Spotlight

Scottish Ballet: The Gift of Dance

Spotlight

Scottish Ballet: The Gift of Dance

Spotlight

Scottish Ballet: The Gift of Dance

Various locations, UK Tour

7 December 2019 – 15 February 2020

For half a century, Scottish Ballet has been inspiring audiences on and off the stage through the magic of dance. In the lead up to the company’s winter production, The Snow Queen, Bon Vivant finds out how Scottish Ballet has been spreading cheer throughout its 50th anniversary year.

Scottish Ballet's Evan Loudon and Bethany Kingsley - Garner and Alzheimer Scotland's Every Voice Choir © Sally Jubb

“Scottish Ballet forged new ground in 1969, and we continue to promote Scotland’s pioneering spirit in everything that we do”

Christopher Hampson

Fifty years ago, choreographer Peter Darrell took a leap of faith when he accepted an invitation from the Scottish Arts Council to form a resident, classical ballet company for Scotland. He relocated his Bristol-based company Western Theatre Ballet to Glasgow, and the small independent group of dancers who travelled north of the border became the foundation of Scottish Ballet with Darrell as the company’s first Artistic Director.


From the start, Scottish Ballet (first known as Scottish Theatre Ballet) was renowned for pushing boundaries and staging exciting new works in the nation’s cities, as well as touring small-scale pieces to more rural areas. While the company has gone through several changes of identity over the decades, the desire to explore new styles and push creativity is as alive as ever.


Today, Scottish Ballet goes from strength to strength under the stewardship of CEO and Artistic Director Christopher Hampson, championing bold, adventurous performances rooted in strong classical technique. “Scottish Ballet forged new ground in 1969, and we continue to promote Scotland’s pioneering spirit in everything that we do,” says Hampson. And what the company possesses in daring creative flair, it matches in equal measure with heartfelt community spirit.


As Scotland’s national dance company, Scottish Ballet has been shaped by the nation’s people, culture and spirit since its very inception. The company, in return, runs an extensive engagement programme, tailored to the needs of diverse communities that promotes confidence, fosters wellbeing and encourages creativity through dance. That engagement has won it plaudits from Scotland’s government, with Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs, Fiona Hyslop, praising its ability to showcase Scottish creativity on the world stage while at the same time working with local groups across the country.

Constance Devernay, Scottish Ballet © Rimbaud Patron

Scottish Ballet dancer Melissa Parsons with pupils from Cuthbertson Primary School, Govanhill © Jeff Holmes.

Academy Dance Studio pupils perform with Scottish Ballet © Sally Jubb

In a celebratory year featuring three world premieres, including Dextera by Sophie Laplane, Arthur Miller’s The Crucible choreographed by Helen Pickett, and The Snow Queen by Christopher Hampson, Scottish Ballet has been making special wishes come true as a way of saying ‘thank you’ to its audiences and supporters. From rehearsing and performing with the company, to conducting the orchestra, the wishes granted to members of the public by Scottish Ballet in 2019 have taken all those involved on an emotional rollercoaster.


Over 400 wishes were submitted and over 10,000 votes cast by the public before they were considered by a judging panel that included Susan Calman, Fred MacAulay, Dame Darcey Bussell, Christopher Hampson, Janice Forsyth and Principal Dancer Christopher Harrison. “We were overwhelmed by the number of submissions made to our Five Wishes campaign,” says Hampson. “But after careful deliberation, we chose a mix of creative and heartfelt wishes, influenced by the inspiring stories behind them.”

Scottish Ballet granted its first wish in January to avid dance fan Lily Douglas. The 11-year-old from Perth, who has been battling a rare form of cancer, had her dream come true when she was allowed to dance with the company and take a backstage tour, as well as being invited to watch a performance of Cinderella.


In April, the company came together with 85 students from Academy Street Dance Studio to perform a routine from the finale of Elite Syncopations by Sir Kenneth MacMillan in tribute to the dance studio’s owner and dance teacher, Jemma McRae, who had sadly passed away.


A few months later, during Dementia Awareness Week in June, Scottish Ballet performed a duet between Principal Bethany Kingsley-Garner and Soloist Evan Loudon alongside Dumbarton’s Every Voice Choir to a sold-out audience at St Augustine’s Church in Dumbarton.

Bethany Kingsley-Garner, Scottish Ballet © Rimbaud Patron

“From rehearsing and performing with the company, to conducting the orchestra, the wishes granted to members of the public by Scottish Ballet in 2019 have taken all those involved on an emotional rollercoaster”

Later this year Colin Bowen, who was diagnosed with Parkinson's at the age of 45, will conduct the Scottish Ballet Orchestra as they prepare for the world premiere of Christopher Hampson’s The Snow Queen. The upcoming winter production – an inspired new retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s much-loved tale set to the music of Rimsky-Korsakov – brings Scottish Ballet’s 50th year to a sparkling close.


Scottish Ballet’s charming production of Cinderella for 2018 was the perfect Christmas show and The Snow Queen promises to be just as magical. And during this holiday season, a time when most people’s thoughts turn to giving, Scottish Ballet’s extraordinary year of community engagement adds that extra sprinkle of fairy dust.

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