Case Study: Preparing young people for a career in the performing arts industry

Ewan Hambelton

How did you first discover ballet?
I first discovered dance at the age of two. My older sister started the classes before I was born and my mum was able to enjoy a coffee morning with her friends whilst she was in the class. After I was born she decided to put me in the classes as well so she was able to continue having her weekly catch up.

When did you first become involved with Scottish Ballet?
I first became involved with Scottish Ballet when I successfully auditioned for their Junior Associate Programme at the age of 10.

Can you explain your journey through the company?
In 2009 I first auditioned for Scottish Ballet's Junior Associate Programme and after being selected, participated in a full day of classes once a month. In 2011 I participated in Hansel & Gretel, and Me! which took place in Hermitage Park and concluded in a promenade performance. In 2012 I joined Scottish Ballet's Senior Associates and began attending weekly classes in Glasgow. In 2014 I started a three year degree in Modern Ballet at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (RCS) in partnership with Scottish Ballet. In early 2015 was accepted to join Scottish Ballet’s Youth Exchange Programme where I have worked with many different choreographers and company dancers. With this project, I also had the opportunity to travel to Singapore to collaborate with and learn from people of diverse cultures which helped me develop as a dance artist. After my second year of training at the RCS I was asked to join Scottish Ballet for their Performance of Crystal Pite's Emergence as part of the 2016 Edinburgh International Festival. This was an incredibly beneficial opportunity offered to me by Scottish Ballet which allowed me to get an insight into how a professional company works while learning from the dancers and staff around me. During my third year of training I was asked to return to the youth exchange project as Assistant Rehearsal Director, where I have been given the chance to Perform, mentor, and choreograph with the guidance of the education department at Scottish Ballet.

During the summer of 2017 I am one of six choreographers Participating in SB Creates, which is a choreographic mentorship programme led by Artistic Director/CEO Christopher Hampson and world renowned choreographer and mentor Kerry Nichols. This is an exciting chance for me to develop my skills as both a choreographer and rehearsal director. It also gives me an opportunity to work with the Scottish Ballet dancers again and consolidate my skills in a practical working environment.

During my development as a dance artist, Scottish Ballet has constantly offered support with so many opportunities. I am so privileged that my national ballet company has such a strong education department.

What have been some of your highlights over the years?
One of the most significant contributors to my development was being a part of the Youth Exchange Project. It really succeeded in filling the gaps between preparation and performance. The whole group was part of the entire process - from fundraising, planning, and creating the piece that we would eventually take around the world, to the final collaborative performance between both companies. Another highlight was working on Crystal Pite’s Emergence. This gave me a chance to see how a company works before going to auditions during my third year. I was able to be pushed by the fast paced environment of rehearsals while being offered advice from the dancers on how to work more efficiently.

Have you made any new friendships through your involvement with Scottish Ballet?
I have had the opportunity to meet so many new people through Scottish Ballet. From people I have met during my time with Junior Associate Programme who have become my flatmates over the past three years, to participating in the Youth Exchange Program and being able to travel around the world with the people I work with. I have also been warmly welcomed by all the dancers when working with the company.

What have you learned during your time with the company?
Scottish Ballet has been I huge part of my development as a dance artist and I will be eternally grateful for all the opportunities they have given me. I have been given the chance to take weekly classes with teachers who knew exactly how to push their students and get the most out of them. I have also been given the chance to develop my artistry in a safe place and to be guided to explore new areas of dance outside of classical ballet which is important, considering how much the world of dance is changing. Scottish Ballet has shown me just how much work goes into a successful project. Finally, they have given me the chance to create work and learn from my mistakes and develop my strengths which is a very rare opportunity for a young person to have.

Where do you hope this experience will take you?
In September I will be starting my first job at Ballet Theatre UK. I hope to spend many years dancing, and I would love to become a choreographer in the later part of my career.