Saturday, 24 July 2010

From Student to Star : Duncan Lyle

Regular readers will know that every summer, I follow the progress of some of the Graduates from vocational schools around the world.  This year I am delighted to present Duncan Lyle, a Graduate of The Royal Ballet School.  Lyle has been awarded a contract to Boston Ballet Company, and I will be keeping you up to date on his progress once he starts work.
Duncan Lyle
Photograph :  Johan Persson

For now, I have asked him about his time at The Royal Ballet School, and what hopes he has for his career, and he has proved to be a wonderfully eloquent interviewee.

What are you most looking forward to about joining Boston Ballet & what do you know of the company ?
I think what I’m looking forward to most is ending my life as a student and finally embarking upon my professional life! I’m also really looking forward to living in a new city. I’ve read a bit about the company’s history and repertoire and I know that it has a very good reputation. After watching a few clips on YouTube I’m a little bit in awe of how high the standard of the company is!

Photograph :  Johan Persson

What will you remember about your 3 years at the Royal Ballet School & what will you take with you into your professional career ?
Cleanliness and quick footwork!! And Mr Peden’s infamous écarté!

It's a tough year for graduates - how did you find the process of looking for a job ?
Very stressful. People started getting jobs quite early this year and it wasn’t too long before I was one of only about five boys without a job. Auditioning is so hard because you never have any idea what directors are looking for or what different people see in you. I was rejected from one company simply because I wasn’t a good enough partner even though they hadn’t even seen me do pas de deux! I was very lucky to actually get a job with a company I really wanted. I originally was offered Boston Ballet 2, but a week later got a phone call saying a place had opened up in the corps de ballet of Boston Ballet! You just never know what’s going to happen.

Photograph :  Margaret Kokrhelj

How do you think Company life will differ from your student days ?
I think I’m going to have a lot more responsibility. I’m going to have to make sure my technique doesn’t slip without relying on corrections.

What are your best achievements as a student ?
I think the two things I am most proud of are my choreographic piece “Arène” for the Ursula Moreton Choreographic Award in 2009 which I hope to one day expand and the fact that I was chosen to go to the Assemblée Internationale in Toronto.

You performed Liam Scarlett's work Toccata at the RBS Matinee & in Toronto for a gala - how did you feel to be chosen to dance the piece and did you have input into the creative process ?
I was so excited when I first found I was going to Toronto! We all found out before we were officially told through students at other schools. We didn’t have any direct input into the creative process but I think we all had indirect input. With each of our pas de deux or solo sections, Liam gave us material which showed off our strengths. Liam is a man who really knows what he wants which is something I really admire in a choreographer. Liam knew Toccata inside out even when some of us didn’t which was amazing seeing as some choreographers don’t even remember what they’ve set the day before.

Photograph :  Johan Persson

Was this your first experience of the Royal Opera House main stage, as you've previously danced a few times in the smaller Linbury Studio ?
Yes, unfortunately this was the first year my year were given a piece on the main stage. The first rehearsal on stage was incredibly scary and overwhelming! We had just been performing Toccata in the Linbury to a recording so our minds were whizzing one hundred miles an hour trying to spread out the patterns, travel the choreography, deal with the bright lights coming from everywhere and listen to two pianos play a piano concerto (one playing the orchestral reduction and one playing the actual piano part) which was a different tempo than we were used to! By the actual performance everything went smoothly and dancing on a stage with such history and prestige for my family at the end of three years of intensive training was just exhilarating!

How does it feel to take part in the Défilé ?
I can’t even describe to you in words the feeling. I had no idea it was going to be so emotional for me but just before I stepped onto the stage for my part in the défilé I started crying. I think it’s not only the honour that comes with finally dancing the exciting third year section, but the fact that it was going to be the last time I was going to dance with all the wonderful, talented people in my year.

Which professional dancer/s do you most admire and why ?
The dancers I admire most are actually all of the dancers in my year who I have seen grow and evolve into wonderful artists and technicians.

Photograph :  Johan Persson

How do you feel about leaving your home in Australia and dancing in Boston ?
I love Melbourne more than any other city in the world and it is always hard saying goodbye but Melbourne will always be here and will always be home. I’ve heard nothing but glowingly positive things about Boston and I’m excited to start a new life there.

What do you think you will bring to the Company ?
My sense of humour and a lot of hard work!

How do you imagine your first day going ?
I’m sure I’m going to be very nervous but I honestly have no idea what to expect.

Any plans to choreograph - you have already made a couple of pieces whilst at RBS ?
Yes! Definitely. Choreography is a great passion of mine and I wish continue it throughout my career.

Most of your experience so far, in keeping with the RBS style, has been in classical works. How do you feel about the classical style as you have choreographed contemporary ballet ?
My strength as a dancer definitely lies in the classical idiom. I love the challenge of mastering the classical repertoire and I want to dance all of it! I’m not great in the contemporary style but I definitely want to improve in this area. Another reason I’m excited about working with Boston Ballet is that I am going to have to really push myself to improve in this area.

The Sleeping Beauty Pas de Cinq with Machi Moritaka

Which role would you most like to dance ?
I have two dream roles: the lead boy in Balanchine’s Serenade and Colas in Ashton’s La Fille mal Gardée. Once I have performed these roles I can retire!

What would you say to those students entering their Graduate year now ?
Keep your chin up. Third year is a seriously hard year full of disappointments but don’t get discouraged as it’s not going to help you. Remember that you’re dancing for yourself.

Where would you like to be this time next year ?
I am not sure. I have no expectations. I am going to take the next few years one day at a time, working as hard as possible each step of the way.


  1. It's so interesting to hear from dancers at different stages of their careers. And many of them, like this one, have a most engaging humility.

  2. Lovely article about Duncan. Wishing him all the best at Boston Ballet and whatever the future holds for him. His pictures are beautiful.

  3. Deborah Broide24 July 2010 at 17:07

    Wonderful interview.! Best of luck, Mr. Lyle. Although a New Yorker now for more than 30 years, I was born and bred in Boston (and still go up there many times a year). You'll love it! It's a wonderful city!

  4. Fabulous interview and pics!
    He seems like a talented and grounded young man!


  5. Lovely interview!

    Wishing Duncan all the best at Boston Ballet!

  6. A terrific interview and great pix. I just discovered your blog and look forward to following!

  7. Lovely images! Hope your weekend is great so far. xx

  8. Thanks for this!! It's very inspiring!


    Best wishes from one blogger to another,


  9. He sounds like such a great guy...Such a talent:) Those images are breathtaking:) Kisses my lovely and enjoy your day:)


    Ps: I hope you had a chance to enter my GIVEAWAY!!! It's the last day today:)

  10. Beautiful pictures & lovely interview!


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