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.
Maria Jimenez joined Scottish Ballet as Ballet Mistress in 2005, becoming Artistic Coordinator in 2014.
We spoke to Maria about her nearly 14 years working with the company.
How did you first get involved in dance?
I started doing rhythmic gymnastics when I was 6 years old, and to complement this we were taught ballet to refine our movements. I soon decided that I preferred ballet and I went to a local school for a few years before studying with Maria De Avila, the most prestigious ballet teacher in Spain. She also gave me the opportunity, after a bad injury, to start teaching at the school and taught me everything I know. She was an incredible woman.
What made you want to move to Scotland and work for Scottish Ballet?
After teaching ballet for 11 years at the Maria De Avila Dance School in Spain, I decided to further my knowledge by moving to London, first studying a Certificate in Higher Education in Contemporary Dance at London Contemporary Dance School, and then studying the Benesh Movement Notation Diploma at the Benesh Institute.
A few days after I graduated as a Choreologist, the director of the Benesh Institute told me Scottish Ballet was looking for a Ballet Mistress, so I came for an interview with Ashley Page [Artistic Director, 2002-2012]. I joined the company the following month, nearly 14 years ago now.
What does your role as Artistic Coordinator involve?
I prepare the daily and weekly rehearsal schedules, coordinating different requests from the artistic department and guest choreographers as well as requests from other departments. I also produce the day-by-day castings for all the productions we do.
I work very closely with our physiotherapy department in supporting injured dancers through their rehabilitation, providing them with a dedicated ballet class tailored to their needs to help them get back to full fitness.
You have studied for a Benesh Movement Notation accreditation, how did this opportunity come about and how does it help you in your current role?
While at LCDS in London I studied Movement Analysis with Rosemary Brandt, a truly inspirational teacher, and I loved it. I decided then that I wanted to find out a bit more about it and I came across the Benesh Movement Notation (BMN). [Similar to a music score BMN records the choreography, so that the work can be restaged in the future.] I studied the Certificate first and then the Diploma, graduating as a Choreologist in 2005.
BMN is an invaluable tool for a Ballet Mistress or anyone working with choreographers and dancers, it records not only the movement but all the information required to preserve the ballet for the future. In the company we’ve often re-staged a work from BMN and I’ve been able to assist the guest Choreologist using the notation score to help ensure accuracy and solve any questions the dancers had about the choreography.
Just recently, for our production of Cinderella this winter, I produced the stage plans for Act 2, a total of 103, that show where all the dancers are at any point of the scene and make the job of teaching the ballet much easier.
In addition to all this you’re also a trustee for the Kerry West Orphanage Project – can you tell us more about this?
The Kerry West Orphanage Project is a charity that supports an orphanage and school in Uganda. Kerry is a friend and fellow BMN Choreologist. She started this project a few years ago, I started off sponsoring one little girl, before getting more involved and now sponsor 4 children! I was delighted when Kerry asked me if I would like to be a trustee. The orphanage has expanded lately and we now look after a total of 112 children.
2018 has been a year of great change and advancement thanks to wonderful supporters and we have managed to build new dormitories and shower rooms allowing for a better quality of life for the children. We also created a playground, to the children's delight. Things are looking brighter but there’s still so much to do to ensure we can continue providing care and education for them. More information can be found via www.kworphans.com
What’s your 'get up and go' song?
It's difficult to choose just one song, but I think it would be 'Don’t Stop Me Now' by Queen.