The dancer, Nat Sweeney, talks Team Cheryl, Billy Elliot and wearing the wrong shoes
Nat Sweeney is one eighth of the dance group Brothers of Dance that made it through to the semi-finals of TV’s Greatest Dancer on Team Cheryl. While the group was put together by choreographer Dane Bates cherry-picking dancers from across the country, Nat is from right here in Brum and studies at Elmhurst School of Dance in Edgbaston.
We’ve watched the group’s moving first audition which left the judges agog and the audience voting en masse approximately 15 times and counting. Not that we’re experts, but it’s just a gorgeous piece of dance – athletic, strong, soft and touching all rolled into three beautiful minutes. (Nat’s the one in the red jumper in case you didn’t know!)
Also, amazingly it was the first time the group had performed together. Obviously, they’d trained together, but never performed. Nat says: “I was taking classes with Dane outside of Elmhurst and he messaged a few of his students and it all came together. It was really fun.” Dane says he selected the boys because they are all incredible dancers and that from the very first rehearsal they had a ‘unique connection’. The group’s versatility is staggering encompassing contemporary, ballet, jazz, commercial and acro.
UP IN THE AIR
As a male, Nat isn’t used to being lifted but on Greatest Dancer he had to get used to often being the one in the air. He said: “Being a boy I’ve never been lifted. I was usually the one lifting a girl, so it was totally new to me. At first, I was scared. I thought I was going to get dropped and I nearly was a few times!”
While Nat doesn’t get nervous, once on Team Cheryl the challenges were really testing with only a couple of days to hone each routine. “Dancing with the other boys was so energetic and we just bounced off each other,” he said. “I’m sad it’s over, but I’ve made friends for life.” He’s full of praise for Cheryl too who he says was the ‘sweetest and really involved’.
As a young child it’ll come as no surprise that Nat was a keen gymnast before he focused on dance. The first time he auditioned for anything was to bag his place at Elmhurst. He remembers: “I didn’t have the right shoes and hadn’t really done ballet before.” The school saw past the dodgy shoes, appreciating his talent and potential and has been instrumental in Nat’s development. He credits the school with instilling a work ethic that he’ll take with him through life. He says: “Work hard and always be on time.”
The connections the school has with partners such Birmingham Royal Ballet and Birmingham Hippodrome have been crucial, resulting in experiences the students might not have ordinarily. One of Nat’s heroes is BRB dancer Brandon Lawrence. The school is able to attract top talent to work with students such as world-class choreographer Wayne McGregor who Nat enjoyed a workshop with. Juggling dance with academic studies hasn’t been an issue for Nat. He says it’s balanced: “Academic lessons provide a break throughout the day. A time to rest the body.”
Nat describes a run playing Billy Elliot aged 14 and 15 as ‘the best experience of my life’. He relished performing in front of thousands of people every day and says: “I just love dancing and performing.” In terms of what’s next, Nat just says he wants to grab every opportunity with both hands and run with it. If an opportunity proves a mistake he’ll be happy he gave it a whirl and put it down to experience. His ultimate goal is simply to ‘perform forever’.