Aaron Robison was just a youngster when he first watched ballet dancing, but it sparked a love that has stayed with him ever since, he tells Diane Parkes.
Now a dancer with Birmingham Royal Ballet (BRB), this month Aaron takes to the stage as the Prince in the company’s festive favourite, Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker.
Growing up in Coventry, Aaron, who now lives in Birmingham, was bitten by the dancing bug thanks to his sister Carly.
“I started doing ballet because of my sister,” he recalls.
“She was doing dancing classes and I would be there waiting for her with my mum and then it was just suggested that I try it. I was about four at the time.”
Aaron discovered he had a love, and also a talent, for dance.
As a youngster he joined the BRB Junior Associates and actually performed in his first Nutcracker at the age of nine. “I was one of the children in the show,” he says.
Around this time his family moved to Barcelona in Spain.
Although Aaron was offered the opportunity to study at the Royal Ballet’s White Lodge, he wanted to stay with his family so followed them to Spain. There, initially, the dancing fell by the wayside.
“But then we started doing some musical theatre and then we found an English ballet teacher and I went back to dance.
‘‘I really started dancing seriously from about the age of 11.”
Aaron was inspired by one of the world’s greatest ballet dancers – Rudolf Nureyev. “I was a real fan of his,” says Aaron. “When you watch him dance it is just amazing. I had this video of him dancing the Prince in the Nutcracker and I must have watched it hundreds of times.”
Spurred on, Aaron trained with La Compania Juvenil de Ballet de Catalunya and at the Conservatorio de Barcelona before coming back to the UK with a scholarship to the Royal Ballet School.
It was while he was there that he entered a national competition and took the award for Young British Dancer – and was talent-spotted by BRB director David Bintley.
Offered a job back in Birmingham, Aaron joined the company in 2004 and was promoted to first artist last year.
“It was a great opportunity as BRB is one of the best companies,” says Aaron, now 23.
“It is one of the few companies which has a director who is actually a choreographer and it produces lots of new and exciting work while still doing the classics.
“I had a slow start because I had a few injuries but I have really started to develop as a dancer,” he says.
“I have gradually built up a physique which can handle all the work that ballet needs.”
So far Aaron has danced a wide range of roles, from Petruchio in David Bintley’s The Shakespeare Suite to Black Knight in Ninette de Valois’ Checkmate, Benno in Swan Lake and a Mandolin dancer in Romeo and Juliet.
The past few years have also given him the opportunity to tour – both in the UK and internationally.
“I had the chance to go to China earlier this year which is probably somewhere I wouldn’t have gone if I hadn’t been with the company,” he says.
“My favourite place so far has been Japan, where we toured last year.”
Former BRB director Sir Peter Wright created his production of The Nutcracker in 1990 to celebrate the move of the ballet company from London to Birmingham’s Hippodrome Theatre.
Tchaikovsky’s magical Christmas story has remained a stalwart of the BRB canon and has been performed nearly every December in the city over the past two decades, despite the huge logistical processes involved.
The show, which includes scenes involving Christmas trees and a fireplace filling the stage, depends on a team of 50 people working backstage, features more than 200 costumes and takes three days to install.
Since joining BRB as an adult, Aaron has already danced in four years of Nutcrackers, but this winter he has been offered the star role of the Prince.
He says: “I have done so many parts in Nutcracker – Drosselmeyer’s Assistant, King Rat, Consorts, Spanish Dance, Arabian Dance, Soldiers, Winds. But when I was told I was dancing the Prince I was really happy because it is a role that I have wanted to do since I started dancing.”
Once he has the Prince under his belt, he is keen to carry on aiming for the top parts. “There are so many great roles I would love to do,” he says. “Romeo in Romeo and Juliet, Second Seminarian in Carmina Burana or Cyrano in David Bintley’s Cyrano.
“One of the really good things about BRB is that there are so many opportunities for dancers. I would love to stay with BRB and become a principal – that is my aim.”
Aaron’s family are planning a visit from Spain to see him dance the Prince. “They tend to come over when I have a lead role,” says Aaron, who is fluent in both Spanish and Catalan.
* Birmingham Royal Ballet’s The Nutcracker, Birmingham Hippodrome, November 27-December 13. Tickets: 0844 338 5000 www.birminghamhippodrome.com