A huge welcome to Araminta Wraith, Scottish Ballet soloist and DanceTabs guest blogger during this, the companies 50th anniversary season. Over to ‘Minty’ to say more…
As I sat on a stunning train ride to Inverness wondering how to even begin writing this blog, I figured introducing myself was probably a good start.
Now, I’m no Carrie Bradshaw but when Bruce Marriot approached me with the proposition of guest blogging for DanceTabs this year I thought, why not? I’m always banging on about how important it is to let dancers have more of a voice so it’s time to put my money where my mouth is.
A bit about me first, my full name is Araminta but amongst an array of weird and wonderful nicknames I mostly go by Minty. I was born in London and trained at both the Royal Ballet School and English National Ballet School before gaining a contract with English National Ballet (ENB). I stayed there for seven years until Scotland then came a-calling and I have been dancing with Scottish Ballet for the last five years, where I am currently a soloist on the road celebrating our 50th year.
It’s pretty buzzing up here at the moment as we kicked off our celebrations officially with a Gala opening night party (red wine and heels at the ready) and the start of our tour, which includes one of my favorites, Sir Kenneth Macmillan’s Elite Syncopations.
It always feels like we’ll have so much time to prepare for these tours at the beginning, but it can come around so quickly. Chris (Hampson, my main boss man) brought up some great guest teachers to help whip us into shape after our mid-season break. I love working with guest teachers as it’s so refreshing to hear different approaches from all around the world. This time we had Nanette Glushak (ex NYCB principal and former director of Scottish Ballet and Ballet de Capitol) and Irek Mukamadov (from the Bolshoi, Royal Ballet and ENB) – both pretty big dogs in the ballet world. Sometimes it can be challenging to work with outside staff – everyone likes to do things a certain way and, being a forward-thinking company, it can be tricky to hear some old school phrases. Working with Irek was such a blast though. The ballet world can take itself so seriously sometimes, but he has such a great sense of humor in the way he teaches. It was a good reminder that it is possible to work hard and love your job, whilst remembering that the world isn’t going to end if you fall out of the terrible pirouette you just did.
Nanette has a very American style of teaching, quite different approaches from how we work. It’s useful to try out different methods sometimes though and I found that her reminders about anatomy and keeping our shoulder blades pinned down really helped me with keeping compact when dancing. There is a tricky diagonal in my solo with continuous ‘lame ducks’ and these tips really helped with that. I love the fact that we get lots of guest teachers and am always thankful that Chris helps us develop further as artists by bringing in different voices.
Back up in Inverness, it’s important that we help the company out with promoting our shows and this tour is no different. With no shortage of jaw-dropping views in the highlands, we headed to Loch Ness for a photoshoot with The Times photographer, James Glossop. I’m told it’s to be in our Elite costumes, so Calliope for me, I love the colourful designs for this piece so it should look ace. Photoshoot I hear you say, how glam! But let me tell you, it’s all fun and games until you have to take your coat off and pose in a unitard on the edge of a windy loch! Teamwork comes into its own on these projects and if there’s one thing I can always guarantee, it’s that SB know how to pull together to get a good result. After a lot of tag teaming and layer swapping, our rehearsal director Ollie (Rydout) gives the nod of approval that we got the shot and we run to the van for a much-needed hot drink. I quite literally could not feel my toes and I can see my friend Ash’s lips were still blue even through her lipstick, but on to the shows we go!
As a veteran touring dancer, I’ve become pretty used to performing on the road and have a good routine going now. I like to make sure I’ve at least tried to get 8 hours sleep the night before my show and then in the morning make sure I stock up with all the food and hydration I’m going to need in the theatre – the last thing I need is to rush around while I’m trying to prepare. We have one last rehearsal of my cast before we go on that night. It’s not a costume call but the unitard is so hard to get into my blue dyed shoes and cuts the circulation so I need to give it another go, so I look ridiculously overdressed but needs must. A couple of my mates also debut in this cast so we like to exchange what we call ‘toi toi’ or ‘chukkas’ gifts to show each other support, it’s such a great feeling when everyone’s put in so much work and we can finally get out there, put on a great show and just enjoy ourselves. Dancing Calliope was definitely worth the wait and I loved every minute of becoming her slinky, sassy self.
It’s been a busy week and that’s just the first venue. We’re opening on home turf in Glasgow next, and they’re always a brilliant audience so ready for round two. Until then, it’s a 3hr bus ride back to my house so I’m just grateful they now make gin and tonics in a can – cheers!