Liam Rudden: Bourne supremacy gives dance an edge

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DANCE has never been my thing. Until I saw Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures company, the very mention of Swan Lake or name of a new-fangled modern dance troupe was enough to send me jigging off in the opposite direction.

Although I did once watch a Russian production of The Nutcracker at the Playhouse without falling asleep, mainly because the set malfunctions kept me occupied - one scene being danced against the brick work of the theatre’s back wall when a cloth failed to fly in.

Then, in 2000, I discovered Bourne’s brilliant approach to choreography and realised that dance doesn’t have to be all tutus and tiaras or even avant garde posturing.

I’d been invited to the Festival Thetare to see The Car Man - a piece loosely based on Bizet’s opera Carmen. Cinematic in its scope, the production was more theatre than dance, yet danced throughout.

Accessible and irreverent, the familiar Spanish setting became a greasy garage-diner in 1960s America, where the dreams and passions of a small-town were shattered by the arrival of a handsome stranger. Hooked, I made a point of going to see his Swan Lake, when it toured, and Dorian Gray, which premiered at the Edinburgh Festival in 2008.

The surprising thing about Bourne’s work is that, even if you’ve never heard of him, chances are you’ve seen his choreography without realising it.

If you saw My Fair Lady, South Pacific, Mary Poppins or Oliver! at the Playhouse in recent years, you certainly know his work - he choreographed all four.

Last year I caught the revival of his production of the Nutcracker! at the Festival Theatre and was there again this week for his magical, yet darkly Gothic take on Sleeping Beauty. The piece is a seasonal introduction to what he does, danced by an impeccable company. Even if you don’t like dance, get a ticket, if you can.