IT SOUNDS like a cliché but it’s true. Simon Williams is a real-life Billy Elliott, who moved from the north to board at the Royal Ballet School in London at the age of 11 and is now the only dancer to perform both the Prince and the Swan in Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake.
But there’s so much more to him than that – he’s also been a nightclub DJ, danced on TV with Kylie Minogue, joined Pulp’s Jarvis Cocker on stage, trained with David Bowie, appeared in a movie with Kevin Spacey, and devised the zombie movements for Brad Pitt’s World War Z.
Oh, and he lives in Old Woking.
“I’ve been very lucky,” says Simon, with typical understatement. “I really owe it all to my mum because she got me into dancing and encouraged me to come to London.
“I grew up in Liverpool and my mum’s still there. Dancing was just a hobby. My mum used to do it to keep fit and she used to bring me and my sister along because she couldn’t afford a babysitter.
“A teacher thought I had a bit of talent so I went to junior associates week where you’re seen by Royal Ballet teachers.”
Simon’s talent saw him offered a place at the Royal Ballet’s boarding school in Richmond Park and he recalls: “My mum said ‘It’s an opportunity, give it a go and see how you feel after a year’.
“I didn’t know what I wanted to do but I knew I enjoyed dance before anything else like rugby or cricket.
“The school was hard, really tough going and the teachers were strict. We had ballet classes for two hours every morning before our academic classes and then there were more dancing classes afterwards…but I loved it.”
Simon first performed in Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake in 2000 and, ironically, appeared in the film version of Billy Elliott.
“A few of us got offered to do the film,” he recalls. “Adam Cooper played the grown-up Billy and I was in the background.”
His dancing talents have since helped him appear in other movies, including Beyond The Sea, in which Spacey portrays singer Bobby Darin.
“Kevin Spacey was really full-on,” says Simon. “There’s loads of dancing in it and he’d be in rehearsals with us all the time having a bit of banter. He was great, a real professional, and he’s an amazing actor.”
As for World War Z, he says: “They were looking for someone to help figure out how the zombies would walk and attack. We went through a big workshop. It was pretty mental. We had coloured contact lenses and everything. We were also outside in Glasgow for six hours a day in freezing cold weather – by the end I couldn’t feel my fingers.”
Dancing with the likes of Kylie (“she’s minute but perfectly formed”) and Jarvis and Bowie were a bit more comfortable.
Simon says: “Meeting Bowie was incredible. We used some of his music for a Michael Clark show, which is contemporary dance, and he came in beforehand to give us guidance.
“He’s not a dancer but he told us what he’d like to see and then came to watch in New York and Berlin.
“It was pretty amazing to meet him, I just kept thinking to myself ‘This is David Bowie!’ He has an aura about him and everything he said made sense.”
Simon’s DJing stint came during a year-long break from dancing when he played at house nights in London as Jack Union. He doesn’t rule out a return to the decks, saying: “If I was DJing as well as dancing I’d be absolutely knackered.
“But I’d love to keep my hand in and maybe run a night, just keep it ticking over.”
For the moment, he’s fully concentrating on Swan Lake and says: “It’s an honour and an achievement to be the only person who’s danced both the Swan and the Prince for Matthew Bourne.
“It stretches you in different ways and keeps it fresh, it definitely keeps me on my toes,” he says. “They’re very different roles – the Prince is a very emotional role and he’s on from the beginning to the end so you’re emotionally drained at the end.
“The Swan is very physical, he comes on in act two and it’s non-stop then. They’re both equally demanding I’d say.”
Swan Lake will be at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking, from Tuesday, March 18 until Saturday, March 22.
But you may see Simon around Woking at other times as he’s recently moved to Old Woking with his wife Rebecca (nee Jackson) and their seven-month-old son.