Sunday, April 01, 2018

Hundreds of pounds worth of shoes in the permanently locked shoe room. Note the named pigeon holes to allocate the shoes by dancer.
It is rare that I attend a work event and wish devoutly that one of my 'real' friends were with me. But so it was on Wednesday when I found myself at Scottish Ballet's premises at Tramway when I wished dearly that BS was with me though he was busier with giant steins of beer in Innsbruck. The reason for my visit was an Institute of Practitioners in Advertising event on the theme of creative inspiration that paired SB's artistic director, the wonderful Christopher Hampson with some man from advertising who also (to my unending envy) sits on Scottish Ballet's board. 
Being darkly honest, I thought the adman's reasons for liking the ballet and the similarities which he observed between our own (less creative) profession, were rather foolish. He talked about the mammoth effort that goes into preparing an advert (true) that you don't see in the end result (hopefully true) as being similar to the mammoth effort that goes into a dance production (hmm, I guess). I was bursting to shout out that I thought the greater similarity is that we're both in the business of story telling. But then Christopher Hampson said more eloquently that we're both about finding a unique voice, inviting people to identify with whatever we're presenting and hopefully singling out "something that shows a side of myself that I'm not comfortable revealing".
Like a fan girl, I went darting up to him at the end and found fawning words pouring out of my mouth. I'm interested in how they programme, marrying things that are popular with their audience with things that give the dancers enough to get their teeth into. I babbled for a while about the cleverness, I supposed, of their Stravinsky double bill. Though I forgot it was set to Stravinsky and called it smartly "the peasanty thing with the modern thing". This double bill apparently, he told me, is their greatest ever box office success. He thinks his master stroke was calling it Stravinsky. I realised with vague dawning horror as we spoke that the modern thing - which I had violently hated - was his own choreography. And the "showing a side of myself that I'm not comfortable revealing" fluttered uneasily at the back of my mind.
The greater wonder of the night was a tour of their premises. We saw their to be constructed on site in gym halls around the Highlands and Islands set for Matthew Bourne's Highland Fling. We saw their beautiful costume store (Home Street, eat your heart out). Boxes of mice tails discarded from the Nutcracker. Boxes of peasant shoes. Boxes of bodices and hats. Rails and rails of costumes. Rails and rails of net and tulle. I could have spent all night in there, fingering stroking lavishing love on their beautiful industry.
Then the shoe room. (See pic above, thanks to Sara, as my phone battery inconsiderately ran out.) We got to fondle a shoe to see how tough they are. But silky and lovely. A principle dancer will get through a pair, a show. And they cost between £40 and £50 a pair. No wonder they trot us around their premises talking about the wonder of their community outreach programme - they want our money to pay for their shoes.
But the greatest treat was watching a little excerpt from a rehearsal for Highland Fling. They'd laid out two rows of seats. I was carelessly late, having assumed the first half hour would be given over to drinking as is usually the way at these events. So I snuck into the back row but still got a completely prized view of the sylphs stalking around their mistress, the human boy busy loving his mystical queen sylph and the horror of her (spoiler alert) crushing debilitating despair when he snippy snip snipped her wings off.
Most especially wonderful, they weren't in costumes or make up. They were in scruffs. Practice clothes, I guess they'd say. Jogging pants and vests and long sleeved tops and little shorts and all sorts of loose jersey garments. You were close enough to see them sweat which sounds sordid but was just impressive and fascinating. The studio was surrounded by a barre. There was a waterfall of ballet shoes hanging off the barre and sliding in a tumbling heap in one corner of the room. There were bits of set lying about, where necessary to the action. And the loveliest thing was watching them as they came "off stage" and flopping and mopping their faces and gulping water and slumped breathless - and then they'd shake themselves down and go back "on". It was completely captivating.
If there'd been a place to sign up for lifelong sponsorship, I'd've done it on the spot. But there wasn't. So they're saved a formalising of my fawning.  
 Here's a heap of tutus as a sorry to BS that he wasn't there too.


Blogger imw said...

What a treat. Lucky you.

4:36 pm  

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