My name is Peter Francis and welcome the Nebula Artistic.
So to introduce myself properly, let me tell you a little about myself. I began dancing in my hometown of Glossop when I was 8. I attended a small dance school where I learned tap, ballet and modern and it was here that I first began to perform on stage. By the age if 13, I had progressed to the point where a more professional level of tuition was required, and so I moved on to the more demanding regime of the northern ballet school in Manchester.
The Northern was a different level of tuition and the classes were taught by professional ballerinas and the standard was high. After two years there, I passed my senior grade ballet with honors, at which point I was ready for college. I actually attended three of the Uk’s best dance conservatoires starting with the London contemporary, moving on to the Northern contemporary (where I shared classes with a certain Melanie Brown A.K.A Mel B or scary spice), and finishing with two years at the highly acclaimed Rambert college. Training was hard work and we would take classes in various techniques over and 6-8 hour day which of course was ve
ry physically taxing.It was however a truly a rich and varied training and I thank all the
teachers who’s input, teaching and support helped me through that particular stage of my life.
I began my performance career in a sence by accident as I was employed by the Vienna ballet as lighting director for their wonderful version of swan lake. It was only when the second lead male had to leave that I was asked to step in and perform as the evil black swan. The tour covered 40 or so German towns and cities and really gave me wonderful taste of life on the road with a touring show.
I was not long back in the Uk when Stomp held open auditions to fill there second cast after the original 8 performers had taken the USA by storm and demand was high for the show. roughly 5000 people turned up at opening stages of the auditions which, over five days reduced the number to about 50 of us on the last day. They left us stewing over the weekend before giving us the call the following Monday.
“Mum, Dad, I am going on tour as a Stomp performer”. probably one of the best phone calls that I ever made.
We had six weeks to learn what was an insanely complex performance. It’s almost comical to think that all of the years of dance training stood for very little compared to the requirements of the show. Walking with 25kg oil drums attached to ski boots, drumming on water-filled kitchen sinks, swinging from scaffolding whilst drumming on road signs, the list of crazy routines goes on and all using rhythms and timings so intricate and precise that at one point, we had to count ins fives over a 4/4 time signature. What fun though.
I performed with Stomp for 18 months traveling the world and living the dream. It was five star all the way and a lifestyle which whilst amazing in so many ways. Paris, Genova, Naples, Milan, Berlin, Bremen, Munich, Frankfurt, Zurich, Vienna, New York, Sydney and more. The life was fast and furious and we were treated like rock stars everywhere we went. Every City knew that we were coming and everyone it seemed wanted to take us out for posh dinners or motor boat rides, ( although our meal with Mayor of Zurich gave most of the cast food poisoning). There were countless newspapers interviews and photo shoots, T.V appearances and to top it all, an 8 page spread in Italian Vogue magazine.
The lifestyle may have been fabulous, but we certainly earned it as the show was incredibly demanding on the body and mind. The cast was small as there are only 8 performers on stage and 4 understudies who would give us the occasional night off. It was quite normal for us to do 8 shows in a week. That would be every night except Mondays and two on a Saturday and Sunday. By the time I left the show, I had cracked ribs, torn hamstrings and split cartilage in my left knee. It was time for something kinder.
Upon my return to England, (and reality), I was keen to use the many new skills that I had acquired in some way and when I was asked by a friend to visit her school, I found a different use for my talents as it became obvious that some of the techniques used in the show were actually transferable, specifically the hands and feet body percussion which when simplified provided a very teachable dance
technique. Again this drew the attention of the press and in 2004 I was lucky enough to receive a wonderful review in the T.E.S.
It was by complete coincidence that Chris Smith the culture secretary at the time decided to add dance to the national curriculum. And so I found myself developing various workshops for schools, the most popular by being the hands and feet dance workshops, as they ticked the dance box for schools. And whilst teachers are certainly a versatile bunch, dance
is I imagine a tricky one unless a teacher has a specific enthusiasm or training.
I enjoy teaching immensely, especially as the impact that I have, is so clear and positive. As a performer, I found that you are quite removed from your audience, mostly not even seeing through the glare of the lights. And whilst the applause is a sound that never gets old, to watch a class of children go from 0 -10 in ability and confidence all in one go, is fulfilling in a way that is for me equal to the sound of an auditorium full of applause.