Note: Harrison’s final performance as Billy in London was on November 9, 2013.
Debut: May 14, 2012 (London)
Total Performances as Billy: 149.5 (includes 5 partial shows credited @.5 ea)
Harrison (D.O.B. 23-Apr-2000) is from Radcliffe, Nottinghamshire, England, where he lived with his parents and little brother at the time of his debut.
He said that despite the fact that he loved sports and was fairly good at playing them, at his school his teachers recognized his love of dance and encouraged him to take formal lessons. So, at the age of eight, Harrison enrolled in classes at the Rollo Academy of Performing Arts and Freedom Movement. There, he discovered his love of hip hop, joining the school’s hip hop troupe. As part of that troupe, Harrison has won several competitions and awards, including “The Vale’s Got Talent”, a talent contest organised by the Vale of Belvoir Rotary Club. The then 10-year-old performed an energetic hip-hop dance routine to Mike Posner’s Cooler Than Me for the win.
Harrison Accepts His Vale’s Got Talent Award
When Harrison saw a poster announcing upcoming Billy Elliot the Musical (BETM) auditions in his area, he decided he would “try my luck”. Six months (and several call backs) after the initial audition, he was invited to Leeds to do some training with the BE team during the summer of 2011. Shortly thereafter, he was offered the role of Billy.
All that hip hop training put him in good stead as Harrison is a “Street Billy”. That is, when he performed his big Electricity number, his dancing reflected more modern and hip hop styles of dance rather than primarily the ballet movements that the “Ballet Billys” perform.
Here’s a sample of Harrison’s dance style from his award winning performance in the “Vale’s Got Talent” competition. Note: Before Harrison’s performance, there were performances by several others. Start the video at 4:18 to view Harrison’s number.
Credit: Video by Duncan G
Since being named to the role, Harrison attended lessons at his home school in Nottingham, Toot Hill School, for only a further two weeks. He then moved into the “Billy House” in London with other members of the child cast and received his academic lessons there. Like any young person when moving away from home for the first time, when Harrison first moved into the Billy House in London, it seemed strange and he was nervous about it. But he says it just took a few days and after a short time he felt like he’d “been here for months”.
On 14-May-2012, it was announced in all the trade publications that Harrison was joining the BETM London cast as the 30th Billy to grace the Victoria Palace stage. His debut took place that evening and he became the 64th boy to play the role in BETM world-wide. By all accounts, it went very, very well. When asked his impression of how he did, Harrison said “I was given a standing ovation. I just loved it. I felt really proud”. His mum, Sara, added “The dream ballet sequence was stunning. I’m still speechless — he smashed it.”
Harrison related that his stamina held up well (getting to that level of stamina is something all the Billys have to attain before performing in the arduous three hour show). In fact, in the glow of how well his debut had gone, he said he could have done it again.
Shortly after his debut, the show didn’t waste any time showcasing its newest Billy. On June 20, 2012, Harrison represented BETM at the annual West End Live, at which he performed Electricity. This video of Harrison was taken at the Cardinal Place launch event for West End Live. Cardinal Place is a shopping centre in Victoria, just a short distance from where BETM is performed at the Victoria Palace Theatre (VPT). Unfortunately, the stage utilized at the event was a fraction of the size of the one at the VPT, which made it difficult for the audience there to appreciate the true breadth of his street dance/acro version of the song for which he got rave reviews. That said, he did a masterful job with it given the conditions:
Credit: Video by Sam4God
Throughout his time in BETM, Harrison wowed audiences at the VPT on a regular basis and those London audiences were the fortunate beneficiaries of viewing the vast talents of this young man from Nottingham.
Credit: Photo by Alastair Muir
Life After Billy
- 2014/2015 – Harrison returned to Nottingham to continue his performing arts studies and his GCSE’s. After Billy, he joined local and school football teams with his friends. His school team won the Nottingham Cup and Harrison even scored a hat trick. Harrison continued his dancing at what he affectionately called his “second home”: Rollo Academy of Performing Arts. While there, Harrison received 100% on his ISTD Inter-Foundation Modern and many trophies for various school competitions. He returned to BETM in the West End to perform alongside former and current Billys for the Billy Elliot Live performance and also at the anniversary medley on Sunday Night at The Palladium. He performed at the Nottingham Arts Theatre, Dance 4 and in local pantomime. He also performed on the TV show Ashley Banjo’s Secret Street Crew
- 2016 – Harrison decided he wanted to continue a career in dance, so he auditioned for five colleges and received scholarships to all. Harrison started at Performers College in Essex on a full scholarship in September 2016. He represented the college at Move It and Can You Dance, later gaining a Level 6 Diploma in Dance Theatre.
- He played the lead in the 2016 short film for Childnet called Crossing the Line.
- 2017/2018 – During Harrison’s second year at Performers College he was asked to audition for and was accepted into Matthew Bourne’s company New Adventures. He auditioned to become one of six local dancers touring the UK in the young cast of Romeo and Juliet. After the auditions, Harrison was offered the part of “Benvolio” and “Romeo” and he joined the company.
- 2019 – Beginning on 13-May-2019, Harrison played Romeo and Benvolio in his debut in the World Premiere tour of Matthew Bourne’s Romeo and Juliet at Leicester Curve and subsequently toured the UK with the show. It was nominated for five awards: Outstanding Achievement in a New Dance Production Broadway World UK Award, the Best Choreography Award, Best Costume Design, Best Modern Choreography and Outstanding Female Performance. It won all of the above except the last award for which it was nominated.
- 2020 – Harrison performed the roles of Anton and Julian Craster in The Red Shoes, which toured the UK with New Adventures in the early part of the year, before the Corvid-19 pandemic closed down theatrical productions.
- 2021 – In February, a new video by Cameron Flynn was posted on Youtube called Unskilled, featuring Harrison.
Credit: Video by Cameron Flynn
For more information on Harrison visit:
Billy Elliot the Forum, Harrison Dowzell – Billy Elliot Appreciation Society
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