We’re very excited about today’s interview. Australian born Alison Mcwhinney is an Artist with the English National Ballet and currently dancing in one of the most talked about show of the season: "Against Time", in collaboration with World Dance Champions Flawless.
In this interview, she tells us more about being an Artist with the ENB, what the show is all about and how she prepared for it.
Alison Mcwhinney at the English National Ballet's summer party.
So Alison, tell us, why dance?
AM: For as long as I can remember I have had such a strong desire to dance and be on stage, so it has never really felt like a choice for me!
You're originally from Australia, how did you end up in London?
AM: I trained in Australia until I was 16. From there I auditioned for several European ballet schools to continue my training and ended up at English National Ballet School.
Now that you’ve been in England for a while, have you noticed differences in the dance scene between the two countries?
AM: Australia is obviously very isolated being so far from the rest of the world, so it’s no surprise that its dance scene is a bit more limited in terms of international choreographers and designers etc. I can see a lot more influence here from the European choreographers.
You're currently an Artist at the English National Ballet. How did you land this position?
AM: I was at English National Ballet school for one year before the director, which was Matz Skoog back then, offered me a contract to join the company. I was of course very happy to accept!!!
It’s such a great opportunity! What is your favourite part of being an Artist?
AM: Being on stage. Being in the spotlight! I feel at home on the stage!
What have you learned so far in your new position?
AM: I have learned so many things since joining the company... it would be impossible to tell you everything. But one of the biggest things for me is that even though we do countless shows in different cities, you have to always remember that it’s a completely different audience every time and you want them to see the best!
Speaking of shows and different audiences, you're currently dancing in “Against Time”, fruit of the unexpected collaboration between the ENB and Flawless. Who and when was the collaboration announced to the ENB dancers?
AM: I honestly can’t remember when this collaboration was announced to us. But I’m fairly certain it was Swoosh - the leader of flawless - who thought about bringing our two companies together and who got the ball rolling. Since then it has been a collaboration between him and Jenna Lee - soloist and choreographer - to make the show happen!
It’s completely “new” type of collaboration. What was the general reaction at the ENB?
AM: A lot of people, myself included, were a bit skeptical about the fusion of the two styles. But I think most people were very surprised and thrilled by the finished product!
May I ask if you had heard of Flawless before and what you thought of them as dancers?
AM: I hadn’t heard of them before working with them... But once I found out I was cast in Against Time I had a look at some of their work on you tube and was amazed like everyone else! They never cease to amaze me every show!
What is your role in the show?
AM: I play one of the four main school kids. My character is a bit of a bookworm, very shy, totally in love with one of the other school kids but very hesitant about it. He is played by Leroy Dias Dos Santos( Fx) and we have a love duet in the first act. It has to be said that his partnering skills are so good for a non ballet dancer!! I’m very lucky to have such a great and committed partner!
Alison Mcwhinney and Leroy Dias dos Santos in 'Against Time'. Photo: © Dave Morgan
Is it hard to perform with someone from another dance background?
AM: It was hard in the beginning but it just took a bit of practice for both of us and now it’s so easy!
What is the soundtrack like? This must be quite an eclectic mix to allow both styles to co-exist.
AM: The soundtrack is a mix of both pop songs and a little ballet music. There are also a lot of sound effects. Somehow it works, we had an incredible DJ who mixed the tracks and also altered them to work just perfectly for us! We have had a lot of the audience members asking if there is going to a soundtrack available, so it must sound pretty good!
Sounds like it! What kind of audience would you say the show can appeal to?
AM: I think this show can appeal to everyone. We see so many different age groups coming in! There is something for everyone!
Alison Mcwhinney and Leroy Dias dos Santos in 'Against Time'. Photo: © Laurent Liotardo
The ENB x Flawless tour will end in July, a few days off will be well deserved. What do you like to do on a day off?
AM: On my days off I really enjoy having nothing to do! I love to enjoy my breakfast and morning coffee without having to rush off anywhere! Recently because we have been touring so much I really look forward to coming home and seeing my boyfriend and spending the day with him.
One last question, what are your plans for the rest of the summer?
AM: Once this finishes we will be performing Swan Lake at the Coliseum in Covent Garden during the Olympics so we will be madly rehearsing for that till then. After that we have our summer holiday and my boyfriend and I will be heading back to Australia to relax in the sun.
A well deserved holiday! Thank you so much for taking the time to answer our questions Alison. Best of luck with the tour!
English National Ballet
Alison's twitter handle