When the ravishing beauty of Cinderella arrives at His Majesty’s next week, it’s not so much a late Christmas present from Scottish Ballet as a promise of what’s to come.
While the fairy tale classic closes out the national dance company’s current season, it paves the way for its glittering 50th anniversary celebrations in the coming year, chock full of world premieres, special events – and even a drive to make wishes come true for dance fans.
Christopher Hampson, CEO and artistic director of Scottish Ballet is thrilled at the prospect of both bringing his version of Cinderella to Aberdeen and the spirited season celebrating the company’s five decades at the cutting-edge of ballet.
“It’s been three years since we presented Cinderella there before, so absolutely thrilled to bring it back to Aberdeen,” said Christopher. “One thing with Aberdeen is that beautiful His Majesty’s Theatre, a Frank Matcham theatre like the one we have in Glasgow. Sometimes our productions look at their best in that theatre, because it has just the right proportions, the audience is close enough to see all the action. We like performing there a great deal.”
He originally devised his take on Cinderella for the Royal New Zealand Ballet in 2007. Scottish Ballet toured it to great acclaim in 2015 and it is now back by “popular demand”, something which delights Christopher.
“I love that people enjoy the production and I especially love that it’s a production for all ages. That’s what I get the most from the audience that both young and old like it,” he said.
While there have been some subtle tweaks to the version the public fell in love with, Christopher says ballet fans will be delighted to see the new wave of dancers coming through the ranks of Scottish Ballet.
“We have quite a few cast changes. There is lots of fantastic new talent coming up, so that’s a reason to come and see it.”
He believes it’s both the story of Cinderella and Prokofiev’s lush score which keeps audiences returning.
“It’s a story that pretty much everybody knows. It’s a ballet where you can go to a performance not thinking ‘I hope I get this’,” he said.
“You are just swept away with the music and the movement. You experience the story in such a different way. It takes us on a deeper journey into the story of Cinderella and her prince.
“I always describe it as a journey from darkness into light. We start at the grave of her mother – probably one of the darkest places you could ever start a family show – but it just gets brighter from there on until the end which is really poignant.”
Christopher says there are even more delights to come in the big milestone season.
“I’m really excited. This is going to be an opportunity for the company to showcase our mission, which is to inspire on stage and beyond.
“It’s the ‘and beyond’ bit I’m really keen to share with the rest of Scotland, to demonstrate that as a national dance company, we really take very seriously our remit to make sure the art form is as accessible as possible to anybody in Scotland and beyond Scotland.”
As part of the season, Scottish Ballet has three world premieres lined up. Resident choreographer Sophie Laplane’s Dextera will be coming to HMT in April as part of a Spring! double bill with Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s Elite Syncopations, never performed in Aberdeen before.
In October Helen Pickett’s powerful take on The Crucible will arrive in the Granite City after its world premiere at the Edinburgh International Festival.
And in January, Christopher’s newly-created version of The Snow Queen will be a magical festive treat – as well as another world premiere.
Christopher said The Crucible and The Snow Queen are very different ballets.
“Obviously, The Crucible is based on the Arthur Miller play and will see that world of witchcraft, accusation and small-mindedness that drives the community to almost self-destruction. It’s a really compelling dance drama and I know it’s going to be absolutely sensational. It’s a real edge-of-your-seat production,” said Christopher.
“Then, in total contrast, we have The Snow Queen, a beautiful fairy tale. It’s a beautifully designed production by Lez Brotherston. Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake was recently in Aberdeen and that was designed by Lez. He’s turned his talents to us for The Snow Queen. It will look absolutely sumptuous. I just have to create it now,” Christopher added, laughing.
Both The Crucible and The Snow Queen are part of Scottish Ballet’s Five In Five drive to commission and stage five new full-length ballets over five years.
Christopher said: “We’re not doing things by half. Most ballet companies will commission one work over two to three years so to do one work a year over the next five years is really ambitous.
“But we are looking to set the foundations of the company for the next 50 years. Our founder, Peter Darrell, founded this company on new work. He forged a new path, and with that spirit that’s what we want to continue doing as we work towards our future. We are setting the bar very high for our future.”
But the celebrations aren’t just happening on stage. Scottish Ballet launched a Make A Wish! campaign, inviting people to ask for anything from dancers performing at a birthday party to getting on stage with them during a show.
Christopher said: “The idea is to help us to say thank you to Scotland for supporting us for 50 years. A way to do that was to ask the nation ‘what can we do for you?’.
“We hoped it would inspire us and challenge us to step up to communities and engage with them in a deep and meaningful way. Wow, the public did not disappoint. We had hundreds of wishes and thousands and thousands of votes. We had everything from coming to dance for a ballet mad gran in her front room, to appearing at a wedding on the banks of the River Ness.”
Christopher said the judging panel, which includes dance legend Dame Darcey Bussell, will announce their choices soon.
“They are all stories that make a difference to us as a company and make a difference to people who wrote in,” he said.
Cinderella is at HMT from Wednesday to Saturday.