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.
Soloist Jamiel Laurence joined the Company in 2009. Alongside dancing, he's also a choreographer and his works have been performed at festivals across the world including Celtic Connections, The Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Dance on Camera New York, San Francisco International Dance Film Festival, and LOIKKA Helsinki.
Jamiel gives us the lowdown on some of the projects he's most excited to work on in 2019.
Can you describe your journey to Scottish Ballet?
My mother owned a performing arts school in London, so from a very young age, I was exposed to dance, drama and music. My full time vocational training began when I was 11 and I attended The Arts Educational School Tring Park, as well as receiving two years of musical training at the Trinity College of Music in Greenwich. I trained classically at Central School of Ballet between 2007 – 2009 and I joined Scottish Ballet in 2009.
When did you discover your interest in choreography?
I realise now that it was a very special experience to grow up in an environment where choreography and creation were actively encouraged. At 3 years old I was already being asked to dance my own thoughts and ideas, as part of being taught directly by my mother and her team of professional performers and teachers.
Throughout my more formal vocational training, I was also asked to explore my own creativity across a variety of mediums including everything from dance to writing, pottery to coding. I always took part in choreographic competitions; sometimes winning and sometimes missing the mark completely! I think that having the freedom to create and the freedom to fail is what gave me the real sense of agency to continue to pursue my creative ideas.
When Christopher Hampson was appointed Artistic Director in 2012, he created an informal dancers' choreographic initiative and this gave me a platform to not only choreograph, but receive feedback and review the work of others around me more frequently.
In 2017, I was selected to take part in the Choreographic Mentorship scheme here at Scottish Ballet. This was a defining moment that led to my decision to begin to create more regularly with a view to seeing my work performed in a variety of locations, stages and mediums.
What are some of the projects you have coming up and what are you most excited about?
I have been commissioned by the BBC to create a work for #DancePassion Day to provide a snapshot of the Scottish dance scene in 2019. The work will feature dance organisations and independent artists from across Scotland, performing a variety of styles of dance - from pointe work to Flamenco!
As part of Scottish Ballet's 50th anniversary celebrations, I was delighted to be the dancer to share the news with the Alzheimer's Scotland Every Voice choir that their submission to our Five Wishes campaign was successful. After hearing the choir sing a variety of pieces from their set list, I will be choreographing a number that will be performed by two Scottish Ballet dancers, accompanied by the Every Voice choir, bringing their wish of 'we sing, you dance!' to life.
The project that I am most excited about in 2019 is assisting in the adaption of a new Wee Hansel & Gretel which will tour across Scotland in 2019. It is an incredible honour and a mighty creative responsibility to be asked by the original choreographer, Christopher Hampson, to adapt his full length ballet to suit ‘wee’ audiences. I am looking forward to the challenge of taking a work that I danced in and know so well, and adding a new creative perspective.
What do you like most about working for Scottish Ballet?
To be a part of an organisation that values new initiatives, new ways of working and forward-thinking approaches to production and theatre is a real thrill as an artist. From performing classical roles in Elite Syncopations, to being filmed in motion capture as part of the Digital Season; the diversity of performance opportunities has offered me a range of experiences both on stage on off that make coming back to the studio each day a real privilege.
What’s your ‘get up and go’ song?
Livin' on a Prayer – Bon Jovi is a regular feature on the drive into work each morning!