BWW Interview: Shaun Andrews, The Australian Ballet at the London Coliseum
Ahead of The Australian Ballet's visit to the London Coliseum this July, Emma Cann chats to corps de ballet dancer Shaun Andrews about his life in ballet and the prospect of the UK tour.Shaun started dancing when he was twelve years old, as he came to the end of a youthful gymnastic career. He explains: "My mum was concerned that I wasn't doing much exercise after school, so she suggested tap dancing. At first I was a little apprehensive about taking part, but as soon as I finished my first class I was hooked."
He paints a Billy Elliot style picture of his early ballet lessons. "About one year after starting tap I also took part in a jazz class. Finally, when I was roughly fourteen, I started ballet because it was scheduled between my tap and jazz classes. I can still picture myself in my footy shorts and socks standing at the bar!"
Despite being involved in so many different disciplines of dance from a young age, Shaun hadn't always intended to become a professional, saying: "Oddly enough I didn't really picture myself as a professional dancer until I started full-time training at The Australian Ballet School in 2010. The school opened my eyes up to what I was capable of and really challenged me."
"I feel as if it was a blessing in disguise to be starting full time training so early on. I was virtually a blank canvas as I'd only completed roughly one year and a bit of classical training before moving to Melbourne. This allowed me to learn and develop easier than perhaps other dancers who had been dancing for years. In regards to my attitude towards becoming a professional dancer, I do believe I learnt how to work smarter and gained valuable tools that I still use today in my career. But, I've always had a drive to be the best that I can be."
Shaun's life changed completely when he moved to The Australian Ballet School in 2010. "Everything was new to me! I now had to wear a unitard and ballet shoes six days a week. I was expected to execute steps I'd never heard of and lastly I was living away from my family in the Central Coast of New South Wales. My time in Melbourne was challenging in every way, but now I'm seeing the benefits of the five years attending The Australian Ballet School. They've developed me as a person and dancer."
After five years' of full time training, Shaun joined The Dancers' Company on tour in 2015 and performed as an extra in The Australian Ballet Company's production of Manon, after which he was offered a contract with the company. Describing this pivotal moment, he says: "I was in my final week in level 8 at The Australian Ballet School and I had a meeting with Marilyn Rowe OBE (director of the school at the time) and David McAllister. During the meeting David offered me a contract for 2015 and honestly I didn't know what to say. I remember leaving the room and just balling my eyes out; I think it was at the moment I knew how much dance meant to me."
Very soon, Shaun and the rest of the company will be travelling over 10,000 miles to perform Swan Lake and Cinderella at the London Coliseum. Unlike many other company members, this isn't Shaun's first trip to the UK. "I've actually been fortunate enough to have travelled to London before with makes the trip even more exciting! I'm naturally an explorer, so I will be in heaven and will make the most of any free time. I would love to see some shows on the West End! I'm a bit of a theatre geek who's always singing around the place."
When asked what he couldn't live without on tour, Shaun has one very clear idea. "One word... coffee!! I just make sure I'm living a healthy lifestyle. Plenty of sleep and remember to have fun."
You can see Shaun Andrews performing with the Australian Ballet in Graeme Murphy's critically acclaimed Swan Lake (13-16 July) and Alexei Ratmansky's vibrant adaptation of Cinderella (20-23 July), both at the London Coliseum. Tickets start from £15, and are available here.