Yorkshire’s own Billy Elliot Gary Clarke danced his way out of poverty in a Yorkshire mining village to become a sought after choreographer. Now he is working on movies with the likes of Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt Tony Greenway WORDS: G rowing up in a poor area of Yorkshire, the young Gary Clarke would regularly thrash his body around to loud music. He didn’t realise it at the time, but he was dancing. This wouldn’t normally be remarkable but, where Clarke came from, people – and especially boys – didn’t dance. ‘I’m from a mining village called Grimethorpe,” he says. ‘This was the (post-miners’ strike) 1990s and things were bleak for my generation. It was really tough with unemployment, drugs and crime in the village, and everyone got their frustrations what I was doing. It was just a form of expression for me. But it was how I found dance.’ Thankfully, one of his teachers recognised he had a talent for movement and, in 1996, asked Clarke if he’d like to dance for the pupils at assembly. So he gelled his hair up, put on a tracksuit and sunglasses, took a cassette player on stage, pressed play – and went for it. ‘I improvised,’ he laughs. ‘I threw my body around and the school just went wild. They’d never seen a male dancer, or anything like it before.’ If Gary Clarke sounds like the real Billy Elliot, that’s because he is. From these and emotions out in different ways. Throwing myself around to music was the way I did it. I knew ‘This was the (postminers’ strike) 1990s and things were bleak for my generation. It was really tough with unemployment, drugs and crime in the village, and everyone got their frustrations and emotions out in different ways. Throwing myself around to music was the way I did it’ there was something else inside of me. Of course, I didn’t know Gary is now a sought-after choreographer Yorkshire Life: October 2020 49
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