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.
Sophie Laplane danced with the company from 2004 until 2017 when she hung up her pointe shoes one last time, and was appointed Artist in Residence, choreographer. She has created a number of works for Scottish Ballet, most recently Dextera which will be performed across Scotland as part of the Spring! double bill.
Sophie has had a busy start to 2019. Alongside the world premiere of Dextera, she will also premiere CLICK! for Ballet Black at The Barbican, followed by the US premiere of Sibilo in Salt Lake City in May.
How did you first start dancing and what first attracted you to Scottish Ballet?
My parents sent me to piano classes but they quickly realised I couldn’t sit still for long. From as far back as I remember I’ve always danced - I used to organise mini shows where I would ask my parents and their friends to come and watch what I had prepared and rehearsed. I took it very seriously and had my costume ready and my mum’s makeup on. It had to be perfect!
I think my parents had no choice but to let me start dance classes when I was about 7 years old. They probably thought if they had to keep enduring my performances I may as well get better at it!
I spent my teenage years studying at the Conservatoire National Superieur de Musique et de Danse de Paris with Sophie Martin [Scottish Ballet Principal]. She had joined Scottish Ballet straight after our graduation while I went to the Ballet de Lorraine. She mentioned to me that Scottish Ballet were looking for new dancers and I was immediately attracted by the Company's diverse and exciting repertoire.
Can you talk about your transition from dancer to Artist in Residence?
In June 2017 I decided to focus on choreography. I had already choreographed while dancing with Scottish Ballet, but I felt the time had come for me to fully invest my time in a choreographic career. When I hung up my pointe shoes Christopher Hampson gave me the opportunity to stay close to Scottish Ballet by making me Artist in Residence. It’s an amazing privilege to have the title. Chris has given me a lot of support, acting as my mentor throughout the process.
Alongside this I am doing an MA in Choreographic Studies at Central School of Ballet in London, and being Artist in Residence has allowed me to do this while continuing to develop as a choreographer. I created a few short pieces for Scottish Ballet events last year, which were great opportunities to explore new ideas for future projects with the company.
'Creativity is like a muscle - you need to keep it toned and nourished!'
Being Artist in Residence also allows me to enrich my experience by working on projects with other companies. Two recent opportunities, working on the New York City Institute’s Fall Session in October 2018, and creating a piece for Ballet Black to be shown at The Barbican in March, were incredible experiences.
In terms of the transition, it’s harder to keep fit when you’re a choreographer!
How do you go about creating a new work from scratch?
My work is very often described as quirky and tends to be very detailed and precise so I always have the concept and the vocabulary of the piece clearly in mind before starting rehearsal.
Once in the studio, working with Scottish Ballet dancers is always richly rewarding. They are a source of inspiration throughout the process, always ready to go the extra mile. I’m never afraid of asking them the impossible because I know something possible will come out of it. An added benefit is the fact that I know them and they know me: they are familiar with my vocabulary and the trust is already established. This enables me to try things out with the dancers to embrace vulnerability to help stimulate new ideas.
'Some of the most creative moments in the studio come from unexpected surprises.'
What has been your career highlight so far?
Tricky, there are a few! As a dancer performing the role of Stella in A Streetcar Named Desire by Annabelle Ochoa was definitely one; Emergence by Crystal Pite was such a powerful experience being part of the whole company on stage; Ivgi and Greben's Each Other is a memorable and fulfilling piece for me.
Choreographically speaking every opportunity I have had so far are all highlights for different reasons. From Oxymore, my first piece presented as part of Dance Odysseys in 2013, to Maze collaborating with the talented Eve McConnachie which won the Best Screen Dance Short at the 2015 San Francisco Dance Film Festival, to more recently having CLICK! created for Ballet Black.
But if I really really had to pick only one I would say it was Sibilo. I remember being asked, 'when did you realise you were a choreographer?' and my answer is when I saw my name on the poster for Sibilo.
What’s your ‘get up and go’ song?
At the moment, with my head full of Dextera, it’s Mozart, Mozart, Mozart!