It takes two
Matthew and Oliver Edwardson share more than just identical DNA, discovers Nina Levy.
EVERYONE expects identical twins to be similar… it’s in the name, right?
But West Australian Ballet demi-soloists Matthew and Oliver Edwardson have taken it a step further – they’ve had identical careers.
Born in Cambridge, in the United Kingdom, the pair began dancing at age eight. “We started with tap dance,” says Matthew. “We were interested – well I was – in the old movies, and Fred Astaire really inspired us both. Our tap dance teacher pushed us into doing different kinds of dance [as well as tap] and we ended up doing ballet. Then when we were 16 we went to the Royal Ballet School.”
Getting into the Royal Ballet School (RBS) marked a turning point for the twins in terms of their ambitions. “As soon as we went to the RBS, for me anyway, it felt serious, because we were giving up other studies, and not doing so much academic work,” remembers Oliver. “From then on it became all about trying to get into the professional world.”
On graduating in 2006 the pair took their their first jobs at the Zurich Ballet. They then moved to Victor Ullate Ballet in Madrid in 2009 and finally to the West Australian Ballet (WAB) in 2014.
Interestingly, both dancers say that their matching paths aren’t intentional. “It’s never been a conscious decision to always be together,” explains Matthew. “We like the same things and so we tend to do the same things. Also, we push each other along. So whenever Oliver does something, I want to do it as well … it’s almost a competitive thing. I think it’s something we have to think about, why we’re still together at age thirty-one. For me, I think I’m scared of missing out on something Oliver is doing.”
The twins have a theory about their matching audition success. “Initially [the companies] think we’re the same person and then when they realise we’re not, I think they think, well it would be madness to tear them apart,” remarks Oliver. It’s not as far-fetched as it sounds. “Sometimes we’ve gone to auditions where they’ve assumed that the same person sent their CV in twice,” says Matthew. “We naturally confuse people, even when we turn up to audition together!”
While the pair are disarmingly similar, in terms of their artistry they don’t see themselves as identical. “I’m more contemporary whereas Matt is very classical,” muses Oliver. Matthew concurs. “I think we move slightly differently too.”
This is reflected in their casting – the twins say they tend not to be put together on stage. “We’ve done quite a few things together but not as many as you would assume, given that we’re twins,” remarks Matthew. “We’ve done a few male duos but WAB has been quite good at casting us in different roles, so we’re not typecast as the twins. Before Dracula (2018) we’d hardly danced together on stage.” And what made the two dancers decide to audition for West Australian Ballet?
“We were in Spain and the financial crisis had just hit and Spain got hit quite hard,” replies Oliver. “Funding was getting cut, conditions were lowering for dancers, so it was time to move on from that company. Our mother is from New Zealand, so we have New Zealand passports. I’ve always loved this part of the world and really wanted to come over here and dance. We really like the culture and the people.”
“As soon as we came to Perth we were attracted to the lifestyle here, and also the company, and the conditions they have here,” recalls Matthew. “And the atmosphere of the company was important – it’s fantastic, like a group of friends or a family. It’s quite different to other companies, other big companies anyway.”
Though the twins concede that there are some advantages to dancing in Europe – “We did a lot more touring in Europe,” Matthew admits – WAB is holding its own in comparison to the companies the pair has worked with in Europe. “In some ways it’s not that different,” remarks Oliver. “Conditions here are good – they can be good in Europe too, it just depends what company you’re in. The repertoire we do at WAB is fun because we often do new works.”
Pictured above are Oliver and Matthew Edwardson dancing in Spark, choreographed by Gakuro Matsui and Chihiro Nomura for WAB's Genesis season. The 2019 edition of "Genesis" opens June 27 - more info: https://waballet.com.au/whats-on/genesis/
This article was first published in the April/May 2019 issue of Dance Australia. For more articles like this one look out for Dance Australia at your favourite retail outlet, or buy it online here... OR never miss an issue by subscribing here.