Stoke Newington mover and shaker

Stoke Newington’s Bruno Guillore talks to Emma Bartholomew about being a professional contemporary dancer, appearing naked on stage and his unconventional behaviour.

Bruno, a member of the highly acclaimed Hofesh Shechter dance company - which completed a run at Sadler’s Wells theatre last month with their latest production Political Mother - does not fit your stereotypical image of a body-obsessed performer.

With cigarette in hand, he explains that it’s common for dancers to smoke.

“There’s the really organic healthy dancer who does Pilates and yoga, gets massages, goes to bed straight after the performance and turns up early to stretch, but I think it’s usual for some dancers to smoke, it’s connected to their artistic side,” said the 36-year old Frenchman who lives in the trendy Red Square.

“It’s a stressful job and people feel they need to let go,” he added.

He began dancing aged nine while living in the Ivory Coast: “I wanted to do Kung Fu and boxing, but my parents hated violence.

“One of their friends had a son who was taking ballet classes and they made me go with him, I hated it, it was tedious, but I was a very violent child and I think dancing channelled that.

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“It was a very good outlet - it’s very physical, you have to train every day to be a perfect dancer and you can express yourself as well,” added Bruno.

Born in Egypt, he lived in Senegal and the Ivory Coast, but when his father died when he was 14 his mother moved the family to Paris.

She enrolled him in the Conservatoire, a prestigious dance and music school, after hearing his ballet teacher saying he was talented.

He only agreed on the condition she bought him a surf board.

“The training at the Conservatoire was very rigid, they break your personality,” said Bruno.

“In the ballet section everyone has to be the same, dance the same, look the same, they don’t want to develop your individuality.

“It’s based on what you look like and I didn’t look like a ballet dancer - it’s about bone structure and articulation and you need to be tall.

“You are typecast, I don’t look like the prince in Cindarella so normally people like me do character parts like the joker.”

After failing his exams aged 18 he decided to specialise in modern dance at Geneva’s Junior Ballet, where he discovered a love for dance under the guidance of Beatriz Consuelo.

He met choreographer and musician Hofesh Shechter four years ago, who went on to set up his own dance company where Bruno now works.

He considers Hofesh one of his best friends and his dance style - based on everyday emotions and ideas and not just the abstract - suits Bruno.

“The movements are abstract, but it’s never that we do a section just to do a section, it always comes from something we want to make come across,” said Bruno.

“Political Mother is about the fact that we all need to be accepted, and that whoever we are, we all look for approval and love,” said Bruno.

“Dance can’t just be aesthetic for me, if it’s just that, it bores me to dance it and it bores me to watch it.”

The company tours half the year, for stretches of up to five weeks, which is tough for him and his family - his two-year old son Milo and girlfriend Ann.

They are on a world tour with Political Mother until December when they will embark on a regional tour of England.

Bruno prefers the creative aspect of working in the studio rather than the glory of performing on stage: “It’s looking for it, and when you find it and it really works, that’s an exciting time,” he said.

“You have much more freedom when you are in the studio and I will attempt things I wouldn’t on stage, because you have the freedom to fail - you don’t have that on stage because you have to make it the best you can,” he added.

Although Bruno is conservative in his materialistic desires, his behaviour is non-conformist: “We are expected to behave a certain way and be polite and unthreatening, and I like to ask certain questions and be quite rude,” he said.

“I’m very physical and I think some people get uncomfortable - I like to surprise even the people I’m dancing with,” he added.

“I like it that they don’t know what to expect, so I will do things differently - even if you just shake their hand, you can hold it slightly too long and it creates something awkward - it keeps the performance alive.”

Bruno once danced naked on stage in a Matsek production in Lisbon.

“Almost in every single piece Matsek makes, there’s someone naked,” said Bruno.

“It really fitted the piece, being totally exposed to each other.

“It was a way to express passion or sex without acting it, there was a wall rumbling behind.

“Some people probably wouldn’t enjoy it but I don’t have a problem with nudity, so for me it’s fine.”

Bruno compares his love of dance to an old relationship: “Sometimes it’s less passionate but there’s more love on it,” he said.

“It’s the difference between loving something for six months and loving it with all your heart and understanding how hard it is, and sometimes you hate it but at the same time you feel you can’t live without it.”