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Talking with Joseph Poulton

Joseph Poulton was in the very first cohort of students that we took onto our Centre for Advanced Training Programme (CAT) back in 2004.

Joseph Poulton. Photo Steve Scholfield.

He graduated in 2008 and went on to complete his training at Central School of Ballet. He has been dancing with Ballet Black for the past 2 years and we have just found out that he will be playing the role of Mr Mistoffelees in the UK tour of Cats.

Academy Manager, Hannah Kirkpatrick, caught up with him to hear all his news...

You recently performed with Ballet Black at the Stanley & Audrey Burton Theatre, what was that like?

So amazing. I have been training and affiliated with Northern Ballet for almost ten years so to perform for my old teachers and Northern Ballet staff was fantastic. I loved peeping in at the Academy students between rehearsals and really made me nostalgic about my time growing up here. Needless to say it was like returning home (although to a snazzier building)!

How have you found your time working with Ballet Black and what will you take with you from this experience?

It's been very rewarding and full on. I literally graduated from Central and started the day after with Martin Lawrance (choreographer) on a piece in which he created several pas de deux and solos on me! I learnt a lot from the broad, expansive repertoire and found by the end of my season I was being featured in more principal roles! One thing I will take away is to work for yourself. You're only as good as your last show!

Did you always want to go into musical theatre?

Yes. I have always had passion for musicals. As a kid I was always exposed to old MGM musicals such as Hello Dolly and Singin' in the Rain. I knew in my 3rd year at Central after getting top marks in my musical theatre assessment that I was serious about pursuing this avenue at some point in my career, and Cats is the perfect musical for a transition from dancer to triple threat.

What was your audition like for Cats?

Well rather bizarre at first. They found me through an agency and through scouting from several resources. Because of my commitments with Ballet Black it was a private audition with one other boy. They made it so relaxing and fun and was almost like a masterclass in some of the routines (classical and jazz) from the show.

The final round was nerve wracking. All the hopeful Mungojerries, Mistoffelees and Victorias where there and had to perform their routine in front of Gillian Lynne, the show's original choreographer (and creator of A Simple Man for Northern Ballet -Ed)! When I sang my solo she even stood up and clapped for me and said I was a wonderful dancer and singer and could go into Phantom [of the Opera] in a week! That I will always remember forever!

How did you feel when you found out that you had got the part?

It was the most overwhelming feeling; I found out on the same day! I got a missed call from the casting agent just two hours after my audition. I rang them back as soon as possible. When they told me Gillian wanted me for the part of Mistoffelees I broke down in tears I was so happy! It was rather funny because I was in the middle of theatre foyer about to watch Wicked! Everyone thought I was crazy, but I didn't care!

Is it true that you are the first black dancer to play Mr Mistoffelees?

So rumour has it. I feel proud to be. Recently when I got my costume fitted the production team where very excited about it all. How they where going to do my makeup. Its good to mix things up a bit. I feel like I am making musical theatre history!

What are your plans for the future? Are there any other companies or productions you would like to dance in?

I always had my career planned out and never thought I'd be leaving a classical company midway through a season. So for now I am taking it one page at a time. I would love to go into Matthew Bourne's company, New Adventures, or dance in America  either in a Balanchine company or a musical such as Newsies or Chorus Line on Broadway. Apart from that my life long dream to create a narrative ballet for Northern Ballet is still there!

How do you feel you time at Northern Ballet Academy changed you, helped you in your chosen career?

I feel the excellence of the teaching faculty has helped me to become a more diverse and focused dancer - regardless of what discipline I do. I also felt the staff treated all forms of dance with the same respect so encouraged people to find a suitable pathway to a career for them.

How will you be spending Christmas this year?

I am actually not sure, I will be out of work for short while so probably a holiday job whilst juggling taking ballet and jazz classes to make sure I am in shape for January. But first off to York to see family.

What are you New Year's resolutions?

I never make any as I always break them. But I have good feeling 2013 will be a good one. Bring it on..!