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.
Preston Clare was a dancer with the company from 1985 to 2003. Since retiring he has been a teacher, an actor and set up his own theatre company. Preston teaches adult ballet classes with our engagement team.
How did you first get involved in dance, and what first attracted you to Scottish Ballet?
I started dancing at the age of 3 as a family friend was starting a small ballet school. I was the only boy and was always placed in the middle for the dances. Naively, I didn’t realise it was because I was the only boy and I thought it was because I was the best! In 1974 I became one of the first of five boys at the Hammond School of Dancing, based in Chester.
My first contract was in 1982 with Irish National Ballet, based in Cork. We didn’t get to see any other ballets in Cork and so, I used to watch endless ballet videos, one of which was the comical ballet Symphony in D choreographed by Jiří Kylián. I really wanted to dance in this ballet and knew that it was in Scottish Ballet’s repertoire. Scottish Ballet’s Assistant Artistic Director, Gordon Aitken was a guest teacher at Irish National Ballet, and I asked him whether I could go to Glasgow to take a few classes with the company. Peter Darrell watched me and to my amazement offered me a contract, so I joined Scottish Ballet in 1985 and a year later I was dancing in Symphony in D!
Could you describe your journey since retiring in 2003?
I already had my RAD teachers’ certificate and so started teaching for several colleges in and around Glasgow. It was then that I was offered a full time job teaching at my old school. I realised that I missed the variety of the work at Scottish Ballet, so I came back to Glasgow and enrolled on an acting and performing course at Langside College, gaining my diploma in 2008.
My acting agent encouraged me to move down to London, where I performed in several productions and, also, appeared in a couple of music videos. While there I had the idea to start my own theatre company that travels around care homes, community centres and small theatres throughout Scotland. I moved back to Glasgow and formed Theatre Presto in 2011. I also teach for Scottish Ballet's engagement department, which gives me the best of both worlds - running my own theatre company and teaching.
You’ve worked with Scottish Ballet in different capacities, which experience has stretched you the most?
Definitely as a professional dancer, this stretched me in all directions, and I loved it. I consider myself to have been very lucky to have danced under Scottish Ballet’s founder, Peter Darrell. He encouraged us to think about who we were and what we were portraying to the audience as well as the physical demands of the dance itself. I also learnt that simplicity was much more effective and to imagine myself in the audience watching what I was doing.
Can you talk about how working with Dancers’ Career Development has helped you?
I was always aware of the Dancers’ Career Development. Linda Yates would often come and talk to us dancers about our future careers. I must admit at the time I put all my energy into dance. So, when the inevitable happened I was not prepared. I knew I was going to teach as I already had my RAD teacher’s certificate since 1982 and therefore, I threw myself into teaching.
When I came up with the idea of starting my own theatre company I went to Linda Yates at the DCD with my idea. She grabbed the idea with such enthusiasm and gave me so much encouragement. She assigned a mentor to help me come up with a company plan. Once this was all approved by the DCD board, they were able to help fund the start up of Theatre Presto.
What advice would you give to a dancer who’s starting to think about their next step, after retiring from professional dance?
I think you should start thinking about your next step before you retire from professional dance. Scottish Ballet’s very good at encouraging all dancers to think about their future careers while they’re still dancing, without making dancers feel that they are being ‘pushed out’.
‘'Take all the advice you can get. Find what interests you and you will be a success. After all, you have the determination of a dancer!'’
What’s your get up and go song?
Now, this is the hardest question. However, there is one piece of music that really gets me moving: Conga del Fuego by Arturo Marquez. It is a brilliantly energetic piece of music.