I haven’t felt the calling to scribble my thoughts down of late, however the recent passing of one of the worlds greatest dance makers Gillian Lynne has moved to do just that.
I graduated Arts Ed on a Friday afternoon in July 1991 and on the following Monday morning had my first audition for the musical Pickwick. It was choreographed by Gillian. I was too young, inexperienced and naive to let the prospect worry me. I lapped up every minute of the thrilling audition. To get the chance to perform for her, to dance her witty, detailed choreography was a bubbling delight. To my wonder she kept me back to hear me sing. Again without any over complicated thought I sung for her, she giggled and jigged along to my rendition of Give A Man Enough Rope from The Will Rogers Follies (a show I still want to do one day). After, she paused, smiled, her blue eyes twinkling and offered me the role on the spot. She told me how she would create a new track for me and how much she loves to discover new talent. For once words left me and I floated out of Pineapple on cloud 9.
Cut forward to six months into such job and let’s just say over the course of the tour I had slightly embellished the choreography, Gillian was due to return. I thought to myself wait until she sees my new version, surely she will love it. Well I couldn’t have been more wrong. After that performance she took me aside and quite rightly reminded me that it was not my job to do so and if the choreography was not retuned to her vision tomorrow night I would soon find myself out of a job. I was horrified. Of course she was right, how dare a young dancer alter her already thrilling work. It was a tough lesson to learn and a valuable one.
I then was part of her Dick Whittington cast which opened the new Sadlers Wells. It was wonderful to watch her create a piece from scratch. She never settled for OK, only perfection. Daily she would monitor what we ate for lunch, sacked someone for yawning and ruled that studio with an air of both fear and love in equal measures. All the company wanted her approval, we all longed for a Gillian look of love which she gave, but only when the work was right. Today there so much outpouring of emotion daily that a compliment almost becomes worthless – back then it had to earned – not expected.
Then of course there was three happy years spent in Cats. Gillian’s masterpiece. A community of dancers lives changed because of that show. There is a deep bond between anyone who has been through it. No show was ever or will be as thrilling to dance as that. Sheer and utter joy.
Gillian was a great choreographer, supporter of the emergent and deliciously naughty.
As the Cats slogan used to say “The Memory Will Live Forever” – her memory will never fade.