Sam Archer (seated left) and the company of Matthew Bourne’s The Red Shoes. Photo Credit: Johan Persson
Matthew Bourne founded and manages, just finished a US Tour of Bourne’s latest original ballet, The Red Shoes here in New York City earlier this month. Matthew Bourne, a now Knighted OLIVIER®, TONY®, OUTER CRITIC CIRCLE®, and DRAMA DESK® award winning choreographer has spent the better part of the last two decades reshaping the contemporary landscape of dance, and he’s done so not just back in his home in the UK, but around the world as well., the dance company that A-list contemporary choreographer
Bourne’s company is made up of some of the most highly skilled technicians and deeply driven dancers around, and earlier this week, Dance Network had to pleasure to speak with one of them: long time New Adventures star and Bourne danseur, (pun very much intended), Sam Archer.
Archer, probably best known for his work creating the title role of Edward Scissorhands in Bourne’s contemporary ballet of the same name, has not only worked alongside his mentor as one of his most trusted dancers, but also on the creative side of the table, as a choreographic assistant.
Sam Archer in The Red Shoes. Photo Credit: Johan Persson
In Bourne’s The Red Shoes, Archer played Boris Lermontov, described as the iconic Svengali-like impresario, along side other New Adventures stars like Ashley Shaw and Dominic North. For the US incarnation of the production, specifically New York’s sit-down, New York City Ballet star Sara Mearns and American Ballet Theatre principal, Marcelo Gomes, joined the company.
Outside of the dance world, Archer has made strides in the world of acting, as well. Having graduated from Bird College Of The Performing Arts, and being seen on television shows like Humans, films like Muppets Most Wanted, or on stage in works like We Will Rock You, Mary Poppins, The Phantom Of The Opera, and Oklahoma, Sam Archer is no stranger to work outside the limits of dance. It is, however, his remarkable contributions to the dance world that has allowed Archer’s talents to transcended to the masses.
We asked Sam all about his dance career with New Adventures, creating new work with Matthew Bourne, and his advice for future dancers. See the full Dance Network interview with Sam Archer below:
Dance Network: Thanks Sam for taking the time to talk with us, and congratulations on a successful run with The Red Shoes. In all your time with New Adventures, looking back on all the amazing accomplishments you’ve had with the company, the Prince in Swan Lake, Anthony in Play Without Words, or creating Edward in Edward Scissorhands, do you have any particular favorites or highlights?
Sam Archer as Edward Scissorhands. Photo Credit: Getty Images
Sam Archer: I have been very lucky to perform in eight different productions with New Adventures. Each show, and every part I’ve played, have been so unique— and that’s one of the main things I love about working with Matthew Bourne and the company.
I can’t say I have a favorite show, but creating the role of Edward Scissorhands was very special. It was roughly two years from when we started developing the piece until my last performance, and the show and that character will always have a place in my heart. It was exciting, and nerve-wracking(!), to see how we would be able to move and dance with blades on our hands! Plus, the character was so interesting to create. It was also pretty amazing when Johnny Depp—the original Edward [from the film]— came to see the show in Los Angeles!!!
Sam Archer, Johnny Depp and cast from Edward Scissorhands. Photo Credit: New Adventures
DN: That’s amazing! We know you also worked with Matthew on the creative side of things. Can you tell us a little bit about what is was like for you when you worked with Matthew as a danseur versus when you worked with him as a choreographic assistant?
SA: When creating a new production, Matthew likes everyone in the company to have input into the show, whether that’s helping to create movement or developing their characters. This is very rewarding for the performers— you can make things your own, and you feel like the show belongs to everyone. As Choreographic Assistant, I helped with developing movement, had input into the story, lead rehearsals, noted the show, and suggested technical ideas and plot development.
DN: This performance here at New York City Center was the last leg of The Red Shoes US Tour; what was it like for you to play the piece here in the states?
SA: It’s always wonderful coming back to the US. Whether we’re in LA, New York or Charlotte, we always get a fantastic response! The audiences really understand how we tell a story. They are with us as soon as the house lights go dark and the music begins. It’s also so humbling to perform to full houses every night. We’re very lucky!
Sam Archer and Jonathan Ollivier from Swan Lake. Photo Credit: Hugo Glendinning
DN: What was it like having New York City Ballet star Sara Mearns join you for the New York portion of the tour?
SA: For me, this was the first time I had worked with a guest in the company, [and] Sara was a joy to work with. She had a huge job on her hands to learn all the material and develop her character in such a short amount of time! I think it was a very different way of working for Sara, as all Matthew’s shows are story and character led and require a lot of acting, as well as the different types of dance, but she embraced it fully. It did mean we had quite a few extra rehearsals, but it’s always nice to work on the show and to also see someone else’s interpretation. Both Sara and Marcelo Gomez, who also joined us in America, brought different things to the show, which was refreshing. They embraced the way we worked as a company and they became part of the New Adventures family.
DN: Your colleague and principal dancer Cordelia Brathwaite had to miss half of the run in New York because of an injury, how did that news affect the you and the rest of touring company?
SA: It was so sad when we found out Cordelia couldn’t finish the end of the tour. It’s never nice to get injured, but luckily it’s not as bad as we first thought. She handled it really well and everyone was very supportive.
Even though we look after ourselves, unfortunately, due to our heavy work load and the nature of our work, injuries are very common. When I did Swan Lake a few years ago, I went over my ankle landing from a jump during a performance in South Korea. I tore three ligaments and pulled a tendon and was unable to carry on, missing the last four weeks of the tour.
DN: Finally, as an incredibly successful dancer, what sort of advice might you have for the next generation of dancers?
SA: Firstly, it’s always important to do the best job you can, in every performance. You never know what might happen onstage but as long as you’ve put the work in and you’re giving it your all, you will have no regrets. Also, for most of the audience, it will be the first time they’ve seen the show and seen you perform— and it might also be [their] last. Leave a good impression.
Secondly, look after yourself, physically and mentally. Dancing is very hard work and takes a lot of effort and dedication. It can also be mentally hard—[both] when you are in work and when you’re not.
Thirdly, keep being inspired. Go and see as many shows as you can, read books, watch films, visit museums. Go to things you wouldn’t normally go to, learn from the people around you. Everyone has something to give.
Fourthly, there’s no where to hide on stage :)
Fifthly, be a good company member. Don’t bring your outside problems into work, be nice to your dressers and technical staff (without them you would never get on stage!), and respect each other.
Finally, when you are lucky enough to be in work, every now and then, take a step back and reflect on how fortunate you are to be doing a job you love. It’s very easy to become grumpy and negative!!