Ballet West tours brand new Nutcracker
Gillian Barton explains why her school is producing some of Scotland’s most talented ballet dancers
You’ve travelled hundreds of miles, sat for hours scrunched up in a seat, the stage you’re about to perform on is new and unfamiliar, and your feet ache. Welcome to the world of ballet touring, the less glamorous side to life as a dancer.
For many students, the transition from education to employment can be a shock to the system. But for Ballet West graduates, life on the road is just part of their normal routine. Over the next six weeks, the entire student body – plus several professional dancers brought in as guests – will tour The Nutcracker to venues across Scotland. An experience that will hold them in good stead for the future.
‘I often receive emails and texts from former students who are now working with touring companies,’ says Ballet West founder, Gillian Barton, ‘telling me that if they hadn’t had this experience in school they don’t know if they could have coped – it would have been too big a shock for them.
‘Because if all you’ve done is an end of term show at university or college, you don’t really understand what it’s like to be on the road, to be exhausted or get injured – all the things that our dancers have to deal with during their three years here.’
But it’s not only the harsh realities of touring that Ballet West students take from their time at the Taynuilt-based school – it’s the joy of performing on stage with highly skilled professionals. With one dancer in particular, first year student Uyu Hiromoto from Japan (pictured), given a rare chance to take on the star role of Sugar Plum Fairy at a number of venues.
Barton first spotted the 19-year-old at the 2015 Genée International Ballet Competition, and recognised her potential. ‘She was a finalist at the Genée and we were all really impressed by her,’ says Barton. ‘Dancing this role will be a tremendous opportunity for Uyu, one that most students don’t get, and she’ll gain a lot of additional confidence and experience from it.’
With between 60 and 100 dancers taking part in the show, which will play nine different venues including a return to the SECC in Glasgow and a debut visit to the Edinburgh International Conference Centre, The Nutcracker is as much a treat for the audience as it is the young performers.
‘Our choreographer Daniel Job has worked on a Nutcracker with us before, but just re-staging an existing production,’ explains Barton. ‘This time he’s done the whole production from start to finish, so the students have watched him create the entire ballet, which has been really educational for them.
‘And he’s done an amazing job, I think the audience is going to be really blown away by the way he’s created it.’