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Funniest Ballet is coming to the GOH, we chat with one of the Stars

In just over one week Birmingham Royal Ballet will arrive at Belfast's Grand Opera House, bringing us La fille mal gardée (The Wayward Daughter).

We had the pleasure of chatting with James Barton one of the stars of the production who told us all about it

Hi James, thanks for taking the time to chat with me today, before we chat about the show thought I'd get to know you a bit first

Tell our readers about yourself

​I was born on the Wirral on the other side of the Mersey from Liverpool. I started ballet at the age of three and have been doing it ever since. I originally went because my sister did, she's a bit older than me and is now an Accountant and I'm still dancing​ almost thirty years later. I joined Birmingham Royal Ballet in 2006, I'm a soloist for the company. I did take some time out to appear in the original London cast of An American in Paris in the West End. I have also done a few musicals and recently I returned to Birmingham Royal Ballet and I'm looking forward to coming to Belfast

What ​has been​ your favourite role or production to have appeared in to date?

One of my absolute favourites was playing the role of Puck in A Midsummer Night's Dream, it was actually choreographed by Fredrick Ashton who also choreographed La Fille mal gardée​, I feel like it's a role that really suited me, it's kind of cheeky. I often get cast in comedic roles, not sure if that's because I look funny or whether I am funny or what.

I have enjoyed turning my hand to more serious roles when they've came along, it's a nice break and a change from the norm. Another stand out role was Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet. I've been really lucky getting to play lots of roles over the years but those two are definitely my favourites.

A lot of people​ feel they have Dance knowledge from seeing shows like Strictly on TV and they admit it is a guilty pleasure, what are your thoughts about it, do you watch it ​or is it not your cuppa tea?

​I think those shows are amazing, I'm thrilled they've happened as they have put Dance back on the map, it has opened people's eyes to the amount of skill that is required. I know that some of the celebrities may have had some prior experience but a lot of them haven't, it's incredible for the public to see just how emotionally involved they get in it and how much dedication and hard work it takes. I hope it inspires people to go out and put some dancing shoes on for themselves.

I think it's kind of made dancing cool again especially ballroom dancing.

There is a lot of stigma surrounding male dancers and this is something we are still trying to fight but shows like Strictly have done wonders ​because its shown again how much skill it takes and the power that is required to do all of the lifting. The way the female dancers are chucked around the floor is pretty incredible, so I'm all for those shows . I don't watch much myself but that's mostly because I'm always preforming on a Saturday night.

You mentioned that you've been with​ Birmingham Ballet for twelve years, I am guessing that means you love the company​, what's made you stay?

I love the people, they are my friends both in and outside of work, we are like a family especially as we travel and tour together a lot. Then there are all the rehearsals and preforming every night and like I said about those people who do Strictly it becomes such an emotional kind of event, it's not just a job, it's not something you just rock up and do and then go home, you have to invest yourself in it. The people around you become very close.

I also have stayed a long time because I have been very lucky, my boss has given me time off to pursue different things anytime I have had itchy feet and then always come back to the company.

Another reason is because we have quite a broad range of repertoire, I don't ever really get bored, there is always something new to do and even if a ballet comes back round every few years there is always something new to find in it . There is a group of us who have been with the company for a long time, some around 20 years, others do move on like in any job. I would always say the ethos of the company is that everyone's really friendly, everyone works really hard, there is definitely a certain type or person and performer in Birmingham Royal Ballet which I think keeps the company really fresh. I keep in touch with many people who have left and they always speak so fondly of their time with the company. It's definitely a great place to work.

​So you are here in Belfast from next Wednesday, have you been to Belfast before?

​I have, I've been twice before and I adore the accent, it's the best thing ever and the Guinness tastes so much better than it does here so I can't wait​

What are you most looking forward to seeing/doing while your here?

Well apart from the accent I'm really looking forward to taking one of the bus tours , I know it sounds a bit cliché but I have never had the time before so am hoping this time I get to experience one. Every time I'm over I stay in the same apartment, it's so nice, I love the feel of the City. I always find new places to explore and the restaurants are amazing. Another thing I love is champ, we don't have it over here, definitely not in Birmingham anyway.

So you are performing in La Fille mal gardée, which translates to The Wayward Daughter. This has been described as the funniest English ballet, what can audiences expect?

​Firstly don't get put off by the fancy French title, it is the most down to earth, comic fun ballet.

Audiences can expect infectious music, some of which will be recognised from adverts. There is a vast array of funny and different characters, there's great dancing, loads of comedy and a bit of romance. It's not a strict Ballet and there are elements of Pantomime.

My parents are by no means a typical Ballet audience and they love the show​.

It's a great Ballet for families and for those who have never seen one before, its a good place to start.

​Tell us more about your character?

​I actually play two roles, both are very different which ties in with what I said earlier about me never being bored and having a broad range of characters to play.

I play Widow Simone, the heroine's Mother, she is a panto dame type character, she is kind of cranky but is also full of life with a great sense of humour. She is probably about 60 years old. I also play one of the love interests, a character called Allan who is probably only about 18 years old. I've a nice mix of characters.

I see the show is on this week in London,​ are you in that production and​ will you be touring any other cities?

​Yes I am, I'm actually on the way to London now, we are there for a few days before heading over to Belfast. Belfast is actually our last city, we did loads of other places prior like Manchester, Plymouth and Birmingham.

What is next on the cards for you, are you doing any shows over Christmas?

​We are doing The Nut Cracker in Birmingham for a few weeks then we are taking the production to The Royal Albert Hall, it's such a fantastic venue ​

On the subject of Christmas, tell us your most and least favourite things about it?

​My favourite thing has to be the copious amount of eating and drinking that you are allowed to do , with various different social groups. I'm very close to my family and love spending time with them but also just love any excuse to get together with friends and have a great time.

My least favourite thing ​is how it is rammed down your throat by retailers from Sep/Oct, I think that is way to early, we should bring in a law that says Christmas shouldn't start until at least middle/end of November .

Is it acceptable to have a Christmas Tree in October?

Absolutely not, if you have it up to early it takes away the joy of Christmas. Christmas is a season that should be celebrated for the time period it is in, the same applies to Easter, Halloween etc, they all have a time through the year which we should stick to

Thanks for the lovely chat James, we wish you all the best and look forward to seeing you perform next week

La Fille mal gardée ​opens in The Grand Opera House on Wednesday 7th November visit for tickets.

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