Araminta Wraith, Scottish Ballet soloist, is a DanceTabs guest blogger during the companies 50th anniversary season. This is her second blog of the series…
Well it’s back in the studio for all of us here in Glasgow after a super fun Spring! tour. Last time I wrote this I was donning a catsuit but after a week of what felt like summer, the layers are back on in Scotland – no surprises there. I do love being on the road but it’s always refreshing to be back on home turf for a while, and back in the studios working on new things.
First things first though, I have to give a huge shout out to Scottish Ballet’s Digital Season that kicked off in May and is approaching its close after a month of distributing dance across digital. I want to give a particular nod to Jess & Morgs (Jessica Wright and Morgann Runacre-Temple) for the release of their fantastic film TREMBLE, which was filmed with 26 company dancers in November, and is nothing short of genius.
When putting dance on film, you need to put so much trust in the process as the end product is ever evolving. Shooting it in two days was a tall order, but it’s ace to see a quirky dance film that doesn’t take itself too seriously.
It was so interesting to be part of a process which used reverse shots with dance. Thinking of all the details to make it flow perfectly and getting everyone’s props moving so it made sense post-edit was no small feat, but it has made for a film with such an original feel. If Wes Anderson were to make a dance film, this is the sort of thing I would imagine he would produce.
Jess & Morgs managed to create a totally bonkers world in a very short amount of time, I only wish it could have been longer. Having said that, the more times you watch it, the more you notice. Basically, what I’m saying is if you haven’t seen it already, you should watch it immediately alongside all the other great films that are part of the Digital Season on our website.
From film to TV, I recently worked with the BBC on a short package for BBC Loop whereby I got to meet my legend of a pointe shoe maker, Alan. When I was initially approached about this, I was chuffed. As dancers it’s crazy that we have such a personal connection with our shoes yet it’s rare for dancers and shoe makers to meet. It was so special to get to chat about what really goes into the process and to tell Alan all the reasons why I chose him as my maker and the impact he has had on my career.
Having had a foot injury, part of the reason I use Freed is because they can continuously tweak your order to suit how your foot is changing and adapting. For example, when my foot was healing, Alan had to make my shoes slightly bigger to accommodate the inflammation but as soon as I was back in full swing I ended up back in my original shoe. It’s also key for Mary (Mullen), our Head of Wardrobe, to be in continuous contact with Freed to make sure the company’s pointes are the perfect order and fit.
As part of the visit and filming at Freed, Alan explained to us that the process is crafted and handmade from start to finish, using moulds and lots of layers of paper and materials, including a special mix that is completely secret and only used by Freed of London. It takes a shoemaker 8 months to learn the ropes and you could see the years of expertise in how accurate Alan was, even under the pressure of being filmed!
After a dancer gets given her shoes, we then spend another hour sewing ribbons to give support around the ankle, elastics to help keep the shoes on and darning the end to help with balance and longevity – only then can they finally hit the stage and get battered to within an inch of their lives. I can go through shoes faster than a toupee in a hurricane sometimes; three per show if it’s a role like Cinderella so it means a lot of sewing. (Thank god for Netflix).
We sound like a fussy bunch but honestly, if they don’t feel right it’s like you’ve rammed your feet into someone else’s shoes and tried to go on a night out in them. After a few changes over the years though there is no chance anyone else will make my shoes until Alan retires and I can only hope that will be long after I do! You can watch the piece on BBC here.
On that note I need to take myself back upstairs to the studio to break in yet another pair and start prepping for the last part of our Digital Season where Tom Edwards and myself will be hosting a live stream of our company class. You can see how well we did on Scottish Ballet’s Facebook…
Peace and love until next time.