From Jamaica to Sadler’s Wells: one dancer’s epic journey.
Keenan Fletcher came to Glasgow from Jamaica to pursue his dance dream at RCS. Now a graduate, he’s secured a job with one of the world’s top companies, Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures. He speaks to Linda Robertson about taking his next step forward.
Keenan Fletcher cuts a commanding figure as he slices through the air, sharp of limb, with steely focus. As he moves across the stage, his gaze fixes on the audience, and it appears there’s a strength that powers him on the inside too.
His inner drive has taken him from his home in Jamaica to Glasgow, to the BA Modern Ballet programme at RCS, where he’s delivering a confident performance in the annual graduation show.
“There weren’t many places to study strict ballet in Jamaica. I went to a dance school that had ballet classes two, sometimes three, days a week.”
When I arrived in Glasgow, I went in to seven hours of dancing every day – I was sore for weeks! Keenan Fletcher
And now, in just six weeks’ time, he’ll walk straight from his studies into a position in one of the world’s leading dance companies – Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures – where he’ll spend 18 months touring the UK and internationally in a new production of Bourne’s iconic Swan Lake.
A few weeks after the graduation showcase, we catch up in the busy RCS café bar and Keenan still can’t believe his next move: “It’s so exciting to be joining New Adventures, it still hasn’t sunk in. It’s huge to get this kind of opportunity.”
We recall a chat exactly a year ago, in the same spot, when he was preparing to enter his final year. He had said “ballet is a constant work in progress and this year I’m going to push as hard as I can”.
He kept his word.
THIRD YEAR HAS BEEN INTENSE BUT IT HAS SHOWN ME THAT HARD WORK PAYS OFF AND IT GETS YOU TO A CERTAIN PLACE.
The New Adventures appointment came after a two-day audition process in London in February this year. So how was it to dance for world-renowned choreographer Matthew Bourne?
“It was quite daunting but it didn’t put me on edge. I was like, ‘okay, this is what I have to give’. The rep was really fun, I love his quality of movement, it’s so expressive. It was a great experience and that’s what I try to take from auditions – you learn from the audition process, especially how to work under pressure.”
“Our teachers at RCS tell us to be happy with what we have to give and know that it’s enough. I knew I’d definitely try my best but if it wasn’t my time, it wasn’t my time … but thankfully it was!”
The good news came a few weeks after the audition: “I woke up one morning and saw I had an email from Matthew Bourne. I had a mini freak-out. It was just… wow,” he laughs.
Swan Lake opened in the autumn and flew north to Edinburgh and Aberdeen with dates in Glasgow in March 2019.
“We also have eight weeks at Sadler’s Wells in London so that should be something,” smiles Keenan.
Rehearsing and touring with Scottish Ballet in third year opened his eyes to life with a professional company. Keenan and fellow final year students began the new term at Scottish Ballet’s home at Tramway, working on the company’s autumn season, then Keenan joined The Nutcracker tour.
“It was an amazing opportunity and we benefited immensely from it. It was really interesting to see how a company works and it gave me an insight into professional practice. I was on stage in Newcastle which was a great experience, especially performing for such a big audience.”
As he gathers up his things before he sets off to the studio to put in an extra few hours, Keenan says it doesn’t feel like a goodbye to RCS.
“I’m going to miss it – but it won’t be for long. I’m planning to have a base in London and Glasgow so it doesn’t really feel like I’m leaving. I have friends here who are going in to third year so I’ll be back to visit them and the ballet staff. Glasgow is a home for me now.”
I’M GOING TO TAKE AWAY SO MANY THINGS FROM MY TIME AT RCS – BEING HERE HAS REALLY SHAPED WHO I AM.
A new adventure awaits…