Page last updated at 07:25 GMT, Wednesday, 22 July 2009 08:25 UK

Talking Shop: Adam Cooper

The unforgettable music of Richard Rodgers is being celebrated in a brand new production, Shall We Dance.

Conceived and performed by award-winning dancer and choreographer Adam Cooper, this new show is a blend of tap, jazz and classical dance.

It tells the story of one man's quest to find true love, taking him from the Orient to the Wild West by way of Russian folk dance, New York jazz and the waltzes of a Viennese ballroom.


Tell me about Shall We Dance. What sort of production can we expect?

Dancer Adam Cooper in action

It's about two things; one is the joy of dance and the other a celebration of Richard Rodgers the composer. His music is so easy to choreograph as it feels so narrative on its own. The chance to create a brand new dance show with this great catalogue of music was a dream come true.

Do you have a favourite piece of music from the show?

One of the great things that I've found is a complete ballet score from Richard Rodgers, which has hardly ever been performed. Another favourite piece of mine is Slaughter on Tenth Avenue, which is part of On Your Toes the musical, which I also choreographed.

In the stage version of Singing in the Rain you played Gene Kelly. Who is your favourite dancer, Gene Kelly or Fred Astaire?

I admire both but Fred Astaire is the reason I started dancing! His style of tap is what I wanted to do, I aspired to be him. My career took a weird journey through the ballet world, through contemporary dance and then I came full circle and back into musicals which is where I started. I was a song and dance man when I was five! Fred Astaire is certainly my hero in terms of musical theatre.

Do you miss classical ballet?

Certainly not! I had such a great time at the Royal Ballet company, but I felt a little frustrated. I get much more out of creating new work and that is something you don't do a lot of in a ballet company. I would much rather spend my time and energy either creating my own piece or having pieces created for me.

Shall We Dance also stars Emma Samms of Dynasty fame, and your wife Sarah Wildor. What is it like working with these two ladies?

Emma Samms
Emma Samms played Fallon Carrington Colby in Dynasty

Oh it is fantastic. I have worked with Sarah many times before, she is kind of a muse for me, and I have created many of my duets on her. This is the first thing she has done since having our baby last year, so it's really exciting that she is coming back. Emma has a huge following from her Dynasty days and also luckily had training in ballet so I was very keen to involve her. Thankfully she is loving it.

You recently choreographed Carousel, was that fun?

It was fantastic. Another Richard Rodgers score, and one of the best shows ever written. It has such a great range of dance including a whole ballet sequence. I am really proud of what we achieved, I think it was a really great show.

Was the costume you wore as the Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz at the Royal Festival Hall as uncomfortable as it looked?

It was a bit tricky until they got it right. It took lots of tweeking, bits were sticking to my knees and my elbows. I think Gary Wilmot had it much worse as the Lion!

People still remember you from the Billy Elliot film, where you appeared as the Male Swan in Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake, was that an exciting time?

Adam Cooper
Cooper started his dance career at the Royal Ballet

When Swan Lake first started it took us all by surprise. We started off with only a two-and-a-half-week run at Sadlers Wells and it kind of went mad, and we found ourselves in the West End, LA and on Broadway. It overtook us. It was just an incredibly exciting thing to be part of and for me it gave me the opportunity to leave the Royal Ballet and have a career outside. Billy Elliot was about five years later, the producers approached me and said they wanted the image of the swan to be the end of the film, would I be interested? Again it was going to be this tiny little film that no one was going to see and it turned into a global phenomenon!

Billy Elliot the musical is a great hit on Broadway, would you like to bring a show to Broadway?

I would love to. There was talk about Carousel possibly going there, and that may still be a possibility. I would love a show like Shall We Dance, my own creation from top to bottom, to go over there. It would hopefully go down very well because I think there's a lack of pure dance shows on Broadway. There is space for a good dance show with this kind of brief, so who knows?

A Tribute to the Music of Richard Rodgers, Shall We Dance, opens at Sadler's Wells on the 23rd July. Adam Cooper was talking to BBC News reporter Claudia Redmond.



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Dancer Adam Cooper in action
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