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Company Dancer Toby Fitzgibbons Shares his Thoughts

Tuesday April 7th 2020Share page

As a young dancer, you never know where the die you rolled at a young age, are going to take you. I could never have known that at 36, having been told that I would never make it as a dancer at school, I would be lucky enough to still be performing, creating and now be part of the creative, magical and unique balletLORENT.

In fairness to the aforementioned teachers at high school, who had never seen me dance, they were merely relaying the statistical truth; that to make a living as a dancer requires a fair amount of talent and hard work. Some people are not blessed with much of the former, and have to rely heavily on the latter, with a few tears and sore toes thrown in. I left home at 16 to train in London and at 19 joined Scottish Dance Theatre (SDT) in Dundee as an apprentice. I was lucky enough to learn my craft there for eight and a half years. Then I spent three years with Norrdans in Sweden followed by some freelancing and now I’m back performing in the UK with balletLORENT.

To add to the talent/hard-work matrix is the vital factor of luck. I actually met Liv Lorent on my first creation in Scottish Dance Theatre for Luxuria, which was performed by the company for all my time in SDT and more, fast forward eleven, or so, years and I was lucky enough to join the company in 2016. Since then I have been part of Snow White, Rumpelstiltskin, After Dark and most recently The Lost Happy Endings, playing princes, a miner, lovers, a show off Shepherd, a wolf and a fair amount of trees to name just a few. What a joy! Each piece is shaped by the unique alchemy of Liv, the dancers, the vision of her collaborators and their passion to tell the story. She often looks for the ‘back story’, the vital ‘why’. In the times when the company are not creating, rehearsing or performing, I am again blessed enough to be teaching class for companies and institutions at the moment all over the UK, Sweden and Denmark and working with other projects.

balletLORENT is a company with dancers aged from the eager early 20’s to the refined and inspirational 50’s and beyond. For a dancer that has spent most of their time in Rep Companies, with dancers of similar age it is one of the many freeing exciting, symbiotic aspects of the company. The age range of the dancers and Liv’s ethos, for me is reflected in an approach to story telling that is grounded in efficient, exquisite truth telling. It is concerned with reaching the widest possible audience where maybe theatre is still a new form entertainment. baleltLORENT often works with a community cast, older and younger and this helps focus our storytelling to be as authentic as possible.

Due to love and life's path I am actually based in Malmo, Sweden, and do a fair amount of teaching in Sweden and Denmark, but feel I am able to call the ‘Toon’ home also. Newcastle is a wonderful city, full of drama, history and vibrant people. I love the architecture, and when I am back I find my self staring up at it’s wonderful cityscape and I go to the bridges for the sheer thrill of it. What a gift it is to be able to return to base, rejoin the idiosyncratic group, and bring your interest and skills to the room to be challenged, and challenged again. You make mistakes, you feel like you never danced before, but you get up, dust yourself down and try again. Liv often invites us to remember the work feels very different to do, as it is to watch, this for me is the crux of the company’s vision. To give, to give back, and hopefully leave the world a little better than is was before, even if that pathway gives you darkness first so the light is more visible after.

While the key workers and heroes are shining we must wait in the wings and stay at home, but I can’t wait for the dust to settle, regroup as a company and hopefully finish the tour of The Lost Happy Endings which has been unfortunately cut short while we all wait in limbo. I also hope, with fingers crossed, that we are able to tour After Dark soon, which for me was also a life changer of a show, but most importantly go on to create and tour more works. At the other end of this unsettled time the world will be changed, but I feel strongly that it is at these times, of grief and uncertainty, more maybe than ever, it is to culture we turn for comfort, solace, inspiration and new endings of our own making, as told in The Lost Happy Endings.

All images by Luke Waddington

Read Toby's bio here