A very fine swan indeed...

SHE has spent the past three years touring with the cutting edge Matthew Bourne dance company but so keen is Jamie-Emma McDonald to get to Glasgow that she is arriving two days early.

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The cast of Swan Lake wow the audience
The cast of Swan Lake wow the audience

The young dancer has set her sights on a shopping trip to Byres Road and a catch up with four of her biggest fans: her grandparents who live in the West End.

"I lived in Glasgow until I was eight, when my family moved to London, but I can still remember going to a children's class in a local hall in Newton Mearns," says the 22-year-old.

"Glasgow is definitely home, my grandparents and family friends are still there, I can't wait to get back and see everyone."

When the tour swoops into the King's Theatre in Glasgow with Swan Lake next Tuesday, Jamie will play a variety of parts, from the Moth Maiden to an ensemble piece in a riotous club scene.

This award-winning production, of course, reverses the traditional roles with a menacing male ensemble replacing the traditional female corps de ballet.

Powerful and provocative, it is a stylish, contemporary take on the classic written by Tchaikovsky in the late 19th century and first staged at Moscow's Bolshoi Theatre in 1877.

"Matt's productions are fantastic because they involve acting as well as dance, the storytelling is almost more important to him," she explains.

"All the dancers are from different backgrounds: I was trained in musical theatre, whereas a lot of people trained in ballet, but there are also people from the Royal Ballet in this production."

Jamie was signed up by Matthew Bourne after graduating from Millennium Performing Arts. A dream come true, she says it was the only company she wanted to join.

" I was very lucky, it all came about by accident," she says. "I was on hold for one of Matt's other shows and then a space came up to do Swan Lake, so I did it instead."

Since then she has performed in British Style, a new piece created by Drew McOnie and Matthew Bourne for the Queen's Coronation Festival Gala at Buckingham Palace and in the corps de ballet in the UK tour of Phantom of the Opera, and as Marshmallow Girl in the UK and European tour of Matthew Bourne's Nutcracker!

"When I first joined I went to New York with Swan Lake for a month, and that was an amazing experience," remembers Jamie. "It's such a great company to be a part of, it's like a big family."

Jamie admits that she never dreamed of being a dancer when she was a little girl. She fell into it by accident.

"When we moved to London my brother started dancing and I watched from the sidelines at first, then decided I wanted to join in."

Rehearsals started in October for the current tour of Swan Lake that finishes in June. It is a gruelling schedule for even the toughest of dancers. Jamie's day starts at 1.30pm, with rehearsals until 5.30pm, then a break until the curtain goes up at 7.30pm.

"It's a very busy day at the moment," admits Jamie. "We've had quite a few new cast members join us so it's been important to have all them rehearsing and getting them into their new roles."

She adds: "It's all about getting the right foods the night before. I need to make sure I get enough food and sleep, especially when touring, which is difficult because you're in digs a lot of the time or in a hotel so you don't have access to a kitchen."

Many of the Swan Lake dancers perform two or three different parts and injuries are inevitable.

"During Nutcracker I injured my ankle and was on crutches for six weeks, which was awful," says Jamie. "It took ages to heal, and I had to take time off and just let it be. That's the most infuriating thing, as dancers you never admit to being in pain and you're holding on until the last minute possible before admitting defeat.

"We always have a physio in the company, when I had my ankle injury there was a lot of core work and other things I would work on so that when I came back it wasn't like I had to start from scratch."

One thing is certain, this production of Swan Lake is no flight of fancy.

n Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake, King's Theatre, Glasgow, from February 18-22.


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