2019 is our 50th anniversary and we are championing some of the people who help make Scottish Ballet a great place to work. Each week we will introduce you to a different career at Scottish Ballet and the person behind it.
Principal Constance Devernay joined the company in 2008, and was promoted to Principal in 2016. Outside of the ballet studio, Constance is a qualified yoga instructor and is studying for a Bachelor in Science in Sports, Fitness and Coaching with the Open University. We caught up with Constance to find out how yoga has helped her on stage.
What inspired you to start dancing?
I started ballet at 6 years old but it was not until I watched a performance of The Nutcracker at The Paris Opera a few years later that I completely felt in love with the art form. Witnessing the movement, costumes, sets and music all coming together in one performance was absolutely magical and I just wanted to be part of it.
Alongside dancing you’ve also trained to be a yoga teacher, can you tell us more about this?
I was introduced to yoga while I was at the English National Ballet School. We had Ashtanga-style yoga classes every week as part of our fitness regime and I really loved it. I felt stronger, longer, calmer and my asthma also improved. I tried to carry on my own yoga practice and go to classes once I graduated and moved to Scotland, but company life took over and it was difficult to make it a regular activity.
When I sprained my ankle after I'd been with the company for a few years I started yoga again on a daily basis. I realised how great my body responded to it and how much it needed it. While recovering, I also started a Bachelor in Science in Sports, Fitness and Coaching with the Open University, part-time. To successfully move into the second year of the programme, you must obtain a fitness instructor certificate or any other regulated physical activity certificate or diploma, so I decided to train as a yoga teacher, passing my diploma last summer. I now teach yoga for Scottish Ballet and I am in the 2nd year of my degree and just passed this year's module with distinction.
How does yoga help with your dancing?
For me, yoga compliments ballet perfectly. Practicing yoga everyday has strengthened my all body, it has balanced the right and left side of my body, making it equally strong. My muscles feel more toned and lengthened and my joints stronger and healthier. Furthermore, after a long day of rehearsals, yoga reduces any tension or swelling within the joints and is a great way to stretch out my body and cool down both physically and mentally.
With ballet, the intention is often sent outwards, in creating the perfect aesthetic line or projecting to an audience and it is easy to solely focus on these external aspects of dance. Yoga has opened a new way of thinking and taught me to listen to the way my body feels and to be patient with it. It has also helped with my breathing and stamina, and it is a good way to reduce stress during performances. It is also a great way to help combat jet lag on tour!
What has been your favourite performance during your time at Scottish Ballet?
It is very difficult to pick one, I have so many amazing memories with Scottish Ballet. On a personal level, being promoted to Principal on the Edinburgh Festival Theatre stage following a performance of Swan Lake was something I will treasure for the rest of my life. It has shown me that hard work pays off and brought new challenges to my dancing career. Other highlights include performing at the Mariinsky Theatre, the Royal Opera House and at the Kennedy Center.
What's next for you, other than continuing to rock it on Scottish Ballet stages?
I don’t think I will ever retire from dance completely, I would love to teach ballet, coach vocational students and professional dancers, perhaps open my own yoga centre and get involved in dance science research… I do not think there is enough hours in the day to do all that but who knows, maybe life will throw something completely different at me.
What’s your ‘get up and go’ song?
'It's My Life' by Bon Jovi.