40 of 50

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.

Jamie Reid was born in Glasgow and trained at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland before joining Scottish Ballet is an Artist in 2016.  

For World Mental Health Day, Jamie shared his experiences of becoming a Mental Health First Aider and how Scottish Ballet is providing a safe space for those who need it. 

How did you first start dancing?

I attended the UK Theatre School in Glasgow. Once we had a stand-in dance teacher for a day who saw I had potential and suggested to the head of the school I should start doing ballet. At first, I was having none of it and thought 'no chance!'. It took a lot of persuading, but eventually, my mum had bought me a hoodie I wanted at the time and simply said 'if you at least try it once, you'll get this hoodie'. So, I went to the class, and that was it.

The more I did ballet and dancing, the more I began to enjoy it. My teachers encouraged me to audition for the Scottish Ballet Senior Associates at aged 14. As soon as I got into the Senior Associates, I started to take ballet seriously as I realised that I wanted to be a professional dancer.

Tell us about your journey with Scottish Ballet

I joined the Senior Associates in 2010 for two years before auditioning for the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. I attended the Royal Conservatoire for three years full-time and got my BA in Modern Ballet. After graduating in summer 2015, I joined the company as a Guest Artist for the autumn / winter 2015 season and accepted a permanent contract as an Artist the following year. 

Do you think there are any perceived stereotypes about being a male dancer in this day and age?

I think that perceptions and stereotypes around ballet are changing and I realised this when people started finding out that I was a dancer.

I didn't tell people about me being a dancer initially. In the area that I am from and at the school that I went to, you never really thought about or paid attention to ballet. There was always a stereotype growing up that it was for girls and I felt it was better for me to stay quiet about dancing. It wouldn't have bothered me if people found out, but I had kept it quiet for so long, I got used to people not knowing and that just felt easier.

When people found out I joined Scottish Ballet, the reaction I got was a lot more positive than I thought it was going to be. There were a few people who were a little iffy and made some comments, but most people are really, really proud of what I do.

The exposure of dance altogether has helped, especially with it being on the telly more. It's breaking down barriers. Stereotypes around ballet are still there in some sense, but it's definitely getting better. 

Jamie Reid in Scottish Ballet's production of Matthew Bourne's Highland Fling. Photo By Andy Ross.

What made you want to become a Mental Health First Aider?

I wanted to understand more about what mental health involves. You used to get told if you were suffering with mental health issues to 'man-up' and get on with it. But for a lot of people, all they need is for someone to listen to them. It's amazing how much of a difference listening and having a conversation can make. You can take a weight off of someone's shoulders just by listening.

How did you find you the experience of becoming a qualified Mental Health First Aider?

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the two days of training. I imagined we would just be reading from a textbook. However, it was incredibly interactive and you learnt a lot of practical skills. One of the things that stood out in training was learning about the early signs of suicide. Learning about the symptoms and ensuring that you are comfortable with asking someone the question 'are you contemplating suicide?'. We were taught how to be comfortable dealing with someone in that position and frame of mind, knowing how to ask the right questions and supporting them to get help. 

We have 20 qualified Mental Health First Aiders at Scottish Ballet. How has this initiative been received, and do you believe it is helpful?

I think the attitude around mental health has changed. If you have problems outside of work, you don't feel that you have to leave them outside work. Scottish Ballet provides a safe space for people, and many people in the company are now trained to help and listen to people who may be going through a tough time. People feel comfortable knowing that support is there no matter what. 

What is your favourite thing about performing with Scottish Ballet?

For me, it's the enjoyment of dancing. All the hard work everyone puts into a production, whether it be in the studio, in wardrobe, or behind the scenes, getting to perform the finished product is incredible. Getting to go on Scottish and international tours, visiting places you have never seen before, seeing how beautiful they are and experiencing different cultures is pretty special. Going to Asia and visiting countries such as Korea, Hong Kong and Macau with Scottish Ballet was unbelievable for me, it was just so good.

What's your 'get up and go' song?

N.W.A - Express Yourself (Remix)