Louder than Words

16 July 2018

Photographer Lulu McArdle
Interview Charlie Newman
Introduction Hedvig Werner
Hair Natsumi Ebiko
Model and dancer Sam Dilkes at Models 1

Dancing is a series of systematically choreographed movements of the body - variations in speed, aggression, grace, fluidity and noise are typical elements of a successful dance number.

A dancer tells a story from start to finish; a story where spoken words are not necessary to produce a beginning, middle and end. Model and dancer Sam Dilkes at Models 1 has a story to tell and photographer Lulu McArdle is there to be his medium. He gives himself from every direction: his eyes engage with his arms as they articulate sharper than silence.

The role of the male ballet dancer is often under scrutiny for its apparent opposition with the traditionally masculine. However, a ballet dancer is able to translate vulnerability into movement, which is a brave act of art. Bravery lives within a traditional notion of masculinity. Logic found throughout - even in the arts. Sam loses himself to the dance because, for him, there is nothing more important than to keep moving - a commitment to his craft that shows a boy embracing his burgeoning manhood with composure and maturity.

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of Models 1, a model girl interviews a model boy for Boys by Girls. Fellow model, Charlie Newman at Models 1, met the Sam for a conversation. He travelled by train from Brighton, and with him, he carried a whiff of fresh sea air from the English coastline. Even though Charlie connected with Sam over spoken words, his voice is best experienced when he is dancing - that's when he is the loudest. Every word becomes crystal clear as each movement amplifies his story. The back row in the theatre can hear him now.

How did you get into dance in the first place?

I don’t really remember because I was four when I first started. I guess I just wanted to do it. My sisters also danced a little bit, but nothing serious. I just found out that my mum used to do it, which is strange. I first started with ballet, modern and tap but then I actually quit ballet because I was scared I was going to get teased.

Yes, there seems to be a bit of a stigma surrounding male ballet dancers, why do you think that is?
I don’t know. Especially in musical theatre, there’s a big stereotype there which I think carries on with all the other styles as well.

When you’re dancing, do you visualise anything, do you get lost in it or do you think about the routine?
A bit of all of those - I kind of get lost in it. If I’m improvising, I end up doing something completely different to what I thought I wanted to do in the first place, so I try not to think about it too much.

Do you dance with a company or solo?
At the moment I’m at my dance school and I’m working through the exams, so I have to do a little bit of everything. I’m about to take my Advanced one in two weeks.

Do you have any dancers you really admire?
It’s actually mainly people I dance with. I do this thing at the London Contemporary Dance School – the CAT scheme - and the people there are insanely good. They’re on another level than me and are just really cool.

There’s a serious discipline in dance, how do you maintain that?
You have to keep going; you can’t just go when you feel like it and you definitely have to keep up with your training or else you just lose it. I have class every day which is usually an hour, sometimes more, but the best dancers are home-schooled and train 5 hours a day.

Apart from dance, what do you enjoy doing?
Dance, usually. *laughs*

There were some stunning very grapic final exam art pieces on your Instagram. How did you create them?
I collage using my own imagery on Photoshop and through Monoprinting.

Do you have any favourite artists?
Genadii Berezkin.

How are you dealing with exam stress next to dancing?
It’s not going too bad. I’m halfway through my exams now, so I’m just getting on with it.

How old were you when you first started modelling?
I was scouted when I was 17 through Instagram.

I often find the expectation of having thousands of followers on social media, especially as a model, quite tough at times. Do you think this also translates into the world of dance?
Not so much. My friends from the CAT scheme film themselves dancing, and they look really cool, but I feel like if I did that I would just look a bit stupid. I cringe when I watch myself, especially when I’m improvising.

Do you find that modelling and dance compliment one another?
Yes, definitely, and I often find they get you more interesting jobs

As dance is such a competitive world and so physically gruelling, how do you deal with the pressure?
I don’t know I just get on with it. Sometimes it gets quite overwhelming and I don’t know if I’m going to make it, but it’s definitely made me more confident and given me thicker skin. Not that it’s been beating me up, but it’s just made me care less about other things.

This year marks Models 1’s 50-year anniversary. It’s obvious that the fashion world has transformed in the past half-century. Is there anything within the dance world you would like to see change?
I think dance is always changing. I mean ballet’s only been around in England since the 1940s, which is crazy because it seems like it’s really old. Contemporary has basically come from there. It’s merged a lot more with art. I like that it has sort of merged, but it’s kind of confusing. You don’t know how to differentiate between the two at times. Sometimes it’s all about the art and verges more on performance art rather than dance.

From another perspective, as an audience member would you rather watch performance art or dance?
I would much rather watch movement, it doesn’t necessarily have to be about the dance as long as the movement is interesting. Although in performance art sometimes the dancers are just walking around, which I can’t deal with.

How is the modelling going?
It’s going good. I did a show back in January, which was fun. It was a lot different to what I expected- I thought it was going to take all day, but it was actually very snappy. The other guys in the show knew my sister, and they said we looked very alike. She’s not a model, but she works in fashion. We worked together on Burberry actually. She knew someone who worked there, and they also liked the look of our dog, so I had to bring my Welsh Terrier up on the train from Worthing to London. She hated it! The shoot was like a mini family portrait, except that one of my sisters wasn’t there.

Are there any shows or ballets that you’ve seen and really wanted to be in?
I saw a piece by Hofesh Shechter: it was his second company called Hofesh Two. I actually knew someone in it, but they probably didn’t know me. I used to go to church with his family.

Do you still go to church?
I haven’t been for two years.

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