How Grantham’s ‘Billy Elliot’ is planning to step into the future
It has been five years since renowned ballet dancer and Grantham man Paul Chantry returned to town with his very own dance company.
Since graduating from ballet school, Paul, known to many as Grantham’s Billy Elliot, has danced in London’s West End, for Sadler’s Wells and all over the world. Not only a talented dancer but he is also an accomplished choreographer and has worked on the UK tour of Horrible Histories, before returning to Grantham in 2013 with his wife Rae Piper, who he met in the West End.
We caught up with Paul to ask him what he is up to next ...
How did you become involved in dance?
Before attending Melton College, I had never danced in my life. One day I saw a notice up on the board advertising a dance workshop in college for that afternoon. Even though it was for the dancers, actors were welcome to attend. A dance teacher came up to me afterwards and told me I had great rhythm and should swap to the dance course. So I decided that I would split my course – half acting, half dance – but by the end I was focused entirely on dance. While I was at Melton, I also used to work as a casual technician at the Guildhall Arts Centre in Grantham, and one day the dancers from Ballet Central came to perform. I was mesmerised by the strength, power and grace of these ballet dancers – not just in their performance, but also in how they were behind the scenes. I watched their warm-up, what they did during the show and I was hooked. It was then that I decided that I wanted to be a ballet dancer. I had about three ballet lessons with a private teacher before auditioning for ballet school. I was offered places at both Central School of Ballet and Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance. I opted for Central and that’s where the hard work began.
Can you tell us a bit about your dance career?
After graduating from Central, I joined Independent Ballet Wales (now Ballet Cymru) and danced with them in classics such as ‘Giselle.’ After this I wanted to explore and develop my contemporary work further. My contemporary dance career has taken me to all sorts of wonderful venues and roles. I have danced for the Royal Opera Company at the Royal Opera House, English National Opera, and internationally at Lille Opera House. I have also been involved in West End productions and original contemporary ballet productions for Sadler’s Wells as well as a range of regional companies. One of my greatest roles was when award-winning choreographer Javier De Frutos selected me to create and dance the role of Apollon in ‘Eternal Damnation to Sancho and Sanchez’ at Sadler’s Wells. Another favourite role for me was when Javier asked me to be in ‘The Most Incredible Thing’ which was an original ballet for Sadler’s Wells composed by the Pet Shop Boys. I had just finished in this show when I met my now wife, Rae Piper. Rae was performing in the West End in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s ‘Love Never Dies’ Mutually we moved into choreography as we were getting older as dancers and looking to continue to evolve.
Our partnership as choreographers has been very exciting. We formed our own company, Chantry Dance Company, which we choreograph for and both still dance in.
What have been your main achievements throughout your career?
As well as choreographing for Chantry Dance Company, both Rae and I choreograph for other companies. Some of the highlights have been creating the choreography for the award-winning West End production and National Tour of David Walliams’ ‘Gangsta Granny’, as well as some of the ‘Horrible Histories’ stage shows. Also choreographing for the Royal Opera House and Sadler’s Wells have been huge achievements for us. One of the wonderful things about being an artist is that there’s always room to keep developing, discovering and growing.
What are your ‘hopes’ for the future?
I hope that Chantry Dance Company’s productions will continue to grow. We would love to see more people interact with the company – to come and visit rehearsals, watch the professional dancers and generally just become more involved with dance.
The company now has a international vocational school which Rae and I run: Chantry School of Contemporary & Balletic Arts. The school has just launched a full-time diploma course, which provides training to dance students aged 16+ who are looking to become professional dancers.
n You can see Paul and Chantry Dance Company in DRACULA, September 21, at the Guildhall Arts Centre, Grantham, and Chantry School’s vocational Diploma students in their Summer Showcase, June 16, Guildhall Arts Centre, Grantham.
For more information please visit: www.chantrydancecompany.org or www.chantry-school.org