Brighton dancer on the road with Rambert

Liam Francis by Chris Nash
Liam Francis by Chris Nash

Rambert comes to Southampton for the first time in 25 years, showcasing the legendary, the new and the best of its work - with Brighton dancer Liam Francis among the cast.

Christopher Bruce’s celebrated Ghost Dances returns to the company’s repertoire; Rambert raises the roof with its samba-fuelled party piece A Linha Curva; and Kim Brandstrup’s National Dance Award-winning dramatic love story Transfigured Night completes the triple bill. Britain’s national dance company returns to the Mayflower with its triple bill on Tuesday, October 10 and Wednesday, October 11.

Rambert’s artistic director Mark Baldwin said; “This special programme is for your pleasure and enjoyment, from award-winning modern masterpiece Ghost Dances with its enduring and timeless message, to the immense, cascading scale of A Linha Curva and the emotionally-drenched Transfigured Night. This is a programme of modern masterpieces designed for Southampton to show the very best of dance.”

Ghost Dances by was originally created for Rambert in 1981 as a tribute to the victims of political oppression in South America. It received its first revival since 2003 at Festival Theatre, Edinburgh in November 2016 and will tour throughout 2017. The piece tells stories of love and compassion as death – in the form of the iconic ‘ghost dancers’ – interrupts the lives of a series of ordinary people. Visual references to Day of the Dead celebrations and the bewitching rhythms of traditional Latin American songs create a moving, intensely human work.

Among the dancers is Liam Francis. Not so long ago, Liam was busking outside Brighton Theatre Royal. Earlier this year, on the tour which now comes to Southampton, he was thrilled to dance inside it.

“I regard Brighton as my home town,” Liam says. “I was born in London, but I grew up in Brighton and went to secondary school and college there, and Brighton was where I started dancing.

“I remember my brother used to go to chess competitions, and I didn’t play chess. But there was always music going on as all the parents sat around for hours waiting for their children to play their chess games. I started really noticing the music.”

And then one day, probably when his brother was playing chess and “I was probably annoying my mother”, Liam’s mother decided he should started dance classes. He loved them.

The big turning point came at the age of 14, however, when he went to London to see ZooNation dance company presents Into the Hoods: “I just thought ‘Let’s get serious about this!’ It was just mesmerising. It was so physical. They were like athletes, wonderful, special, unique athletes. I thought ‘I want to do what they are doing!’ It just looked so much fun.

“ZooNation had a Saturday school that they ran, and I just had to do it. I used to travel up every Saturday, me and my friends from Brighton. I did ZooNation from the age of 14 until I was 18, every Saturday, and then on Sundays, we would go busking. We would think about the things we had learnt on the Saturday and then do our own routines on the Sunday.

“We either performed outside the Theatre Royal or on the coast road near the pier. We would busk and make money that way to pay our way to go to competitions, get trainers, have matching uniforms. We didn’t want to look like we were dancers that had just been thrown out onto the street! It was really great fun.

“I learnt about human interaction, the importance of it. It’s the sincerity that you need of being an individual. It’s about getting the right personality. For me, dance is not about the right steps and getting everything perfect. I didn’t start technical dance until I was 18 which is regarded as very late. Even now I am not obsessed with getting the steps right and having the most beautiful extensions. If you have the right training, everyone can do that, but not everyone can be me. I want to give an idea of me. I want to give a sense of Liam performing. I learnt that from busking. People have to see you as a person. People need to buy into you. When you see a dancer who is captivating, usually the people that strike you are the people that give you that personal element to their dance, the people that inform their dance with their own personality, the people that have invested themselves into the dance.”

This will be Liam’s third time with the company at the Theatre Royal, and once again the company is ringing the changes: “We will have a number of dances in our repertoire so that when we go to somewhere like Brighton, we can offer something different and remember what we did last year.”