STEPHANIE Billers has been a professional dancer with Matthew Bourne’s company New Adventures for 10 years – but her first memories of performing and watching dance all came in Woking.

“My first performances were at dance festivals in Woking and I remember appearing quite a few times at the Rhoda McGaw Theatre,” she says.

“I also used to watch a lot of shows at the New Victoria Theatre. Two that stick in my mind are Tap Dogs and Fame.”

Stephanie grew up in Crowthorne and attended the Jayne A. Coleman Academy of Dance in Wokingham from the age of three through to 16, and also the Royal Ballet School’s associate system before studying at Laine Theatre Arts in Epsom for three years.

Now, she’s returning to Woking to appear on the New Victoria Theatre stage as one of the stars of Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty – and she says dance fans are in for a treat.

“As with all Matthew Bourne shows, he puts a twist on things,” she explains. “He uses the original Tchaikovsky score and bases it on the story everybody knows, but he puts in a few changes.

SLEEPING BEAUTY by Bourne,            , Director and Choreographer - Matthew Bourne, Designer - Lez Brotherston, Lighting - Paule Constable, New Adventures, Theatre Royal, Plymouth, 2022, Credit: Johan Persson/
The ballet's fairies have a Gothic twist to them. (Johan Persson)

“For instance, our fairies are vampiric. They aren’t mean and scary but they have a Gothic twist to them.

“The story spans over 100 years. We start in the 1890s until 1911 and then leap to 2011 because Sleeping Beauty is asleep for 100 years. So, we move to a different style of dancing, we move with the times.”

Stephanie, who dances the role of Queen Eleanor, Aurora’s mother, adds: “I start off very loving and warm and happy but then 21 years later when Aurora is introduced to her suitors I’m a bit colder.”

As a choreographer and director, Matthew Bourne is known for his unique re-imaginings of traditional ballet, often with extravagant costumes designed by Les Brotherston.

“He always does things perfect for the times,” says Stephanie. “It’s something you have to learn to work around because it isn’t always the easiest dancing with a corset on, or a huge pair of wings, or a big skirt with a wide bustle.’’

Sleeping Beauty is at the New Victoria Theatre from Tuesday to Saturday next week, 14 to 18 February.