Happy World Ballet Day!
I have been having a ballet-tastic time of late, with commissions from both Sadler’s Wells (Carlos Acosta, in rehearsal for his Classical Farewell) and Scottish Ballet (their Autumn Season programme – “Sibilo”, by Sophie Laplane, and “Drawn to Drone” by Jack Webb, “Emergence”, by Crystal Pite, having been shot during the Edinburgh International Festival this year). Both jobs made me think about dancers’ careers – how they develop and what happens when the dancing part is over.
Photographing Carlos and colleagues, in a rehearsal studio at Sadler’s Wells was a delight – he was charming and patient in equal measure, as we got the required shots, despite having newborn twins awaiting him! This was in preparation for his new, and final, classical ballet show, the resulting shots being destined for the programme.
Carlos is bidding adieu to the world of (dancing) classical ballet this week, at the Royal Albert Hall, and on tour. At 43, he has decided to focus his career on dancing in contemporary work, choreography, directing, and in developing the careers of Cuban dancers, and choreographers, through his dance company Acosta Danza. As if that were not enough, he is also setting up a centre for underprivileged, talented, dancers, in Havana, in 2017.
Photographing “Sibilo” and “Drawn to Drone” was also very exciting. The curtain-raiser of the new season, a five-or-so minute taster piece, was choreographed by Jack Webb, and danced (on a chair) by Christopher Harrison. It is just a few months since Jack was selected as One to Watch at the Sunday Herald Culture Awards, and already his work is being included in the national ballet company’s programme. Since graduating, in 2006, from Dundee’s Scottish School of Contemporary Dance, 30 year old Jack has been working as a dancer, and, increasingly, as a choreographer. In an interesting twist of fate, I shall be photographing Jack, dancing, in “Lady Macbeth: Unsex Me Here”, by Company Chordelia, in Oxford, later this month!
Sophie Laplane is currently a dancer with Scottish Ballet and she is developing her choreographic career alongside this, having showcased “Oxymore” at the Edinburgh International Festival 2013, which was then, in turn, chosen to be part of Scottish Ballet’s “Up Close” tour of 2014.
Another piece of Sophie Laplane’s work, Maze, was in the same, curtain-raiser, slot as “Drawn to Drone”, last year, after which, Christopher Hampson, Artistic Director of Scottish Ballet, commissioned her to develop a full-length piece, “Sibilo” (Latin for “whistle”). The result is the wonderfully witty and intelligent 30 minute piece, with an engaging narrative arc.
Clearly not every dancer will be able to develop into a choreographer, director, or head of a ballet school, nor would all dancers want to, but it is wonderful to see that so many people in the dance industry are encouraging and nurturing those who come after. It really is a pay-it-forward culture!