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Meet the LGBTQ stars of Matthew Bourne’s erotic dance thriller The Car Man

Sam Salter, Rory Macleod, and Jonathon Luke Baker talk to Attitude about getting into dance, keeping fit, and working with Matthew Bourne

By Sacha Dance

Words: Alastair James; Photography: Dean Ryan McDaid; Creative director: Joseph Kocharian, Fashion: Sacha Dance, Grooming: Dan Delgado

This summer, Matthew Bourne’s erotic dance-thriller The Car Man is firing on all cylinders at the Royal Albert Hall.

Here, three of its LGBTQ+ dancers tell us what the art form means to them and reveal what audiences can look forward to.

Rory (left) wears jeans, by Levi’s, briefs, by Calvin Klein, boots, by Dr. Martens, Sam (centre) wears dungarees, by M.C. Overalls, boots, by Dr Martens, Jonathon (right) wears trousers, by Dickies, boots, by Timberland

Rory Macleod, 20, plays Marco

Dance has shaped my whole life. I’ve always had the urge to perform since I was a child — dancing stood out to me as [it meant] I could express myself in ways I couldn’t always do at that age. I’ve also learned lessons and disciplines that will carry me through life. It gives me a sense of purpose and belonging. 

Rory Macleod

The industry can be very competitive, which is good and bad in that it might push you to become a better dancer, but it can also knock your confidence. It’s easy to get caught up in the pressure of being the best you can be. I endeavour to turn that feeling into drive, which usually helps me perform better. 

Rory wears dungarees, by M.C. Overalls

In my spare time, I try to go to the gym. It’s so important for a dancer to stay fit and to keep stamina levels up, especially when you have a lot of time off. Diet-wise, I’m not very strict. I burn a lot of calories while dancing, so I make sure I eat a lot. 

Rory Macleod

The Car Man is an extremely physically demanding show, and it requires a lot of hard work and concentration. The movements are so well thought-out and intricate. I love working with Matthew Bourne, he’s super caring to everyone in the company and it’s a great environment to be in. I’ve always admired his work, so to be a part of this company is a dream come true.  

Jonathan Luke Baker, 28, plays Franco

From a young age I knew I needed movement in my life. I started doing gymnastics but quickly realised my passion was dance. I used to leap around manically to Basement Jaxx, so my parents found somewhere for me to put all that energy.

Jonathan Luke Baker

Studying in a LGBTQ+-friendly environment helped me shed a lot of the shame I felt as a young person for being gay. I used to feel a pressure to act differently to fit heterosexual characters, but I believe embracing my sexuality and gender expression has made me a better artist.

Jonathon wears vest, by Primark, jeans, by Levi’s

It’s hard to ignore the competitive side of dancing when you first graduate. But once I realised that being myself would land me in spaces where my diversity is an asset, it had less of an effect on me.

I’m not very strict when it comes to diet. I mostly eat what I want while trying to be generally healthy. Our work is so physical and I’m over six foot three, so I eat a lot! 

Left-right: Sam Salter, Jaonthan Luke Baker and Rory Macleod

Enjoying the gym is a recent discovery of mine. Previously, I found it hard. Finding one that is more queer-friendly has made a difference and I really love it. 

Jonathon wears trousers, by Dickies

Recently, I’ve been playing more extravagant and flamboyant characters — which I love — but stepping into The Car Man, it has been interesting to scale this down. Portraying a character who’s traditionally masculine but still queer has been really fun.

I love working with Matthew. This is my third show with him and it’s always a great experience; his artistry is inspiring. He’s a very trusting director — he allows you to make a character your own but suggests new ways to develop it.

Sam Salter, 28, plays Raf

I discovered dance at around the age of nine and immediately fell in love. I still remember my first lesson so clearly, even the first routine I ever learnt. It just felt right, and I knew I didn’t want to do anything else.  

Sam wears shorts, by Tommy, briefs, by CDLP

Sadly, there’s still a lot of homophobia around the art form. I kissed a male dancer as part of a show at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre in 2018 and some people walked out. That opened my eyes that not everyone is accepting. On the other hand, I’ve worked with some wonderful creatives in the LGBTQ+ community.

I’ve been working professionally for 10 years now, so I think I’m getting wiser about the competitive mind-set. Everyone’s different: no career is the same. I’m trying to trust the timing of my life — usually, things fall into place if I’m working hard, training well and staying positive. As long as I’m happy, that’s good enough for me.

Sam wears dungarees, by M.C. Overalls, boots, by Dr Martens

Outside of dance, I go to the gym maybe five times a week. To be honest, I put pressure on myself to look a certain way; it’s never from anyone else. I like being in shape, but I need to be strong for a very physically demanding job. Thankfully, this and my gym work counter my sweet tooth. I enjoy eating healthily but I can’t deny my love for cake! 

Sam wears shorts, by Tommy, briefs, by CDLP

The Car Man is such a sexy show. It’s incredible to dance and I can’t wait for audiences to see it. I love the contrast between the comedy and the classical music. It works so well. It’s such a prestigious company to be part of and it’s been my dream to work with Matthew [Bourne]. He’s very particular and cares about the smallest details, which is why his shows are so brilliant — nothing goes unnoticed, and it always shows.   

Sam wears shorts, by Tommy, vest and briefs, by CDLP, Jonathon wears vest, by Primark, briefs, by Calvin Klein, jeans, by Levi’s, Rory wears dungarees, by M.C. Overalls

The Car Man plays at The Royal Albert Hall from 9 June to 19th June. Tickets from £10 – £95.50