Ex-Royal Ballet dancer James Taylor reflects on a life of dancing and teaching


8 August 2018

Throughout his career, James Taylor performed every male role in Swan Lake and The Nutcracker (except Drosselmeyer). He’s danced on stages around the world as a member of the Royal Ballet, National Ballet of Canada, and Sydney Dance Company.

As a teacher, James is excited to pass down his inside-out knowledge of classical ballet to students young and old. Aside from teaching at our drop-in Ballet classes, James leads our new eight-week Ballet Repertoire short course, a great opportunity for immediate to advanced level dancers to learn choreography from world-famous ballets such as Giselle and Sleeping Beauty.

We talked to him about why he decided to pursue ballet, his on-stage highlights and his advice for budding dancers.


Tell me about your background in ballet. Where did you train and why did you decide to pursue it?

I started learning classical ballet when, as a four-year-old, I was taken to watch my older sister in her dance recital classes. Something was ignited in my young brain and after pestering my parents for a while, they agreed to let me start learning ballet too.

My teacher recognised something in me and suggested that I audition for the Royal Ballet School, so at eight-years-old, I was driven to London twice a week to study as a Junior Associate. I went on to study at White Lodge, as shown in Billy Elliot, and then the Royal Ballet Upper School, where on the first day of my graduate year, I was offered a contract with the Royal Ballet by Dame Merle Park.

What are some highlights from your ballet career?

Dancing for the Queen’s 60th Birthday at the Royal Opera House in London is definitely a big highlight for me. Also dancing the role of Apollo and travelling the world as a professional dancer.

What are your favourite memories from the stage?

Apollo and Theme and Variations by George Balanchine and working with William Forsythe on several works when I was with The National Ballet of Canada. Both these choreographers progressed traditional ballet ideas and presented work that really challenges the brain as well as the body.

What is one piece of advice you've learned throughout the years as a dancer?

Listen to your teachers but also think for yourself. Perfecting steps takes time, so work hard and be patient.

What can students expect from your Ballet Repertoire course?

I will be teaching repertoire from the major classical ballets, such as Swan LakeSleeping Beauty and Giselle. It will be a chance to put everything learned in regular ballet classes into traditionally choreographed solos and group works.

What do you enjoy most from teaching ballet?

The best thing about teaching ballet is passing on everything that was taught to me and watching students progress.

James teaches our eight-week Ballet Repertoire short course.

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