Adam Cooper is, perhaps, best known for his role as the Swan in Matthew Bourne's stunning reworking of the classic ballet, Swan Lake. But there's much more to his career than that, as Theatrenow found when we talked to him on the eve of his appearance in the ballet version of The Wind in the Willows at the Royal Opera House's Linbury Studio Theatre.
What role are you playing in The Wind in the Willows? "I'm playing Badger — so I have another animal part!"
You're performing at the Linbury, which people probably assume, as it's a studio, is quite small, but it's actually got plenty of room for dance. "It's an interesting combination, as a space. The stage is actually quite big, and though we have a lot of set, and the orchestra is also on stage — on each side — there's still a lot of space for us to dance in. On the other hand, because it is a studio, there's an intimate feel to it, and the audience are much closer to you than in the main auditorium in the Royal Opera House."
The piece is only on for nine performances. Did you have much of a rehearsal period for it? "Yes, we had eight weeks! We also had a room in the Royal Opera House and our set and props for a lot of the rehearsal time. Those of us in the cast are all freelance performers, so we were able to make the time for the rehearsals, and as a result I think the piece is in very good shape." Have you danced for choreographer William Tuckett before? "Lots of times! We joined the Royal Ballet within a year of each other, so we know each other well, and I've danced in a variety of his pieces, including two dance films for Channel 4. He's a very creative director and choreographer."
As a freelance dancer rather than part of a big company like the Royal Ballet, you can obviously choose the direction your work goes in, and earlier this year you starred in a musical, On Your Toes, in Leicester. Would you like to do more musical theatre? "I really enjoyed doing On Your Toes, which in contrast to Wind in the Willows we put together in three-and-a-half weeks.
"The great thing about On Your Toes was that I was able to put all my various training as a performer to good use. I'm obviously known as a dancer, but I've always enjoyed singing and had singing lessons throughout my dancing career, so being able to sing, act and dance was wonderful. And just as importantly, I choreographed the dance numbers, which was very rewarding."
You've also choreographed a Swedish musical this year? "Yes, Garbo — The Musical. Fortunately the original script was in English, so I knew what was going on, and anyway the Swedes all seem to speak excellent English!"
How do you see your musicals career developing? "In the immediate term I hope we can bring On Your Toes into London in 2003, but I'd love to do more shows. I left the Royal Ballet to branch out into different areas, and musicals are one I'm very keen on.
"On one level, Matthew Bourne, with whom I worked on Swan Lake and Cinderella, has recently paved the way by going from ballet to shows like South Pacific and My Fair Lady, but you have to remember that there's actually a long tradition of ballet-trained choreographers in American musicals — Jerome Robbins and Agnes de Mille — and in Britain Gillian Lynne, who has a very strong ballet background, has been very successful as a West End choreographer. So, although I still enjoy ballet I'd love to move in the direction of more work on performing and choreographing in the West End."
The Wind in the Willows is at the Linbury Studio Theatre at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, from Dec. 10 to 22.