Just seven years ago teenage Leighton dance student Cordelia Braithwaite was taken by her mother to watch Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake at Milton Keynes Theatre and it was a turning point in her life.
Just a few years later, thanks to encouragement she received from her family and, in particular, her dance teacher, Cordelia found herself back at Swan Lake as one of its performers. It was an experience that took her around the world on a trip of a lifetime.
Now 21, Cordelia is back on stage in the company of Bourne’s The Car Man, a sizzling and sexy production based loosely in Bizet’s famous opera. The show started a national tour during April and she has had to rehearse hard to perfect three roles in the show, including covering the lead of Lana.
The Car Man has one of the most thrilling and instantly recognisable scores in the company’s repertoire, featuring Schedrin’s powerful Carmen Suite and new arrangements of Bizet’s legendary score, by NA associate artist, Terry Davies.
The award-winning production, which hasn’t been seen since 2000, is set in a greasy garage-diner in 1960s America where the dreams and passions of a small-town are shattered by the arrival of a handsome stranger.
Fuelled by heat and desire, the inhabitants are into an unstoppable spiral of greed, lust, betrayal and revenge.
Cordelia can’t quite believe her luck. Her family moved to Stoke Hammond from High Wycombe when she was a baby and she later attended High Ash School, Great Brickhill, before moving into Leighton and going on to Cottesloe, Wing and A-levels at Cedars in Linslade.
As a seven-year-old her mother enrolled her in the town’s Leanne Hughes School of Dance and Cordelia credits Leanne herself for recognising her abilities as a dancer.
“I was quite late starting to dance and I just loved it but I never really had a big passion for it.
“I never really thought of it as a career until my dance teacher encouraged me to enter competitions and I did really well.
“Then when I was 14 my mum and I saw Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake and it was just amazing. Then I saw his Dorian Gray. I thought how wonderful it would be to someday work for a company like that.
“I graduated from college in 2012 and a year later found myself at New Adventures rehearsing for a new tour of Swan Lake. It was incredible. We toured the UK and then went to Tokyo, Shanghai, Australia and Italy.
“I love working for New Adventures. Matthew is such a lovely guy. He also has an amazing team around him. I’m learning so much and they really take care of you.
“The productions are nothing like traditional ballets. They are very visual with a lot of story-telling. We have a lot of research to do and then a lot of rehearsals!
“I cover for the principal. In Swan Lake I came full circle and found myself back at Milton Keynes only this time as a performer in the company.
“The Car Man is quite a small company so I certainly hope to be on each week. I’ve watched the DVD of the previous production of The Car Man and the music is beautiful.
“Lana is a very strong woman with aspirations to get out of a small town. It is an incredible role.”
The Car Man plays at Wycombe Swan May 12-16.