17 December 2019 10:54
The Royal Academy of Dance speaks to Alexander Campbell
Principal dancer of the Royal Ballet and Genée alumnus, Alexander Campbell, is the face behind our 17th door of our RADvent calendar. Coincidentally, you can also see Campbell in the Royal Opera House’s cinema relay of The Nutcracker as part of the ROH’s live cinema season.
Recorded in 2016, this special performance celebrated Peter Wright's 90th birthday, and will be broadcast with new features. Additional screenings in selected cinemas throughout December. We spoke to Campbell about his career, inspirations, how the RAD helped him on the road to success, and, of course, Christmas.
“I remember watching videos of Mikhail Baryshnikov when I was younger and I wanted to be like him,” says Cambell, citing Baryshnikov as a major inspiration throughout his career.
“He is so exciting to watch that I couldn’t help but want to try it. I was always drawn to the excitement of performing and it was definitely that element of the career that made me want to pursue ballet.”
Campbell competed at the 2003 Genée International Ballet Competition (a competition now renamed the Fonteyn), which he states was not only a wonderful experience in and of itself, but also gave him the opportunity to meet other ballet students from around the UK and, crucially, gave him the chance to catch a performance by the Birmingham Royal Ballet.
“It gave me an insight to the company that I hadn’t had previously and made me think that it might be a place that I would one day like to work,” he says. The competition was a pretty successful one for Campbell; he won the silver medal, a notable title to go alongside other achievements such as becoming a Prix de Lausanne finalist.
It was the Genée, though, that ultimately earned Campbell his first ever job in the world of ballet. That year’s competition was held in Birmingham and thus Campbell was introduced to the Birmingham Royal Ballet, securing his first job. And the RAD more than played its role in that sequence of events.
“The RAD certainly helped me to get to where I am today,” he says. “Training in the RAD syllabus gave me a wonderful foundation. The syllabus, coupled with the wonderful teachers I encountered, developed the technique I have today.”
Campbell, who believes that to be in a successful ballet partnership you need absolute trust, mutual respect and musicality, is paired with “Cats” star and fellow Genée alumni Francesca Hayward in “The Nutcracker,” a performer Campbell relishes working with.
“I’m always delighted to be partnered with Francesca because I know that we will always hear the music in the same way. It’s very liberating,” he says. To get to his and Hayward’s level of success takes a lot of time, however, and he encourages those looking to take up ballet to simply work hard.
“Things don’t happen overnight and that’s okay,” Campbell says. “to be able to perform on the Royal Opera House stage is an incredible privilege. Work hard for it.”
And the difference between performing on film and performing on stage?
“The performance is very much the same however I’m always aware that there may be a close up happening at any moment,” he says.
“The Nutcracker” is often touted as a Christmas classic, with a Disney movie – “The Nutcracker and the Four Realms” – released last year featuring Misty Copeland, and Campbell believes this cinema relay of his and Hayward’s version is the perfect Christmas treat.
“I love Christmas, it’s my favorite time of the year,” says Campbell. “Possibly because my birthday is on the 24th of December and rolls straight in to Christmas!”