Tuesday, June 19

Hip Hop to the Top: Andrew Kay talks exclusively to Brighton boy Liam Francis about his career from dancing with Little Mix to performing with Rambert

- March 12, 2018

Goat.-Liam-Francis,-Nia-Lynn

How long have you been with Rambert?
Since 2014. I trained at London Studio Centre from 18 to 21.

So did you dance from a young age?
I did Hip Hop at my local dance school in Peacehaven from 14.

Was there a moment when you thought ‘this is my career’?
I saw Into The Hoods, which was a ZooNation production, when I was 14 and I decided I wanted to be a dance superhero. That’s the only way I can explain it, because these guys were like superheroes to me. I joined ZooNation when I was 15, and at 16 I performed in Into The Hoods at the Queen Elizabeth Hall.

That’s quite young to be performing in a major London venue.
Yeah, it was absolutely wonderful. It was definitely the beginning of me wanting to do this as a career. Then I went to BHASVIC College because I wanted to go to university to be a political journalist.

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A political journalist? That’s very different from the arts.
I know it is… then while I was at BHASVIC I started to work as a commercial dancer performing on the X Factor, so when Joe McElderry won the X Factor I did his UK tour. I performed with groups like LMFAO and JLS. I was like: “this is wonderful, I really enjoy this”, at that point I decided I wanted to be a professional dancer. I took my A-Levels then thought I’ll go to dance college instead.

Were your family happy about that?
My Mum was over the moon, she was like, “Do it!”

Is she a stage Mum?
No she’s definitely not.

So you had a successful career as a commercial professional dancer.
Yes, from when I started at London Studio Centre. I worked as a commercial dancer until I was 21. Then when I was at London Studio Centre I started to experience contemporary dance and I joined INTOTO the contemporary company that I thought was more fitting for me. But I really enjoyed the those moments on TV.

Were you the envy of other students. Was it your guilty secret?
I didn’t tell them. I was quiet about. I remember performing on X Factor and there was one year that I was performing with Little Mix. The choreographer said, “we need someone to dress up as an ice cream.” I was the youngest so I said “I’ll do it”. So I remember getting dressed up as an ice cream and having these pink neon tights on walking to the X Factor stage and realising that somehow a lot of my school colleagues had tickets. I could see them all slowly pointing ‘that’s Liam dressed up as an ice cream!’.

Are you known as Mr Whippy now?
Yeah amongst my school friends.

That could be taken very wrongly. I’ll edit that out.
*laughs* You can leave that in.

Was contemporary dance a more difficult discipline?
A different discipline. Different things are important and working as a contemporary dancer helped me develop as an artist. I enjoyed that element of personal development of artistry, character & creativity.

Has it given you a voice as a creative person?
Yeah, it’s wonderful. I did a show at the Arts Depot in north London hosting my own evening which was called Liam Francis and Friends and sold all the tickets which is wonderful.

Were you performing pieces that you choreographed yourself?
The second half of the show was all choreography that I made over the past year and a bit, so there were a few things that I made in New York last summer. There’s a piece I’m working on at the moment in Rambert that I showed.

Are Rambert supportive of this?
They were so supportive, they did a whole blog, they interviewed me on my inspiration and helped with my crowdfunder. It’s a great privilege and I’m very lucky to have that support and opportunity.

You’re 24, how long do you foresee being able to dance?
There comes a point that your mind and will continues to progress but your body says ‘we need to stop’. But I love choreographing, I love bringing different minds together to create something that couldn’t have happened if only one person tried to do it.

Music has always been a massive inspiration – you dance because you love music

Contemporary dance as an art form so inclusive, the bringing together of choreographer, designer, lighting, composer, director…
And add to those the dancers who donate so much of their creativity, of their material, their ideas to these choreographers. Often we work collaboration, choreographers will set us tasks where they’ll be like ‘we need something like this that portrays this’ then you’ll make something, they’ll give you feedback; you welcome this kind of gifting process where each gift requires a counter gift which is then an initial gift which gets a counter gift. So there’s this tennis idea between choreographers and dancers, which is wonderful because you go out on stage feeling like you have some sort of authorship of what it is you’re performing and not just replicating a set you’ve been shown. This has your part of your soul in it so that’s nice.

Rambert tour with live musicians, how much difference do you think it makes, does it change the nature of the way you dance?
You have to invest all your senses, not only are you listening to each other and feeling each other and sensing each other, you’re then reacting with the group to the music so there’s this kind of secondary sense, you’re part of a different organism that’s responding to another organism. There’s wonderful teamwork and as the music isn’t the same every night, you have to talk to the conductor, you come off stage from a solo but it’s really a duet because you’re dancing with the conductor, and then the orchestra, so the duet becomes a trio – it’s tremendous it does something to your soul.

What other arts inspire you?
As I develop as choreographer I tend to ignore what inspires me – which doesn’t seem to make sense. Music has always been a massive inspiration, you dance because you love music. Often the music you dance to as a contemporary dancer isn’t music that immediately makes you want to dance, there’s a different relationship. I’ve taken my relationship with hip hop and applied it to the music I have now.

So you’re finding joy through music you’re not comfortable with?
Less familiar with – but quite interestingly now I put the pressure on myself to choreograph with my response to that music and I need to bring that with me into my creative period and not ignore it.

Are there pieces you would like to dance in Rambert’s repertoire?
Ghosts Dances was a dream, I remember in my interview in 2014 the first question I asked was, “Is Ghost Dances coming back?” and they said we’re not allowed to tell you, but it did and I was cast as the ghost and it was the most wonderful thing.

Theatre Royal Brighton, Wednesday 21 – Saturday 24 March, 0844 871 7650* atgtickets.com/brighton* *Booking fees apply. Calls cost up to 7p per minute, plus your phone company’s access charge




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