Scottish Ballet's Stravinsky season throws young dancers into the spotlight

Scottish Ballet's Stravinsky season casts young dancers in lead parts

Kayla-Maree Tarantolo / credit: Andy Ross

Kayla-Maree Tarantolo and Barnaby Rook Bishop discuss the challenges and opportunities of leading a ballet

Principal, soloist, first artist, artist – that's the way the pecking order goes at Scottish Ballet. Once you've climbed up the ranks to principal, dancing the lead parts is a given. And with three different casts usually assigned to each show (in case of injury and to give dancers breathing space on tour), chances are as a soloist and maybe even a first artist, you'll get the chance to take on a meaty role.

But as an artist, you know your place – a vital member of the ensemble, potentially picked out for the odd shining moment. In the case of Australian dancer Kayla-Maree Tarantolo and Inverness-born Barnaby Rook Bishop, however, things have happened a little quicker than they'd imagined.

Both dancers joined Scottish Ballet in 2016 as artists, but in the company's upcoming Stravinsky season, they're already taking on lead roles. In Sir Kenneth MacMillan's The Fairy's Kiss (Le Baiser de la Fée) Bishop will play the boy made immortal by a kiss at birth, and Tarantolo his bride-to-be. And in Christopher Hampson's The Rite of Spring (Le Sacre du Printemps), Bishop is also learning the pivotal role of the brother.

How does it feel to have such an opportunity so earlier in their career? 'Really good,' says Rook Bishop. 'They're both really challenging roles, but that's one of the main reasons I became a dancer – I love being pushed to do new things. 'When I had my audition with Chris [Hampson, artistic director] he said he really wanted to push me to do soloist roles, even though I was only coming in as a corps de ballet member. And that was great but also quite daunting, because my previous company was very classical and Scottish Ballet's repertoire is so diverse, with lots of contemporary dance as well – but it's been great for me developing as a dancer.'

Scottish Ballet's Stravinsky season casts young dancers in lead parts

Barnaby Rook Bishop with Sophie Martin / credit: Christina Riley

Tarantolo, on the other hand, had nothing to compare it to, having joined Scottish Ballet upon graduating from the Dutch National Ballet Academy. 'I wasn't expecting anything really,' she says, 'because I was only 17 and was just here for experience. So even just to be noticed, I was over the moon. But from there it's just progressed – the Christmas season was incredible, getting the opportunity to dance Gretel in Hansel & Gretel. And now I'm learning the fiancée role in The Fairy's Kiss and I'm loving it. It's really classical, with quite a few pas de deux and some solos.'

Not only are the young dancers stretching themselves in terms of choreography and characterisation, but the music of Stravinsky provides a whole other set of challenges. Instead of the usual counts of eight that keep a dancer tethered to a score, the music here is more free range.

'There are odd counts,' explains Tarantolo, 'and sometimes you get a 13, which is strange because we're so used to even numbers. But I actually really like it because it's definitely a challenge.' Rook Bishop has found that 'when you have amazing music like Stravinsky's, it makes conveying the emotion a lot easier.'

But an opportunity like this doesn't just last the length of the tour. As Rook Bishop says, they'll both carry this experience with them into the future: 'I think it definitely gives you confidence, not necessarily as a person but as a dancer and performer. And to actually have to lead a ballet is a massive learning curve – you learn a lot about yourself as a dancer and I think you take that knowledge with you throughout your career.'

Scottish Ballet Stravinsky, Theatre Royal, Glasgow, Fri 6–Sat 7 Oct; Edinburgh Festival Theatre, Wed 11–Fri 13 Oct; His Majesty's Theatre, Aberdeen Tue 24 & Wed 25 Oct; Eden Court Theatre, Inverness, Fri 3 & Sat 4 Nov..

Scottish Ballet: Stravinsky

Two contrasting works set to the music of Stravinsky: The Fairy's Kiss by Kenneth MacMillan and Christopher Hampson's The Rite of Spring.

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