Archives for category: performing arts

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.

"Emergence", Scottish Ballet, Festival Theatre, Edinburgh, Edinburgh International Festival, Britain - 18 August 2016

Scottish Ballet present a double bill of Angelin Preljocaj’s “MC 14/22” and Crystal Pite’s “Emergence”, at the Festival Theatre, as part of the Edinburgh International Festival. The piece shown is: “Emergence”, choreographed by Crystal Pite.

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!



Glasgow, UK. 28.09.16. Scottish Ballet presents “Drawn to Drone”, choreographed by Jack Webb, at the Theatre Royal Glasgow, as part of their Autumn Season 2016, in a programme which also includes Crystal Pite’s “Emergence”, and Sophie Laplane’s “Sibilo”. Photograph © Jane Hobson.

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.


Glasgow, UK. 28.09.16. Scottish Ballet presents the World Premiere of Sibilo, choreographed by company dancer and choreographer, Sophie Laplane, at the Theatre Royal Glasgow, as part of their Autumn Season 2016, in a programme which also includes Crystal Pite’s “Emergence”. Photograph © Jane Hobson.

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.

SIBILO, Scottish Ballet, Theatre Royal Glasgow, Glasgow, Britain - 29 Sept 2016

Glasgow, UK. 28.09.16. Scottish Ballet presents the World Premiere of Sibilo, choreographed by company dancer and choreographer, Sophie Laplane, at the Theatre Royal Glasgow, as part of their Autumn Season 2016, in a programme which also includes Crystal Pite’s “Emergence”. Photograph © Jane Hobson.

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!

SIBILO, Scottish Ballet, Theatre Royal Glasgow, Glasgow, Britain - 29 Sept 2016

Glasgow, UK. 28.09.16. Scottish Ballet presents the World Premiere of Sibilo, choreographed by company dancer and choreographer, Sophie Laplane, at the Theatre Royal Glasgow, as part of their Autumn Season 2016, in a programme which also includes Crystal Pite’s “Emergence”. Photograph © Jane Hobson.



I had been waiting for this dress rehearsal/photocall for months, since I first heard that Phelim McDermott (Director) and Sean Gandini (Choreographer) were involved in its creation. Phenomenal innovators in their respective spheres, as well as tremendous originators, and collaborators, across genres, always meant this production was going to be special. And it is.

Although I was concentrating on conveying the excitement, emotion and beauty of the work, I couldn’t fail to be caught up by the heart & head, at the same time as the eye was occupied. You have to hear the music to really understand the whole, but here’s a visual taster – maybe it will persuade you to get a ticket whilst you can?

Special mentions to lighting designer, Bruno Poet (truly a visual poet!), costume designer, Kevin Pollard (I LOVE the dolls’ faces on the costumes – I only spotted them when I processed the pics – it’s genius!), and set designer, Tom Pye. Amazing visuals, All!!! Thank you!!

A plea to ENO – a production recording would be wonderful. I checked out the extant versions and they’re not a patch on what I experienced this week, live. Karen Kamensek (Conductor), you are a Force of Nature (and I’d love to do your portrait! Plus, you have an amazing team!) Thank you!!




As part of my NY resolution (not really, I don’t make them, but I did have a vague feeling I wanted to Do Something Different) to be more creative/find other ways of being creative, I booked an “Introduction to Etching” weekend, at Edinburgh Printmakers.  Never having done anything remotely similar, I had no idea what to expect (apart from acid baths and bits of metal) and I plunged into the decision with all the confidence of the Truly Ignorant. Had I known the extent of the process, the number of steps and stages, the tiniest part of which was actually coming up with the design/artwork, I probably would have hesitated. I am thankful that I was clueless as it was the most absorbing, inspiring, and mind-boggling creative activity I’ve undertaken since the photography degree! Probably more so, as I at least knew how to work a camera  beforehand, whereas I knew nothing about copper, zinc, hard ground, soft ground, stopping out, acids, intaglio (is that a pasta?), aquatinting or texture imprinting prior to Saturday morning.

Not really knowing what kind of subjects or approaches would work best with the media,  I  took a few of my photos that I thought might work/be the easiest (!) to draw on metal. I also started drawing again, about three weeks before the course, so took a couple of those to work with. I hadn’t drawn in many years, was never brilliant at it anyway, so took myself off to an evening of drawing with Jake Spicer, at Cass Art, Islington, in preparation, which was great fun. It started me down the route of trying continuous line drawing, which freed me up from self-doubt/expectations of being rubbish, as the end results couldn’t possibly be terribly realistic.

Day One

So, armed with the photos and the line drawings I turned up at Edinburgh Printmakers on Saturday morning. Scarily, everyone else on the course had been to art school, most were working artists, one a retired art lecturer, and at least half had done etching before, though back when it was more toxic.

Nae bother! Everyone was really friendly, the tutor, Jess, was brilliant, and, although it would have been nice to walk away with a masterpiece to hang on the wall, the real objective was to understand the process(es) so I could go away and have a think about what to create which would work best as an etching.

That said, I was quite chuffed with the results.

The first plate of two was zinc, to which I applied hard ground, cooked in the oven, cooled then ‘drew’ the line drawing onto the plate with a scraper tool. It was then etched (i.e. dipped in acid), then could be used to make an artist’s proof.

This is the line drawing I used (Man on the Cardiff Train!).


Thank you to the man sitting opposite me on the London to Cardiff train a couple of weeks ago!

The second was a copper plate, onto which I applied soft ground, and worked directly on that to create the line drawing from this photo.

Marawa the Amazing, Jacksons Lane © Jane Hobson.jpg

London, UK. 16/07/2011. Marawa the Amazing, semi-finalist in Britain’s Got Talent, performs at Jacksons Lane, as part of the Postcards Festival.

Having etched the drawing into the plate, here’s the artist’s proof of this first stage.


(The horizontal lines were caused by a fellow course member shoving it off the newsprint it was resting on whilst I made a packing tape ‘tail’ for the plate, in order to suspend it in the acid bath. Whilst disappointed at the time, I actually quite like the accidental marks, particularly in the finished piece).

Day Two

Buzzing with excitement after day one, I still had no idea what the textures and aquatinting processes would be like for day two. The zinc plate (with the man on the Cardiff train) was to be coated with soft ground, and textures chosen from an assortment of bubble wrap, wallpapers, ferns, feathers, netting, etc) to ‘colour in’ sections of the image. This was the bit that really turned the creative switch on in my head – the possibilities of this are endless and my fellow course members were creating some fantastic images using the textures as integral parts of the design. The person next to me had drawn a rural scene – a munro, a glen, some sheep, and used textures brilliantly to add in the grass, clouds, trees etc. Beats cross-hatching the entire plate! I had plenty of empty space in my design, but no real purpose for the textures, so went a bit abstract with mine! Hardened in the oven, etched and cleaned, the plate was ready for the printing press.

Here’s the final image for Man on the Cardiff Train.


The copper plate was used to demonstrate aquatinting, which sounds like you are applying colour by hand, but is actually much more complicated. Airbrushing acrylic particles evenly onto the plate, the design is then ‘zoned’ according to how light/dark you want the various areas and ‘stop out’ is used to mask off areas in order of light to dark (the longer the plate is in the acid, the darker the areas go, as it bites deeper into the plate and, therefore, carries more ink – the opposite of exposure in photography!). I used three steps in my aquatint of Marawa and this is the result.

Firstly, the copper plate itself.


and now the Big Reveal:


Marawa the Amazing, Aquatint Etching. © Jane Hobson, 2016

The course fee also includes three months’ membership for Edinburgh Printmakers and I can’t wait to go back and try something else. At the moment, I am thinking of creating a set of circus etchings using aquatint.

If anyone is thinking of doing a printmaking taster course (or even summer school), I can highly recommend Edinburgh Printmakers.

As usual, the rate of work increased and I couldn’t keep up the running commentary via this blog. so, here’s a round-up of some of the work I had published during the Edinburgh Festivals 2015, in no particular order. Hopefully, there’ll be a follow up post with some of the pictorial highlights, given that the best work is often not published!

a Girl Is a Half Formed Thing, Traverse, Guardian, 09.08.15 Adrienne Truscott, Guardian 08.08.15 Aisling Bea, Gilded Balloon, Observer, 09.08.15 Aisling Bea, Guardian online 13.08.15 Ballett Zurich, Playhouse, EIF - The Guardian - 29 Aug 2015 - Pa Bryony Kimmings, Traverse, Mashable, 13.08.15 Joe Lycett, Pleasance, 27.08.15 Spillikin, Jack Dome, Pleasance, The List 12.08.15 Spillikin, Pleasance Dome, Edinburgh Guide, 23.08.15 Swallow, Traverse, FT, 07.08.15 The Christians, Traverse, The Guardian 10.08.15 Alasdair Gray, Telegraph, 23.08.15 Marriage of Figaro, Festival Theatre, EIF, Guardian online 14.08.15 Ballett Zurich, Playhouse, EIF – The Guardian – 29 Aug 2015 – Page #48

The time has come, the Walrus said, to talk of, well, one thing really. Leading Ladies.

It all seemed a bit premature to start blogging about it before I had anything to show for the project. I needed to put my camera where my mouth was first.

So that’s what I’ve been doing this year. And now, as the year is nearly at an end, and it will then be on a downward slide to my fiftieth (how did that happen?!) I wanted to ramp up the momentum on the project.

You see, I’d like to launch it on my fiftieth birthday.  January 2015. Well, it would certainly take my mind off the more negative aspects!

12 months is not so long to get the rest of the project shot, raise funding to exhibit and publish, generate PR, produce the exhibition etc. I’d better get going then!

So then, what is it? (I hear you ask).

Oh all right then. This is the introduction that I have been sending to my prospective subjects, to explain briefly about the project.

Leading Ladies: celebrating the careers and achievements of women in the performing arts.

A personal project by Jane Hobson, photographer.

Women are underrepresented in the performing arts, both on and offstage.  Yet there are many amazing women working in the industry, across all areas – actors, directors, producers, lighting designers, choreographers, dancers, writers, set and costume designers, sound designers, stage managers, company managers, artistic directors, musical directors, etc, etc. Visibility, as well as representation, is an issue.

Through my photographic work, I want to celebrate the work these amazing women do, and their achievements, despite the inequities, and to raise awareness of underrepresentation as an issue, stimulating debate on why such sexism is still apparent today, decades after legislation on gender equality.

By photographing women in the performing arts in their environments, whether personal or professional, their strengths, personalities and careers will be highlighted. A short biographical text will accompany the photographs, to add context, written by the Leading Ladies themselves.

The intended outcomes are a book, an exhibition and a feature/features.  The recent articles in the broadsheets highlights that there is media interest in this area.

I didn’t know what I’d started when I commenced the project!  I had obviously hit a nerve.


Jessica Swale, director and playwright, The Globe. © Jane Hobson, 2013.

There is such strength of feeling about the topic that my existing network of women I had met, and worked with via production shoots and press photocalls, expanded rapidly, as one Leading Lady introduced me to many more.


Tanya Moodie, actor, RADA. © Jane Hobson, 2013.

As such, the project has grown organically, and now needs some deliberate planning of job roles to add balance across the sectors.


Mimi Sherin, lighting designer, Royal Opera House. © Jane Hobson, 2013.

So far, there are eleven Leading Ladies in the gallery, with a further 12 who have agreed and are yet to have their shoots scheduled. I also have a wish list of other women in varying roles who I should love to include.


Jenny Topper OBE, producer, Hampstead Theatre. © Jane Hobson, 2013.

So, Dear Reader, what I should like from you (by private DM or email, please) is introductions to fabulous females in such roles as: musical director, sound designer, sound engineer, stage management, props design, set and costume design, circus performers, stage crew/fly’man’, choreographer/movement director (all genres), opera (all roles), conductor, management. All career and life stages.

I want this whole project to culminate in a wonderful celebration of the work of all women in the performing arts. And to also act as catalyst for change and inspiration.

It’s not about me. It’s about you.