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Streetdance 3D - Richard Winsor interview

Richard Winsor in Streetdance 3D

Interview by Rob Carnevale

RICHARD Winsor talks about some of the challenges of appearing in Streetdance 3D, including tackling both ballet and streetdance and performing in front of Flawless and Diversity.

He also talks about why its important to put a positive spin on the UK’s youth scene, as well as why he’s off to Broadway next…

Q. What appealed to you about playing Tomas in Streetdance 3D?
Richard Winsor: Basically, it was his journey and the way it showed the breakdown of his stereotypes. What he initially saw in the other world [of streetdance] was ignorant really. So, the journey became about him joining that other world, enjoying it and really appreciating it by the end. It was also nice to have a romantic relationship as well with Nichola Burley’s character.

Q. You trained for three years as a classical ballet dancer about seven years ago…
Richard Winsor: Yes, I trained as a classical ballet dancer but never performed it professionally on stage. It never really grabbed me. But since then I’ve been working on all sorts of different things with Matthew Bourne, who does a lot of theatre, some of it darker, that’s tied to dancing and acting together, such as Edward Scissorhands. I’ve loved doing that.

Q. So what was more challenging for you to pick up? Ballet or streetdance?
Richard Winsor: Well, I had to spend some time getting my classical ballet technique back. It’s obvious when watching that it’s all about form, line and duty. But streetdance is very, very challenging to pick up. I’m used to picking up a lot of contemporary movement in other things that I’ve done but streetdance is so different… it’s so clipped, you can bang with other people and move with them. And also, Nichola and I really wanted to challenge ourselves, so we pushed ourselves as hard as we could to make it look authentic when we performed.

Q. So, what was it like having to then perform what you’d learned in front of people like Flawless and Diversity? Were you nervous at first?
Richard Winsor: [Laughs] You could say that but I just took it as a challenge and thought about it from my character’s perspective. Besides, he doesn’t have to initially be amazing at streedance… he can grow throughout the film. So, that worked for me. That said, the club scene where I strip off in front of Flawless was a bit daunting! You had Flawless battling in front of you, and you’re doing ballet jumps… the directors then said: “Right, keep doing that and now riff off your shirt!” It was pretty intimidating to have to give that a go with 250 extras also watching! But it turned out to be great fun as well. Everybody had a laugh and were very encouraging.

Q. It does seem like a film in which everyone got on and had a good time…
Richard Winsor: Absolutely, and it was also nice that Nichola and I didn’t have to work on our romantic stuff. We had a nice chemistry between us. We met in rehearsal and developed a nice rapport between us from the start. And that kept growing because of the nature of the work we did together, being partners in a lot of the dance stuff. But that was always the plan… we wanted to make them look spontaneous and authentic.

Q. Is it a relief when you meet a co-star for the first time and realise that you have a bond straight away?
Richard Winsor: It is such a relief because the last thing you want is being shoved with someone who you want to get away from. Nichola’s really lovely, she’s a lovely actress and we really got on well.

Q. How much does your body ache at the end of a shoot like Streetdance? I imagine it’s very physically demanding…
Richard Winsor: It does ache a lot. Filming dance is very different to doing it on stage. On stage, you have a two and a half hour evening performance, before which you warm up and then do it. But on film you have to be prepped all day. You have to keep your body limbered up and moving, as well as your mind active for the scenes and the character stuff. So, you really have to keep yourself motivated during the day. And then you gut up for 20 or 30 minutes to do a 30 second piece of movement before they have to re-set the camera. You can easily injure yourself if you don’t maintain focus. And there were a lot of aching necks, tight backs and muscles… although fortunately we had some good physicians looking after us as well.

Q. Did the fact that it was filmed in 3D present any unique challenges for the way you danced?
Richard Winsor: I’ve been asked that a lot but it didn’t actually present any unique challenges. I want to say that it did but I think the choreography leant itself to the 3D process… the formations we were in, transferring forward and back to change positions in order to give viewers an idea of the depth of the scene. So, movement-wise, we didn’t have to think about it too much at all.

Q. How was acting alongside Charlotte Rampling?
Richard Winsor: That was one of the things that really got me excited about dong the film in the first place. She’s such a legend – absolutely beautiful; She has such charisma and presence. The way she delivered her lines was so spontaneous and captivating and it was fantastic to be a part of that with her. I learned so much from her.

Q. Did you get to hang out off-set?
Richard Winsor: We got on really well. She kind of knew of some of the work I’d done before, which was really cool. And I, of course, knew of the films she’s done; she’s had such a huge and distinguished career. But she knew of Matthew Bourne’s work, so that was really nice for me. But she really takes on the character [Helena] she plays. She’s caring but also a very strong woman. And she does it all so fantastically well.

Q. In making Streetdance, the producers said they wanted to get away from the negative portrayal of the UK youth scene. How important was that to you?
Richard Winsor: It was very important to me as well. Initially, when I first read the script it was more about portraying the dance aspects of it and breaking down the stereotypes of dance. But as you went on, we did think more and more about the stereotypes of today, whether they be class-based or focused towards hoody culture or the drugs scene. But this film shows that there are hundreds of people out there who want to express themselves and their talent, and that they work really had to perfect it.

Something like streedance is giving them an opportunity to break that stereotype of ‘dangerous youths on the streets of London’. That’s a very small minority of what London’s about. Similarly, on the other side, there’s the view that ballet is an elitist art form… people think it’s just for rich, wealthy artistic types and can’t be enjoyed by the masses. But it shows that they are just as normal and real as everyone else. So yeah, it is important for a film like this to breakdown stereotypes and show the other side of art forms.

Q. How do you think Streetdance compares to its American counterparts, such as Step Up and Stomp The Yard? Or do you see it more of an homage to classics such as Footloose?
Richard Winsor: Well, it’s got all those things for sure but I also think it’s very unique in that it feels like it’s also using ballet in an absolute pure form in London and it’s a very British film. If I’m honest, I think it’s better than those American films because I’m proud of being British and I feel very patriotic. But I do also love the old films like Saturday Night Fever and Footloose, so for me to be in the first kind of British dance film like those, but for the modern era, is a real privilege. I used to grow up watching John Travolta and Patrick Swayze… they got me into dance in the first place. So, it’s a huge honour to be able to emulate them in a film like this.

Q. What does Streetdance mean for your career? Will you be continuing to spend time between the stage and film now?
Richard Winsor: Absolutely and I’ve got all sorts of exciting things coming up. I’m going to Broadway with another show from Matthew Bourne… he’s taking Swan Lake back there from mid-September to the end of October. It’s the first time it’s been on Broadway for about 10-15 years. It won Tony awards the last time it was there. So, I’ll be taking the lead for that. And I also have a number of other things we’re talking about, whicih are all in the pipeline. There’s even talks about a Streetdance 2 in the future, although I’m not sure exactly where they are with that or what the plan is.

Q. Will that be your first time on Broadway?
Richard Winsor: Yeah, so it’s going to be very exciting. I’ve performed in LA quite a lot with numerous shows, such as Edward Scissorhands, and I’ve done quite a few things in Brooklyn at a placed called the Brooklyn Academy of Music and Arts. But that’s considered Off-Broadway. So, hopefully it’s going to be well received. I’m very much looking forward to that experience.