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Ballet brings this fighting boy home

By North Devon Journal  |  Posted: February 23, 2012

  • Matt Rees & Leon Poulton of The Talent performing their premier of Russell Maliphants' Torsion at The Point, Eastleigh

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IF YOU like your contemporary dance coupled with boy-band charisma, rippling torsos and cool athleticism, then BalletBoyz – The Talent promises to be the hottest ticket in town. Ex Royal Ballet mavericks Michael Nunn and William Trevitt, (they walked out of top jobs with the Royal Ballet to reinvent themselves as the BalletBoyz), now no longer dance themselves but have trained eight ripped young hoofers to carry on their signature style (we're talking hip, sexy and accessible).

One of these preposterously talented dancers is Taylor Benjamin, who grew up in Barnstaple. After surviving gruelling open auditions, Taylor was handpicked to be in the all-male troupe. Nobody was more surprised than him, having only auditioned on the insistence of a friend.

"I wasn't even going to do the audition because they are ex ballet dancers and ballet isn't my strongest point," he confessed. "I went to musical theatre school so I did all different styles of dance. I really didn't expect anything."

Taylor is now on a national tour with BalletBoyz – The Talent and is very excited to be bringing the show to his home town.

"It's going to be really fun. My family are going to come and a lot of my friends. I think my mum has booked out half the theatre."

Also in the audience will be one of Taylor's former teachers from Petroc (or North Devon College as it was), Helen Watts.

"She is the one who got me in to dance in the beginning and I am still good friends with her. Every time I do something new I always give her a ring."

Having friends and family watching always adds to his experience of the show.

"You always want to do better. You give it 100 per cent all the time but when you have people you know there you really want to do it for them."

Taylor didn't set out to be a dancer. He decided to study performing arts at North Devon College because he wanted to be an actor. Movement classes were just a compulsory part of the course.

"I'd never danced before and I was a bit reluctant at first, thinking, 'Ah movement classes, how rubbish is that?'. Then I ended up really liking it and in my second year I took AS Dance. I then decided in that one year that's what I wanted to do. Helen helped me get my audition together."

Taylor won a scholarship to the Bird College in London where sheer determination turned him into the brilliant dancer he is today.

"For boys, in general, it's a bit easier and you can start a bit later because they always want more boys in the industry. Being a bit older made me concentrate a lot more though. We didn't have levels at dance school so you were always fighting to be as good as the best person. Some people had been doing it since they were kids and I was in the same class as them so I couldn't really afford to be left behind."

Before getting picked for BalletBoyz, Taylor worked with a string of great dance companies including Transitions Dance Company, Upside Dance, Kompany Malkhi and 2faced Dance Company. His one constant source of encouragement was mum, Sharon Davenport.

"Mum has always been there and supported me. She is always travelling all the way from Devon to London to come and watch me and she came down for the BalletBoyz audition and stayed with me in the hotel and stuff."

At the age of 26, Taylor is the oldest in a company that includes a dancer as young as 19. Getting a chance to work with Nunn and Trevitt, the original BalletBoyz, is turning out to be an illuminating experience and an amazing opportunity.

"They run it like a ballet company. We do ballet every single day. They come in some days in jeans and shoes and look like they won't do anything.

"Then they just kick off their shoes and get right in there. They are so renowned so it's so good to be working under them. It's good to have that behind me."

For other young males considering a career in dance, Taylor has these words of advice.

"I think the main thing is stick with it. There probably are more opportunities than there were ten years ago. I think Barnstaple is a small place and you can feel a bit out of the loop but do your research and see as much as you can."

BalletBoyz - The Talent promises to be an explosive feast of exhilarating dance, fused with the company's trademark use of film and behind-the-scenes footage. There will be four works including a mesmerising re-working of Russell Maliphant's Torison, Paul Roberts' haunting Alpha plus two new works by Sadler's Wells. Catch it at the Queen's Theatre, Barnstaple on Thursday, March 8. Tickets: £13 (full), £11 (concession), £7.50 (young person), £35 (family). Box office: 01271 324242.

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