SHOES TO FILL? – THE RIGHT SIZE

Published on 5th Aug, 2010

Steven Grace spoke to me from a hotel suite in Melbourne recently. I was lucky enough to catch him during one of his many ports-of-call. As it happens, Steven is always on tour and remarkably, always the perfect person with the right talents, to fill someone’s shoes, sometimes at the last minute. His career to date is impressive and the future is ripe for this jack-of-all-trades and master of several.

From the age of 10 years old, Steven Grace was already mixing with Australia’s finest choreographers when he was chosen to work with John (Cha Cha) O’Connell on Strictly Ballroom. Steven achieved work straight out of school, winning a contract at the casino in Cairns under the direction of William Forsythe. This was to establish a working relationship with William, which would later influence his career. Allow me to explain….

Steven successfully auditioned for Dein Perry’s (sequel to Tap Dog’s) Steel City, which toured Australia and also appear at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, ‘which was great and a lot of fun’, enjoys Steven. This all led to an extraordinary run of film-work for the young performer; Dein Perry used him on Bootmen, then back working with Cha Cha on Moulin Rouge for a year and a half, then straight onto the set of Scooby Doo, filming in Queensland where, unfortunately he suffered an injury, which saw him in need of physical rehabilitation for a year. Fortunately, a full recovery was achieved and Steven moved on to appearing at the Sydney Opera House with Caroline O’Connor in her cabaret show From Stage To Screen, co-starring Renee Berry, Lita Stathis, Ashley Wallen and Matt Lee. A tour of Asia ensued with the high-energy dance show Fame, after which he returned to Australia to join the cast of the Queen musical We Will Rock You. Not a bad start to the career mate.

An ex-employer in William Forsythe booked Steven, after a remarkable beginning to an already impressive career, to dance in the Cliff Richard concert, which toured Europe. This was literally Stevens’ ticket to London and a Pandora’s box of opportunities. I asked Steven if he found it hard to find work in London? ‘It was all new to me, it was quite a culture shock, picking up and moving to a foreign country, so it was quite foreign to me at first’. He explains that after shopping around for an agent, ‘I did a few gigs and things picked up from there. I got a campaign for a pop star over there ‘Javine’, after not very long and that gave me work which was great’, Steven continues, ‘You see, if you get a campaign to launch one of their singles, you’re set for a few months’. I was a bit confused as to how the industry works in London and Steven clarifies, ‘In London you can have as many agents as you want for commercial work, first in best dressed. Whoever calls you first, they get the commission. But for theatre work, you can only really have one. Commercial work includes music videos, corporate events, tours with pop stars or singers, festivals and some TVC’s and modelling work’.

This went on for approximately one year for Steven before he auditioned for what he later admits, ‘…is one of my favourites’, Chicago. ‘I wasn’t really ready to finish after my first year, so I stayed another year’, he says of his 2-year season with the show. One can tell that Steven holds a special place for Chicago in his heart the way he talks of his experience in the production. He says that, as a performer in Chicago, ‘it’s just the raw talent, you have got nothing to hide you’ (which separates it from other ensemble performances) ‘so it’s all relying on your own style and stylistic choices’. There’s that passion! It was at this time I was in London myself and really wanting Steven to work on my project with Adam Garcia at Sadlers Wells but he couldn’t because, ‘I still had to wait for visa papers to come through’, he explains.

Steven then returned to Australia and realises, ‘I was only here for a holiday and I got a call from Dancing With The Stars because Naomi Robsons’ partner Zhaba, was in a jet ski accident, so at the last minute, I was put on a short list and then got called in to replace him and ended up staying 3 months’. The bouncing between the UK and Australia continues for Steven as he returned for another 2 years. During this time he performed in Viva La Diva for 2 seasons with opera singer Katherine Jenkins and former Royal Ballet soloist Darcey Bussell, which was a tribute show of sorts and had the occasion to perform at the O2 Arena. And then, as if his career doesn’t already sound poetic, his resume at this point in time is serendipitously bookended with another tour with Sir Cliff Richard before Steven returns to Australia. For those of you who saw the recent Australian production of Chicago, you would have seen Mr Grace in an award winning performance. ‘You see, 2 of the male ensemble, originally cast, pulled out at the last minute’, he adds. Steven was there to step in, this time with creative responsibility as the assistant Dance Captain to add to his growing list of achievements.

Steven has taken advantage of the UK’s working visa laws by establishing himself a reputation of quality and has proven to the British entertainment industry that he is of great value. As he has worked continuously in that country for 5 years he is entitled to a work permit which, along with his respected career in his home country, Steven holds very proud. He is currently working on the extremely preliminary workshop for the Global Creatures production of King Kong, due for a Broadway opening in 2013 and will join the cast for The Production Company’s season of The Boy From Oz in Melbourne August 18 – 22.

By Chris Horsey

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