Matthew Bourne

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This article is about the chorerographer. For the British jazz musician, see Matthew Bourne (musician). For the professional wrestler, see Matt Osborne.
Sir Matthew Bourne
Matthew Bourne Edward Scissorhands Melbourne 2006-11-28.jpg
Melbourne, 2006
Born (1960-01-13) 13 January 1960 (age 56)
Walthamstow, London, England
Occupation Theatre director, choreographer, dancer
Years active 1985 - Present

Sir Matthew Christopher Bourne OBE (born 13 January 1960) is an English choreographer. His work includes contemporary dance and dance theatre. He has received multiple awards and award nominations, including the Laurence Olivier Award, Tony Award and Drama Desk Award, and he has also received several Honorary Doctorates of Arts from UK universities. Bourne was knighted in the 2016 New Year Honours for services to dance.[1]


Matthew Bourne was born in Hackney, London, England, in 1960. He went to William Fitt and Sir George Monoux School in Walthamstow, London. From the ages of 14 to 16 he was an avid autograph hunter, attending most West End opening nights and waiting outside Stage Doors and top London hotels. In 1978 he left full-time education and worked in various jobs at the BBC (filing clerk), Keith Prowse Theatre Agents (selling theatre tickets) and The National Theatre (bookshop and ushering). Despite having never done a dance class, he ran and directed various amateur Dance Companies in his teenage years. In 1982 he enrolled at the Laban Centre for Movement and Dance (now Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance) in Deptford, southeast London, where he was awarded a BA in Dance Theatre. For his final year (1986) he danced with the Laban Centre's Transitions Dance Company. After graduation he formed the dance company, Adventures in Motion Pictures (AMP), with fellow directors, and friends, Emma Gladstone and David Massingham. Bourne has worked as a professional choreographer and director since 1987, becoming sole artistic director of AMP in 1991 and New Adventures in 2002. He now lives in Islington, London and Brighton, East Sussex.


Matthew Bourne is the only British director to have won the Best Direction of a Musical and Best Choreography. He has been said to be the most audience-conscious artist. He does not go into detail about his works because he wants the audience to have their own interpretations.

Bourne started training as a dancer at the relatively late age of 22. He studied Dance Theatre and Choreography at Laban, graduating in 1985 but spending a further year with the college's performance company Transitions. He danced professionally for 14 years, creating many roles in his own work. In 1999 he gave his final performance, playing The Private Secretary in the Broadway production of Swan Lake.

Adventures in Motion Pictures[edit]

Matthew Bourne was the artistic director of his first company, Adventures in Motion Pictures, from 1987 until 2002. During those 15 years AMP became the UK's most innovative and popular dance/theatre company, creating an enormous new audience for dance with its groundbreaking work both at home and internationally (works include: Spitfire, The Infernal Galop, Town and Country, Deadly Serious, Nutcracker!, Highland Fling, Edward Scissorhands, Swan Lake, Cinderella and The Car Man).

New Adventures[edit]

In 2002 Bourne launched his latest company, New Adventures, with two highly successful productions. Play Without Words premiered as part of the National Theatre's Transformations Season and went on to win Best Entertainment and Choreography at that year's Olivier Awards. It then embarked on a World Tour and premiered in New York, Los Angeles and Moscow in 2005. Bourne's revised Nutcracker! also premiered at Sadler's Wells in 2002 and became an instant popular hit with audiences and critics, returning the following year for a second sell-out season. It became the first ballet to be screened by BBC1 in over 20 years and then also embarked on a world tour.

Bourne's Highland Fling and 10th Anniversary production of Swan Lake have also reached new audiences through extensive International touring, including seasons in Asia, Australia, Russia, Europe and the USA. New Adventures has continued to revive Bourne's work, including The Car Man in 2007 and Nutcracker! in 2008.

In 2005, New Adventures presented Matthew Bourne's production of Edward Scissorhands, based on Tim Burton's classic film, received its world premiere at Sadlers Wells Theatre. After breaking box office records over an 11-week season, the production toured the UK, before international debuts in Asia and a 6-month tour of the USA. The success of New Adventures relationship with Sadler's Wells Theatre was recognised in 2006 by the invitation to become Resident Company. Matthew Bourne is also a Resident Artist at Sadlers Wells.

Bourne has also created choreography for several major revivals of classic musicals including Cameron Mackintosh's productions of Oliver! (1994) and My Fair Lady (Olivier Award 2002) as well as the National Theatre's revival of South Pacific (2001). In 2004 Bourne Co-Directed (with Richard Eyre) and Choreographed (with Stephen Mear) the West End and Broadway hit musical Mary Poppins, for which he won an Olivier Award for Best Theatre Choreographer.

He has collaborated on projects with leading directors, Trevor Nunn, Richard Eyre, Sam Mendes, Yukio Ninagawa and John Caird and has created dances and roles for such wide-ranging performers as Jonathan Pryce, Lynn Seymour, Dawn French, Adam Cooper, Julie Walters, Rowan Atkinson and Michael Sheen.

His film work includes television productions of his stage work including Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake (Emmy nomination), The Car Man and Nutcracker! and original work such as the John Betjamin-inspired Late Flowering Lust with Sir Nigel Hawthorne and his own AMP Company in 1993.

Bourne was the subject of a South Bank Show in 1997 and in 1999 he presented Channel 4's Dance 4 Series. The channel 4 documentary Bourne To Dance, which he also presented, was broadcast on Christmas Day 2001. His production of Swan Lake is featured in Stephen Daldry's hit film Billy Elliot.

In 2007 Bourne was contemplating a gay version of Romeo and Juliet. Despite the success of his Swan Lake, in which he altered the traditional story to be about a human male falling in love with a male swan, Bourne acknowledged the challenge of a gay Romeo and Juliet. "It's more to do with dancing than with sexuality," he said "A male dancer, whether gay or straight, fits into a relationship with a female partner very happily. It's something you're taught, and it fits, it feels right, the lifting and all that stuff. Getting away from that, making a convincing love duet, a romantic, sexual duet, for two men that is comfortable to do and comfortable to watch–I don't know if you can. I've never seen it done."[2]

Dorian Gray, based on Oscar Wilde’s gothic masterpiece, premiered at the 2008 Edinburgh Festival, and became the most successful dance production in the Festival’s 62-year history. Later in 2008 he co-directed and choreographed Cameron Mackintosh's latest revival of Oliver! with Rowan Atkinson, which is currently playing at London's Drury Lane Theatre. In 2010, New Adventures Performed an adaptation of William Golding's Lord of the Flies, it was put together in 3 weeks of rehearsing, and was performed in The Theatre Royal in Glasgow.

Matthew Bourne has twice been nominated as Best Director at the Olivier Awards, and his achievements in choreography have been recognised with over 30 international awards, including the Evening Standard Award, The South Bank Show Award, Time Out Award and the Astaire Award for Dance on Broadway. In the 2001 New Years Honours, Bourne was awarded an OBE for Services to Dance and in 2003 he was the recipient of the Hamburg Shakespeare Prize for the Arts. In 2007 he was awarded Honorary Doctorates from Leicester, Bedford and the Open Universities. In 2008 he was the recipient of a Special Award from the TMA (Theatrical Managers Association) for services to UK touring.


Re:Bourne, the charitable arm of New Adventures, invests in the future of dance and is a crucial mechanism for finding and nurturing the next generation of dancers, choreographers and audiences.

Since its establishment in 2008, Re:Bourne has delivered over 700 workshops to more than 18,000 young people across the United Kingdom. In addition, it has delivered over 25 bespoke projects in partnership with venues, dance companies and community organisations.

Over the past 18 months Re:Bourne has also delivered projects in Japan and Taiwan. In the Autumn of 2013, Sleeping Beauty performed across North America accompanied by ‘curtain raiser’ performances by young people created by Re:Bourne.

Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures is included in all the UK national performing arts examinations, including at BTEC, GCSE and A level. Re:Bourne works closely with teachers to enliven the curriculum and get the best outcomes for young people studying dance and the performing arts.

James Mackenzie-Blackman joined the charity as its Executive Director and CEO in February 2012. Since then Re:Bourne has substantially expanded its activity, reach and turnover.

All of Re:Bourne’s activities are delivered by New Adventures dancers. Re:Bourne supports the development of dancers as teachers and leaders, building skills that are helpful to their future careers with and beyond New Adventures. Re:Bourne manages the New Adventures Choreographer Award for emerging talent, and managed the performance at Sadler’s Wells of the work of the inaugural award recipient, James Cousins.

In December 2012 Arts Council England invested over £900,000 in Re:Bourne to tour Lord of the Flies to 13 cities across the UK. The project engaged 5,620 young people in participatory dance activity, many for the first time, and 260 young people as performers. It delivered 80 performances, reaching some 50,000 people as audiences.


Awards and nominations[edit]

  • 1996 Time Out Special Award
  • 1996 Southbank Show Award
  • 1996 Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Dance Production - Swan Lake
  • 1997 Honorary Fellow - The Laban Centre
  • 1999 Astaire Award - Special Award for Direction, Choreography and Concept of Swan Lake
  • 1999 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Director of a Musical – Swan Lake
  • 1999 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Choreography – Swan Lake
  • 1999 Tony Award Best Choreography – Swan Lake
  • 1999 Tony Award Best Direction of a Musical – Swan Lake
  • 2000 Evening Standard Award for Musical Event – The Car Man
  • 2001 Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for Services to Dance
  • 2003 Hamburg Shakespeare Prize For The Arts - Only the second recipient from the dance world in over 50 years. The other being the legendary ballerina, Dame Margot Fonteyn.
  • 2005 Laurence Olivier Award for Best Original Choreography – Mary Poppins
  • 2007 Drama Desk Award Unique Theatrical Experience – Edward Scissorhands
  • 2007 Theatre Managers Special Award (TMA) for Individual Achievement - For services to Dance Touring and Audience Development
  • 2007 Honorary Doctor of Arts from De Montfort University, Leicester.
  • 2010 Honorary Doctor of Arts from Plymouth University.
  • 2010 The British Inspiration Award - Winner in Arts Category
  • 2010 Honorary Doctorate - Plymouth University
  • 2011 Honorary Doctorate - Kingston University
  • 2011 Honorary Doctorate - Roehampton University
  • 2011 Companion - Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance
  • 2012 LIPA Companion (Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts) Presented by Sir Paul McCartney
  • 2013 De Valois Award for Outstanding Achievement - National Dance Awards
  • 2013 Dance Film Association 'Dance in Focus' Award - given for 'persistence of vision, drive and artistry'
  • 2014 The Sir George Monoux Founders Award - Presented at the Dedication Ceremony of The Matthew Bourne Theatre, Monoux College, Walthamstow, London
  • 2015 Primio Ravenna Festical - Ravenna Festival Highest Honour - Previous recipients include Rostropovich, Ennio Morricone, Riccardo Muti and Pierre Boulez
  • 2015 The UK Theatre Award for Outstanding Contribution to British Theatre


  • 2010 Laurence Olivier Award for Best Theatre Choreography – Oliver!
  • 2000 Laurence Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in Dance – The Car Man
  • 2005 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Director of a Musical – Play Without Words
  • 2005 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Choreography – Play Without Words
  • 2007 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Choreography – Edward Scissorhands
  • 2007 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Choreography – Mary Poppins
  • 2007 Tony Award Best Choreography – Mary Poppins


  1. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 61450. p. N2. 30 December 2015.
  2. ^ "Swans' Way; Why Matthew Bourne's dances are different." The New Yorker (12 March 2007): 40–46.

Further reading[edit]

  • Macaulay, Alastair (ed.) (1999). Matthew Bourne and His Adventures in Motion Pictures: In Conversation with Alastair Macaulay. London: Faber and Faber. ISBN 0-571-19706-X. 

External links[edit]