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By Nathan Bevan,
The Western Mail
October 29, 2012

He’s gone from Swansea schoolboy to acclaimed performer with an internationally renowned ballet company and made it look effortless. But here William Bracewell tells Nathan Bevan why the life of a dancer is far from easy

[Cardiff, Wales] Growing up a stone’s throw – or perhaps, more fittingly, a throw-in – away from the home of Morriston AFC at Tircanol Playing Fields, most eight-year-olds might have found themselves developing a love of football.

But not William Bracewell, who by that time had already tried his hand at a number of sporting pursuits and hobbies, all to no avail. “I’d also given rugby a go and basketball, not to mention taking up loads of different musical instruments, but nothing seemed to stick,” says the 21-year-old from Swansea, who’ll be performing with the internationally renowned Birmingham Royal Ballet at Cardiff’s Wales Millennium Centre from tomorrow [October 30th].

“But it wasn’t until a female friend of mine suggested I go with her to ballet class that, suddenly, something clicked and I thought, ‘Why not give it a go’?”

However, Bracewell discovered there weren’t many other young lads in the area who shared that sentiment. “Yeah, I was the only boy there,” he smiles. “In fact, I think only one other boy joined during the whole time I went along, and he only ended up staying for a few classes.

“I didn’t mind though, I quite enjoyed being surrounded by girls – actually I loved the attention. And I think I was a bit of a novelty for them too, so they encouraged me to persevere,” he adds.

And, after leaving the local Pamela Miller Ballet School, Bracewell progressed to London’s Richmond Park Royal Ballet School when he was 11. “I went for auditions but really wasn’t that keen at first because it was a residential school and I didn’t want to leave my home and my parents,” he says, admitting that little did he know how hard the life of a budding professional ballet dancer would be.

“It can be tough and a lot of people who were in my year have had to give up dancing as a result of some injury or another. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever been in a class where there wasn’t some sort of bad strain or tear.”

“The knees, the ankles and the back – they’re all parts of the body that get hit hardest, and it only takes an awkward landing from a jump to result in an accident,” adds Bracewell, who was voted Young British Dancer of the Year in 2007 and awarded the top prize at the 2010 Youth America Grand Prix.

“Then again you can end up doing something silly just going about your everyday business, so it’s not something I tend to think about too much.

“Obviously, at this stage in my career I’m not going to take any chances either, because there’s nothing worse than seeing someone whose dreams have been destroyed by having a doctor tell them they can no longer dance.

“I’d feel like a big part of me had been taken away if I got told that,” he says, joking that extreme sports holidays would have to wait for the foreseeable future. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to go skiing but will have to wait until I’ve done everything I can with ballet first. Hopefully my body will go before my passion for dancing does – besides, the Alps will still be there long after I retire,” he laughs.

Nevertheless, despite the notoriously short shelf life of the average professional ballet dancer, Bracewell might have to continue postponing a trip to the piste for quite a while yet if the company he’s keeping at the Birmingham Royal Ballet is anything to go by.

“Some people’s time in the spotlight can be brief but there are members in this ensemble who are in their 40s and still going strong,” he says from backstage at the Sadler’s Wells Theatre in London’s West End, adding that everyone there was very excited about coming to the Welsh capital – not least himself.

“Everyone is really thrilled because we’ve all heard so many great things about the venue and how brilliant the acoustics are.

“We’re going to be doing Swan Lake and Tchaikovsky’s score is going to be performed live by the Royal Ballet Sinfoniam, which is bound to sound fantastic,” smiles Bracewell, who’ll be playing Benno von Sommerstern, best friend of the love-lorn prince Siegfried.

“It’s a fun role and I’ll have lots of acting to get my teeth into. And it’s a really beautiful production too, the part when the swans rise up from the dry ice being particularly impressive.”

Nevertheless, the first half of the company’s five-day sojourn in Cardiff will be taken up with Autumn Celebration, a triple bill of performances that includes The Dream’s coupling of Shakespeare and Mendelssohn, Noel Coward musical The Grand Tour and Faster, a testimony to the Olympic fever which enveloped the UK earlier this year.

“We tend to mix things up a lot and the longest amount of time we’ve ever spent on any one production is about six weeks, which is great for me,” reveals Bracewell.

“Other companies tend to tour the same things day in, day out for up to 12 months at a time – I’d imagine that can get very hard. This way we keep the energy levels topped up, keep everything fresh and exciting.”
© 2012 Media Wales Ltd

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