As a six-year-old in Rhondda village Brynna, Liam Riddick was inspired to start dance lessons when he watched Michael Flatley on TV. Now, he’s a well-known dancer and choreographer in his own right, part of BalletBoyz since 2018, and he’s just debuted a piece called Murmurations, as part of Ballet Cymru’s Made In Wales dance triple bill.
Liam Riddick studied contemporary dance at Coleg Gwent and began training at London Contemporary Dance School in 2007, beating out thousands of hopefuls in the rigorous entry process. After receiving his degree, he joined the acclaimed Richard Alston Dance Company in 2011 and was a full-time member until the company’s recent closing. Riddick – who one reviewer announced had the fleet-footedness of the god Mercury – was nominated seven times in six consecutive years at the Critics Circle National Dance Awards and took home the Dancing Times Best Male Dancer title in 2018.
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Why gravitate towards modern dance, as opposed to – say – ballet or jazz?
That’s what I specialise in. I did jazz when I was younger but not professionally, and even though I’m trained in ballet I’m not a balletic choreographer. Some may see my work as being quite balletic – it’s contemporary at heart.
You’ve said previously you weren’t interested in doing choreography. What made you change your mind?
I think with choreography I’ve never said never. I’ve always known that I’ve wanted to perform and be a dancer, but naturally, now I’m starting to find my feet with choreography and enjoying how it’s pushing me as an artist and taking me out of my comfort zone.
Regarding Murmurations, can you give some background as to the title and what the dance is about?
I work specifically with music when choreographing and make the choice to find the music first and let that inspire me to create. When I listen to music, I see physical form and shapes. With the dance I’ve made for Ballet Cymru, I was drawn to videos of murmurations – when sparrows meet just before dusk and fly together in beautiful swarming formations. I let that inspire me to create movement and build the piece with the dancers.
What made you pick music by Charlotte Church?
I’ve always loved the short albums Charlotte released back in 2013. There are four of them, and the one that I’ve used tracks from is Three. There’s something about her voice that is extraordinary! I’m so glad I’ve finally had the chance to use them.
Choice of music is an essential pairing in dance. Have you ever had to perform a piece where you didn’t like the music?
Music in my mind is an essential part of making dance, for me, it is anyway. I always start with finding music and let that drive the choreography.
Yes, I have been a part of pieces that use music which I dislike. For me personally, in previous situations, I’ve found it hard to separate my dislike for the music, but I feel that you have to in order for the music and movement to marry together. My opinion of the music in that sense is irrelevant: I’m there to perform the work.
Dancers are on par with world-class athletes. How many hours a day do you take class and rehearse?
Dancers are world-class athletes. Training is demanding and physically exhausting. What we put our bodies through in order to be the best that we can be is excruciating. I think if you ask any dancer though, who has passion and love for dance, they wouldn’t have it any other way.
Me personally, when I was a member of a company or small project, I would take class every day and rehearse pretty much from after the class until the end of the day. A working day normally comprises of 9-6 for a dancer. An hour and a half class, lunch in between and small breaks but on your feet consistently working for hours and hours per week. The thought of having a job being sat down all day is very alien to me, and if I was to go into that sort of role it would take me a long time to adjust.
words RHONDA LEE REALI
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