PUT YOURSELF IN CINDERELLA'S SHOES
Rehearsal Assistant, Tamarin Stott joined Scottish Ballet in 2017 from English National Ballet where she was a dancer for 15 years. We caught up with Tamarin to find out how she is preparing to work with our Company dancers on Christopher Hampson’s Cinderella for her first time. She tells us what goes in to making this story matter.
Most of us know the tale of Cinderella. In the dance world, young dancers get to know Cinderella repertoire in training. Tamarin tells us, ‘I first professionally performed in Cinderella for English National Ballet. I danced the role of Step Mother in Michael Corder’s version. Like Christopher Hampson and many other choreographers, he used Prokofiev’s beautiful score. It’s been interesting revisiting the very familiar music and learning new choreography.’
We asked Tamarin what she likes about Hampson’s retelling of Cinderella. She says; ‘I like Chris’ take on the characters. I don’t think any character is ever black and white. When I danced the role of Step Mother I liked exploring why she was mean. The audience need to not like her but at the same time they need to be able to see where she is coming from. Chris definitely shows the different shades of the characters.
The sisters aren’t just brats, there is a lot more to them. Chris purposely casts a short and a tall dancer in these roles and the comedy of the sisters continues when they meet their partners.
Chris’ step sisters need to be danced by really experienced dancers who know exactly how to do the steps correctly in order for them to do them wrong, otherwise they would hurt themselves. Executing this is tricky.
It’s so easy for dancers to hide behind the steps. They will do an arabesque or a tendu every day of their lives, but it can mean something different by the way that they perform it. Yes, our job in the Artistic Team is to make sure that the dancers are doing the right counts, that they are together and in the right formation, but most importantly, we make sure every single person on the stage is either telling their character’s story or supporting the main action – the audience need to be able to tell from every dancer on stage if this is a cringe-worthy moment, like the guests at the ball watching the step sisters falling all over the place!
‘It’s really important that what we do on the stage makes the audience empathise with our characters, even the ones we don’t like.’
Big productions like Cinderella really bring the Company together. Scottish Ballet has a brilliant following of supporters who know the dancers as people, and we like playing with this in casting. The tour of Highland Fling earlier this year showed me how much our dancers really enjoy making each other and the audience laugh, and we will be working on that in Cinderella.’
Tamarin and the Artistic Team are making sure that the dancers are physically prepared to sustain the choreography. She says, ‘part of my preparation has involved working with our Physiotherapist, Martin Lanfear. We’ve been looking at what kind of lifts the boys are doing and building exercises in to their personal training programmes. The Artists are on stage for long periods of time and there aren’t the same opportunities to adjust their shoes in the wings. The Principal dancer might also need to adjust the tempo on the performance day.
What is especially nice about Hampson’s ballet is the layers of meaning; adults in the audience are challenged to let their imagination go where a child’s might naturally jump to’. Hampson’s Cinderella is drenched in mythological meaning from the natural world. The Grasshopper, Silk Moth and Spider are people from Cinderella’s ‘real’ world who transform into insects, helping Cinderella to transform too.
Of all the fairy-tale heroines, Cinderella often gets a hard time. Hampson resists the regular rags to riches fairy-tale, and instead we experience a young woman’s grief after the death of her mother – the symbolism of a rose tree planted at her mother’s grave permeates the ballet. Tamarin says, ‘it’s about situations beyond your control. Cinderella couldn’t save her mother because that’s just nature. Cinderella is not a victim, she just happens to be going through something that we will all go through at some point, she’s really lonely and grieving. She’s surrounded by people, but is on her own, and so is the Prince. When they find each other it’s not a magical white horse moment. They really get each other and have empathy for each other. I think that’s something everyone can relate to. It’s really important that what we do on the stage makes the audience empathise with our characters, even the ones we don’t like.’