James Maxfield graduated from Brent Street School of Performing Arts in 2004 and has already clocked up an extensive career as a triple threat performer in corporate and commercial theatre in Australia and overseas.
James was dance captain with ‘Wicked’ for three years. Most recently he was a performer in the Sydney season of ‘The Boy from Oz’, followed by dance captain with the kid’s group, Hi-5.
What is your earliest memory of dancing?
My earliest memory of dancing was when I was seven, when I went with my mum to pick my sister up from her dance class. I sat and watched them run through one of their routines and, after they finished, I turned to mum and said to her “that’s what I want to do”. One week later I was doing my first dance class!
Can you remember your first audience?
Yes! My dad was my first audience! At least twice a week I used to get home from school and put on music and make-up and dance a routine for him. He used to film it. I still have one of the videos, it was a dance to East 17’s “It’s Alright”. Ha!
When you first began your training, what was your aim?
When I first started, it was for fun. I used to love the days when I knew I had dance after school, because I loved all my friends at dancing. It wasn’t until I was 15 that my aim was to make a career out of it. I moved dance schools and went to Brent Street Studios. Then I really started honing in on my craft.
What area – singing, dancing or acting – came the least naturally to you?
Acting was the hardest for me. There was a period from when I was 16 to 18 when I thought that I could get away with just dancing and singing alone. I started watching a lot of dancers who I admired growing up, like Kelly Abbey, Cameron Mitchell, Matt Lee and Jacqui Howard, and realised that the most amazing thing about them was their natural ability to connect to what they were performing. And as I started working in shows, I really started focusing more on that side of my performance.
What was your first real break?
My first real break was being cast as an ensemble member in Grease – the Arena Spectacular. Not only did I get to work with one of my dance idols, Kelly Abbey, but I also got to share the stage with John Farhnam and Natalie Bassingthwaite! It was one of the most amazing learning experiences of my life, and such an amazing show to start my career with.
You have worked with many big stars, such as Hugh Jackman, Delta Goodrem, Fergie and Guy Sebastian. Did they have anything in common as artists?
The one thing that links them all together is their commitment to what they do. It’s amazing to have worked with people who strive so hard to get where they are now. But as artists, they are all so different from each other.
Have you ever been out of work and, if so, how did you get through those times?
I have been lucky enough to have had consistent work since I graduated from my full-time performing arts course. I have only experienced a month or two when the work was unavailable, but I have always had my teaching work, which is a god-send for performers!
Lately you have begun choreographing and producing your own shows. What made you move to the other side of the footlights?
I have loved choreography for as long as I can remember. I’m only just starting out on this side of the industry and I’m very curious as to where it could take me.
What has been your biggest gig to date?
It would have to have been working with Hugh Jackman on The Boy From Oz. – To start with, I am the biggest fan of X-Men, and I couldn’t believe I was working with Wolverine! Ha! Sharing a rehearsal room and the stage with someone of his calibre was truly a once in a lifetime opportunity! If anyone has showed me that complete love for what you do makes you successful, it would be Hugh!
What is the hardest part of being a dance captain?
One of the hardest parts of my job is the amount of information I have to retain about the show. I am responsible for all the ensemble plots. And when someone goes off, it’s up to me to rehearse and tech the understudy/swing into the show, and its usually at the hour call before the show goes up! Sometimes more then one person goes off at a time. But after you have been in the show for a while, it gets easier and you get a list of contingencies happening.
The easiest would have to be that it doesn’t really feel like work most of the time!
What do you always take with you to a performance?
My laptop! I always need my music playing in my dressing room before a show.
What have you learnt during your career?
You never stop learning! Stay humble and remind yourself why you are in this industry. Totally immersing yourself in what you do will make you successful.