Interview: Sophie Laplane – 'What I really like is when choreographers give you freedom to see what you come up with. I always enjoy that as a dancer.'
Scottish Ballet company dancer Sophie Laplane discusses choreographing her new work Sibilo
After creating two short works for Scottish Ballet, company dancer Sophie Laplane is moving up onto the big stage. Her new work, Sibilo is part of Scottish Ballet's Autumn Programme, and she's nervous – and more than a little excited – at the prospect. We find out about her rise to choreographic stardom
When did you first discover your desire to choreograph?
'When I was about 13 at ballet school in Paris. I had a really inspiring teacher who would give us a theme and a week later we had to choreograph a one minute solo on ourselves and show it. I really enjoyed the creative aspects, especially at school where everything is so rigid, so having that one teacher who encouraged us to express ourselves was great.
Then at Scottish Ballet, Christopher Hampson created a group for dancers who wanted to take part in choreographic workshops. That gave me the opportunity to push it a bit further, which is when I created Oxymore for the company's Dance Odysseys programme at the Edinburgh International Festival – and then Maze for Scottish Ballet's autumn season in 2015.'
What have you learned from the other choreographers you've worked with?
'Well it's really the way they transmit their vision and explain what they're looking for. Watching choreographers during rehearsals and seeing their thought process, that was really beneficial and interesting.
What I really like is when choreographers give you freedom to see what you come up with. I always enjoy that as a dancer and try things out – and they would either say 'yes I like that, let's keep it' or 'no, that's not what I'm looking for' but I really like that exchange.
And so now, when I choreograph, I'll show something on myself and ask the dancers if that feels right for them or what would feel more natural – it's a way of involving the dancers to make sure you're all on the same page.'
You're working with eight dancers on Sibilo – what's it like choreographing your colleagues?
'I see it as an advantage, because as I already know them – their personalities, their way of moving, which has been really good. And because we're colleagues and friends, they aren't too shy to try something stupid, and I'm not too shy to try something which I might feel more self-conscious about with another group of dancers.
It creates an atmosphere where we can just try things out, and we're so comfortable about it we can laugh and say no, we need to put that in the dustbin or yes, we can show that, and that feels really nice.'
What was the starting point for Sibilo, which means 'whistle' in Latin?
'It started at one of the choreographic workshops when Christopher Hampson asked us to create a duet which was danced in silence. So I created that, and it was really based on the dancers' personalities – they were both fun and quirky. And then a little while later, I was on a train from London to Glasgow and listening to a piece of music called Whistleitis from the album Novelty Madness, it's very cartoony music, and I thought it would really fit the duet we had created in silence.
So back in the studio I put the two together and they matched and we took it from there. There was a lot of whistling in that piece of music, which I thought was interesting – and because I like so many different types of music, I thought that whistling could be the link.'
What was it like working with composer Alex Menzies (aka Alex Smoke)?
'It was an amazing experience to sit down with Alex and talk about ideas, and for me to try and explain in music terms what I was looking for. And bless Alex, he was very patient with me, because my music vocabulary isn't very large – there was a lot of 'can we have a bubbly noise here?' and that sort of thing. But he's very open minded and that's exactly what I was looking for.'
What does it feel like to be one half of Scottish Ballet's autumn double-bill, alongside Emergence by acclaimed choreographer Crystal Pite?
'It's such an honour. Crystal is one of the hottest choreographers at the moment, so it's such a privilege. I'm dancing in Emergence and it's been great to see how she works.
I'll be very, very nervous but excited – and emotional, probably. All of those things.'
Scottish Ballet Autumn Programme, Theatre Royal, Glasgow, Thu 29 Sept—Sat 1 Oct, then touring