, to Tunbridge Wells this autumn.

He said: “It is a brand-new show created specifically to incorporate the talent we have in the company. It is a traditional fairytale that will captivate the imagination of the audience.”

The Snow Queen is based on a Hans Christian Andersen tale. Moore has undertaken the process of turning it into a ballet.

He said: “In the original book there are some lovely illustrations and we took a lot of the influences from there. That led to some sketch ideas for costume and set, but the main element is the music.

“It has been nice for the dancers to create something from scratch and showcase them and their techniques.”

Creating the choreography is a partnership between Moore and his dancers.

He said: “I come with 90 per cent of the idea of what is going to take place. Then in the studio I take a step back to allow the dancers to have some more input. It ends up being a 50-50 split about the direction we are going to take the character.”

Moore started the company two years ago. He wanted dancers from the UK to get more opportunities to dance in their own country.

“I started Ballet Theatre UK because I noticed that we have a lot of foreign companies that come to the UK to tour. We have such a reputation around the world with our own dancers it seemed we did not have a way to showcase that in our own country unless people go to London or the big cities.

“Just because people do not have the means or time to travel to big cities, it doesn’t mean there isn’t the interest for ballet in the regions.

“What we are trying to create with Ballet Theatre UK is a small-scale company of around 16 performers with the quality of the larger companies that you would see in London or Birmingham.”

Moore got the dancing bug at a young age appearing in pantomime. He trained professionally, which led to a career dancing all over the world, and his experiences have made Moore determined to make touring a better experience for his dancers.

He said: “I had taken quite a lot of touring contracts as a dancer and I was aware that sometimes the bottom line became more important than the dancers’ welfare.

“They could be worked to death on minimum wages and once they couldn’t dance any more they were just discarded and replaced by somebody else. It leads to a high rate of injury if people are performing a lead role every day.

“I started the company with the ethos that we look after our people. We alternate the cast so lead roles are shared out among the dancers. Everyone gets a chance to perform a featured part in the story and it’s not all on one person’s shoulders.”

Moore is a determined promoter of classical dance but pragmatic about appealing to a broad audience.

“I try to look for new works, but I have to be realistic about what my audience will want. I can’t be too extreme,” he said. “There is the larger market that has to be considered. Once the curtain goes up, you want the children to be captivated by what they are seeing and the adults to enjoy the quality of the dancing. The reality is, little girls do like to see dancers in tutus.”

Tales that create spectacle on stage are what is required, which is why The Snow Queen is ideal during the run-up to Christmas. The ballet will be performed to music from Tchaikovsky and Glazunov.

Moore said: “It’s important to have characters that an audience can relate to and care about. If you are going on a journey with a character for two hours you must really want to know what is going to happen to them at the end.”

Touring ballet creates more challenges for the company.

Moore said: “We have to deal with venues that are a lot of different sizes both front and backstage, so we come up with designs that in a way are mouldable so they can fill a large stage at an opera house and then be reduced for somewhere smaller, but we do not want to lose the authenticity of where we have set the scene.”

The choreographer hopes Ballet Theatre UK will continue to bring classical dance to local venues. He said: “We have been overwhelmed by the feedback that we have had from people. They have emailed our office and said how much they have enjoyed it, and that has been echoed by the managers at the theatres.

“The Snow Queen has met with a real positive response. It is festive but a change from the Nutcracker that comes round year on year.”

Moore also believes that whatever might be on at the movies, classical dance will always have an audience: “There will always be a love for classical ballet. People just love to see it and experience it and see the purity of it.”

n The Snow Queen is at the Assembly Hall Theatre on Sunday, October 23. Visit www.assemblyhalltheatre.co.uk, or phone 01892 530613 for details.

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