Natalie Banyard talks to Bristol born dancer Rae Piper, who is bringing her own ballet company home
STANDING in the wings in tutu, tights and pointes, ready to make her entrance on the stage at yet another Bristol eistedfodd, a young Joanna Pollicutt knew she wanted to dedicate her life to dancing.
Two decades on, the 35-year-old, who goes by her stage name Rae Piper, has forged a career that has seen her perform in London's West End, on UK tours and all over the world. Now the ambitious dancer and choreographer's Chantry Dance Company, of which she is founder and co-artistic director, will be bringing its new show, Out Of Bounds, to the University of Bristol's Wickham Theatre on Saturday, October 26.
Rae, who grew up in Westbury-on-Trym and attended Badminton School for Girls, started dancing at an early age. Her mum, Gail Gordon, now head of dance at Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, ran a dance school in Westbury-on-Trym village hall, which Rae attended from the age of seven. Rae said: "I did ballet, modern dance and acrobatics and loved it. I always enjoyed performing and did a lot of the Bristol eistedfodds."
Even as a child, she was one to watch. And I can attest to that, being tutu-clad and competing against Rae each year from seven to 17.
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She said: "Those were the days. After that, I finished my A-levels at school and headed straight to London to embark on a career in dancing. It was hard work and there was a lot of competition but I got jobs and went on to work in the West End, at Sadler's Wells and with various contemporary dance companies."
In London, Rae was introduced to dancer Paul Chantry. The couple fell in love and soon realised that they also complemented each other on the dancefloor. They married in 2012 and formed CDC following a debut performance at Sadler's Wells.
In addition to Rae and Paul, the innovative company is made up of top international dancers who have performed with companies such as The Royal Ballet, Northern Ballet, Junior Ballet de Geneve, and Peter Schaufuss Ballet, and in the West End.
Rae said that recently the company relocated to Grantham, Lincolnshire. She said: "We moved for a lot of reasons but mainly because it sits well with the company's ethos of bringing high-quality, professional dance to places and people who would not normally have access to it."
Now Rae brings CDC to Bristol for its maiden autumn/winter tour.
She said: "I am looking forward to performing in my home city."
The show includes All I Can Do Is Be Me, a ballet performed to the music of Bob Dylan, and 404 – not found, a digital fairytale set in the world of the chat room. There is also an ensemble ballet, Ad Fidem, with music by Emmy-nominated composer Robert Logan, and the heartfelt solo Singing Day, performed to music by Philip Glass.
Rae said: "The programme is eclectic, with pop and media culture references in one ballet, contrasting with symbolic representations of society and relationships in another.
"We hope Out Of Bounds will enable people to see that contemporary ballet is a relevant and exciting form of dance, and that they find something in the programme to relate to and empathise with."
Out Of Bounds is at Wickham Theatre, Cantock's Close, Bristol, on Saturday, October 26 at 7.30pm. To book tickets, visit www.chantry dancecompany.org or call 07988 588 038.