The transition from on stage performer to successful production entrepreneur is not always an easy one, but this is something that the acclaimed Australian dancer, Steven Grace, has taken in his stride.
On a recent trip to the UK I was lucky enough to catch up with Steven in person and ask him all about his amazing career both on and off the stage. It is hard to believe that he has accomplished so much in so many areas – stage, screen, corporate events and commercial dance. In short he is a “master of all trades” – and it is this versatility and knowledge that has seen him step into the role of Creative Director with his very own production company BIG FINISH PRODUCTIONS!
Here is what he had to say about his life thus far and where he is headed!
CHRISTINE: You certainly have come along way since you played the role of Luke in Strictly Ballroom, at the age of 10. Did your involvement in that film so early on influence where you are today? And what are your greatest memories of that role?
STEVEN: Wow, 10, that was a long time ago! (laughs) The film definitely influenced me knowing what could be created in terms of production and learning from Baz Luhrmann. Well… you could say I’ve learned from the best. Baz has played a big part in my career and is an inspiration to me.
My favourite memories of that role, was the fun I had in the process. Once while filming, we had just finished lunch and I was in a mischievous mood, so I started impersonating everyone on set including Paul Mercurio & Baz. I had everyone in stitches! I think I always had the director’s persona from a young age. One day when watching a scene next to Baz, I though it was that good I called “CUT”, the funny thing was he didn’t have any objection to that! Another great memory was going to the premiere in Sydney and watching myself for the first time on the big screen. After the film I went down to the front of the theatre with the rest of the cast for photos. It was a great time in my life.
CHRISTINE: You were a very successful dancer in Australia before you headed over to London? What drew you over here and are you glad you came?
STEVEN: I came to London because I was originally offered a tour with Sir Cliff Richard as I had previously danced for him touring Australia. Cliff requested me for the UK tour so I jumped at the chance to work with him again. My first gig in London with Sir Cliff was at the Royal Albert Hall for a sell out season of 21 nights.
I’m so glad I came to the UK to experience the industry in another country. I feel it matured me as a performer. Since then I have performed on the West End in several shows, I got to perform for the Queen, danced for a Spice Girl and shared the stage with an English icon known as, Elton John, to name a few.
CHRISTINE: Over the years you have performed in some of the “classic” shows of all time, winning a Green Room Award for CHICAGO in Australia. What is your favourite role/show to date and why?
STEVEN: My favourite role/show to date would have to be CHICAGO, in which I had the opportunity to understudy and play the role of Billy Flynn. It holds a very special place in my heart and it just oozes class. It’s sexy, funny and has a sophisticated style. I think that show suits me “to a tee” and I just love Fosse’s choreography. Winning my Green Room Award was a great achievement. It was nice to be acknowledged for my work on the show.
CHRISTINE: You are currently performing with PRISCILLA on the West End. How do you think the Aussie humour translates in the UK and what are your fondest moments working on this particular show?
STEVEN: The Aussie humour translates well in the UK. I think we are similar to the English in many ways. It’s dry, it’s quick and they really get it. My fondest memories of the show so far are dressing up every night and working with some lovely people. I have made some special friends. Also, getting to work in another beautiful West End theatre (The Palace, with a huge high heel out the front). It’s also special because I feel really proud to be in an Australian production with an Australian story. My current position in the show is Swing so I’m always mixing it up by performing different roles each night. Another role of mine is the Assistant Dance Captain on the show. It’s great to perform Ross Coleman’s choreography and I feel it’s important to keep his essence alive.
CHRISTINE: Working in the West End you have been on stage with the likes of Brooke Shields and Ashlee Simpson, and in Moulin Rouge you partnered the legendary Caroline O’Connor – how does it feel to work with such artists and what did you take from those experiences?
STEVEN: I feel so blessed to have worked with so many talented artists over the years and I have absorbed so much from them. The many A-list artists I have worked with I find have a great work ethic and I think I have taken that away with me. It feels great to work with such nice people and to have a great journey with them from rehearsals to the finished project whether it’s a film or a show. They’re talent is so much more appealing when they are kind. When they’re not kind you lose respect for them. What they say about Brooke Shields is true. She is one of the nicest and most lovely Ladies in showbiz. Two of my finest dance moments are partnering Darcey Bussell in ‘Viva La Diva’ and Caroline O’Connor in Moulin Rouge. 10 years later I am choreographing for Caroline. It’s funny how things come full circle.
CHRISTINE: You are now Creative Director of your own company – Big Finish productions – what was your motivation for starting this company and where do you see it heading in the future?
STEVEN: My motivation for starting the company was, wanting to explore different avenues other than performing. I want to push boundaries in the production side of things and really have an edge to what I do. I have a passion for innovating projects and want to put my ideas into practice and make them a reality.
I want to create what people want to see, eg. Bringing back the old Hollywood glamour and class, with our modern twist, and I think that this lacks in the industry sometimes so I took some action. To keep on top of your game you have to keep your finger on the pulse. That is important! Nathan Pinnell is the Associate Artistic Creative at Big Finish and we work really well together after collaborating on a few projects. We want to create a bigger vision and to start with a bang!
I see the company expanding in a big way in the future. We want to start a performing arts school, talent agency and produce our own shows including ‘Grace Embassy’ which is now up and running. It’s a mix of singing, ballroom and tap. This is a diversely evolving show where cast and material is always changing. The show is like ‘a box of chocolates’, “You never know what you’re going to get!” (laughs)
CHRISTINE: How do you think your career thus far has prepared you for heading up this new venture?
STEVEN: From over the years of being in the industry I have acquired a wealth of knowledge and I want to put my stamp on things. Working with disciplining choreographers has made me a perfectionist. Dealing with diva pop stars, unprofessional co-workers and flaky clients has made me want to do it better. Experiencing talented and nurturing directors, choreographers (John ‘Cha Cha’ O’Connell and William A Forsythe) and performers gives me hope to pave a successful path for my company. It’s now time for me to be my own boss.
CHRISTINE: As someone who has constantly been in work throughout his career – what advice would you give to aspiring dancers out there?
STEVEN: Persistence pays off, always. Work hard and be individual, this is what will make you stand out from the crowd. Remember with rejection, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Know your strengths and respect others. As Judy Garland said, and this is my motto too, “you want to be a first rate version of yourself, not a second rate version of someone else”. Don’t forget to always enjoy what you do and to follow your dream.
CHRISTINE: And finally – is there any chance we will be seeing you back in Oz any time soon?
STEVEN: Maybe sooner than you think, my lips are sealed on that one!
So – there you have it! The formidable and talented Steven Grace – making his mark both on and off the stage!
If you would like to know more about his company Big Finish Productions simply check out the website:
It is great to interview another Aussie success story and all round nice guy too!
So – till next time – be inspired and follow your passion – you just never know where it may lead,
Christine Denny