Ballet shoes always the perfect fit for aspiring choreographer
Loughlan Prior, pictured, 23, is loving his job, but is also branching out to explore other aspects of the dance world.
Born in Melbourne, Loughlan started dancing at a young age. “I was a very hyperactive child, I have to say, so my mum wanted to channel my energy and I think that’s why I got into dancing,” says Loughlan.
Ballet was not the first choice. His dad took him to football but he cried, so his mum suggested dancing instead.
“It’s quite funny, because my mum and actually everyone is really sporty and I was kind of the odd one out.
“Mum would take the girls to football or netball practice, rolling around in the mud while I was wearing ballet shoes.”
Loughlan started at the local ballet school. “It was always my passion and I would teach the other girls things,” he says.
Long-time friend Ashlee Hughes has known Loughlan since primary school. She says he has always been a dancer in every aspect of his life, walking down the street, or at home.
“He was the one who introduced me to classical music … ‘I’d be like, why don’t we put on whatever was popular in the 90s, and he’s like, no, I feel we should be listening to Vivaldi.”
Loughlan’s passion for being on stage was evident at a young age. Ashlee says that, once when she did not want to go on stage, Loughlan just did not understand. “He was like, Ashlee, the show must go on.”
When he was 13 his ballet teacher suggested he audition for the Victorian College of the Arts in Melbourne.
“I had to catch the bus for an hour and a half into the city every day. That was really hard. I don’t actually know how I did it for six years, travelling every day.”
From there, Loughlan got into Melbourne University but decided to keep dancing, and auditioned for dance schools in Europe and New Zealand.
“I got into a few in Europe but I decided to come here because it was closer. Europe was a bit daunting, being away from home for the first time.”
Loughlan attended the New Zealand School of Dance in Wellington and says it opened his eyes to contemporary dance and choreography.
“I guess when you’re younger, doing more ballet-educated programmes, you are channeling one style and focused on just one aspect of the dance spectrum.”
Coming to New Zealand and living away from home gave Loughlan his independence and he was introduced to freer types of dance.
“It’s really important to have a good balance of both [classical and contemporary] and that’s also where I started to get interested in choreography.”
In his third year at the New Zealand School of Dance he was seconded to the Royal New Zealand Ballet’s Tutus on Tour season.
Then Loughlan joined the company on their tour of Romeo and Juliet to China.
His secondment to the Royal New Zealand Ballet led to a full-time contract, and now he is in his third year with the company.
One of Loughlan’s career highlights has been working with choreographer Cameron McMillian on the piece Satisfied with Great Success in 2011.
“That’s also where I started to get interested in my own choreography and realised ‘yeah I can do this’. It gave me the confidence to explore my own way of moving and realize a new way of creating.”
His first professional venture as a choreographer was creating a solo for the New Zealand School of Dance’s graduation season.
He has also created a solo for fellow Royal New Zealand Ballet dancer Abigail Boyle for her role as ambassador for New Zealand’s Got Talent.
This is Loughlan’s first year teaching his works and he says he is learning how to translate his movements. “It’s one thing to create something, but it’s another to know how to transpose that on to someone else.”
This is something that his colleague, Royal New Zealand Ballet dancer Lucy Balfour, picked up on when he worked with her this year. “He moves in his own unique way, and to get a bunch of dancers to move like him is really hard, but he had the vocabulary and thoughts behind it and really coached us to move like him.”
She still giggles about a funny moment between the pair. “In rehearsals, he had to do this movement with me where he would drag me from my armpits, and every time he did it, it would make this armpit fart noise.
“That happened a few times on stage, and though we had laughed about it in rehearsals, we couldn’t really do that on stage, so we’d end off just getting off into the wings and cracking up.”
Outside of dancing, Loughlan likes to sketch, draw and paint, which he says helps him with his choreography.
Loughlan’s advice for young dancers is to be true to who they are. “When you’re dancing, you don’t just want to see a robot out there, you want to see a person. That’s how you connect and the audience can feel something.”
Photos: LOUISE BINNS, top two; MIRIAM EMERSON, photo at left