This is Dec. 7 th in my dance inspirations advent calendar. Opened already: December 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th
I’ve been dreading the day when I get to Chris in this advent calendar, because I simply don’t know where to start, and having started, I could probably continue writing until I retire. We’ve been friends and colleagues since 1992, and without a doubt, he is both my greatest friend, greatest influence, and greatest inspiration. We started working, talking and laughing when he first joined ENB, and haven’t stopped since. Even when we haven’t been working together, we’ve usually found an excuse to come along to each others’ projects anyway, to the extent that it’s quite difficult to remember who was really supposed to be working on what. In any case, we both enjoy our work so much that none of it really feels like work. He has made me laugh longer & harder that anyone else on the planet; the closest I have come to death was driving down Kingsway, and remembering something that he’d said earlier that evening; just the memory of it made me laugh so much I had to pull over before I crashed.
There are times when it seems we share the same musical brain – we have almost identical tastes in music; but others when he has taught me to love (and therefore how to play) composers that previously did nothing for me – Mendelssohn, Schubert, Schnittke, Alkan. I have seen that time and again with the dancers and musicians he has worked with – his choreography is like a searchlight that reveals hidden treasures in music.
We’ve worked together in every possible way that a dancer, choreographer and a musician can, and a few more besides. He is the ‘invisible dancer’ in two recordings, Studio Series 1 & 3, spending hours dancing in the recording studio with me so that the music has, quite literally, ‘body’, and giving invaluable advice. In the last few years, though, we’ve developed a particular partnership as teacher & musician that, though I say it myself, is pretty formidable. Class for us is just the natural continuation of a lifelong conversation about music & dance; the conversation comes out of it, and the conversation feeds it, so that every class is in some small way a quantum leap from the one before it.
When I first got involved in ballet, I found a lot of the dance world – both ballet & contemporary dance – archaic, class-ridden, rigid and despotic. Gradually, I discovered the companies and people, like ENB & Chris, that bucked this trend and made it worthwhile. Chris’s calm, fun, intelligent, musical, democratic, down-to-earth & well-balanced approach to dance & dancers is all part of his genius. It’s a model of how I would want to work in any job, and the fact that the dance world is a much nicer place to live and work in now than it was before, is down to people like him who set such a good example.