Interviews

5 Questions to Nicholas Shoesmith about his latest work – Odyssey – for Scottish Ballet

Nicholas Shoesmith.<br />© Eve McConnachie. (Click image for larger version)
Nicholas Shoesmith.
© Eve McConnachie. (Click image for larger version)

Odyssey by Nicholas Shoesmith premieres on Tuesday 4 May at 1pm – it follows swiftly on the heels of last weeks short film premiere from Sophie Laplane. The new film is directed by Ciaran Lyons, and tickets can be booked via Scottish Ballet’s free membership here:

www.scottishballet.co.uk/event/odyssey

Q: Tell us all about Odyssey – the inspiration, music, design and what you hope the audience will get from it…

NS: Odyssey was heavily inspired by my favourite pastime – gaming.

A lot of the storytelling used in the gaming industry is told through the perspective of the protagonist, something I don’t feel is commonly used in dance or dance film so I really wanted to make a film with this in mind, to add something different to the digital dance landscape.
 

Eado Turgeman, Madeline Squire and Jamiel Laurence in rehearsal for Odyssey.© Tony Currie. (Click image for larger version)
Eado Turgeman, Madeline Squire and Jamiel Laurence in rehearsal for Odyssey.
© Tony Currie. (Click image for larger version)

As for the music, it’s from 2 separate artists and is basically structured to form two separate acts. We utilised lighting and colouring heavily to try and create different landscapes that inhabit a variety of otherworldly beings which is also reflected in the costuming.

The movement is all led fully by the costume design, which was prioritised ahead of the creation to help inspire new movement that would be driven by the type of characters we were working on.

Throughout the process of creating this film, the take away from the work has changed drastically. It’s been about escapism and journeying, to then becoming a work that highlights the dynamics in human interaction.
 

Behind the scenes of Nicholas Shoesmith's new film <I>Odyssey</I>.<br />© Andy Ross. (Click image for larger version)
Behind the scenes of Nicholas Shoesmith’s new film Odyssey.
© Andy Ross. (Click image for larger version)

I don’t want to make any bold statements on what the work is about, but rather, use the filming techniques as a vehicle for viewers to enjoy this work from the eyes of our lead protagonist.
 

How different is it creating for film rather than the live stage? Is it much more complex?

Creating for film isn’t too dissimilar to creating for stage, in terms of the process, however where it begins to differ is on the smaller details and framing; rather than a stage, which offers the viewer options on what they would like to watch at any given moment, in film the camera really decides that for you.
 

Nicholas Shoesmith and Director Ciaran Lyons in rehearsal for Odyssey at Scottish Ballet.© Tony Currie. (Click image for larger version)
Nicholas Shoesmith and Director Ciaran Lyons in rehearsal for Odyssey at Scottish Ballet.
© Tony Currie. (Click image for larger version)

There’s also the process of editing that comes into play. When you’ve created a live performance, dancers perform, the moment passes and the adrenaline of the event dissipates.

When you film dance, you still get that same buzz around performing it, but then once the shoot ends, that’s actually the beginning of putting the final product together so in that sense, it’s a bit bizarre!
 

What’s it been like creating under Covid restrictions, and how long has it taken?

The turnaround has been quite quick in terms of creating the movement, but the planning has been going on for a lot longer than that.

While working under Covid restrictions has been challenging, especially in terms of scheduling (we’ve only had access to dancers for half a day at a time to accommodate other bubbles), the company has become quite adept at working through these conditions.
 

Ciara Nolan and Principal Jerome Anthony Barnes on the <I>Odyssey</I> set.<br />© Andy Ross. (Click image for larger version)
Ciara Nolan and Principal Jerome Anthony Barnes on the Odyssey set.
© Andy Ross. (Click image for larger version)

Having had the experience of creating Catalyst in a similar way, it didn’t come as a surprise at least! Speaking as a dancer as well as a choreographer, I can’t wait to be able to work a longer, more consistent day again in the future!
 

What’s your earliest dance memory, and what would you be if you weren’t a dancer/choreographer?

My earliest dance memory was a really embarrassing one!

I was about 8 or 9 years old and was dancing in competitions in Melbourne, Australia (my hometown). I was in an Improvisation section for all ages, and had no idea what track was going to be played…

All the contestants lined up in the wings eagerly anticipating what track we’d be moving to.
Then, on came ‘Who Let the Dogs Out’. I’m not sure why at that age I thought entering the stage in a side split jeté would be a good idea, but yeah, certainly the earliest memory I have of dance.
 

Constance Devernay & Christopher Harrison in Nicholas Shoesmith's <I>Odyssey</I>.<br />© Andy Ross. (Click image for larger version)
Constance Devernay & Christopher Harrison in Nicholas Shoesmith’s Odyssey.
© Andy Ross. (Click image for larger version)

If I wasn’t a dancer/choreographer, I’d most likely be attempting to make something as a sportsman. Maybe Squash, or Australian Rules football.
 

What’s your motto or mantra in life – what carries you through no matter what?

I don’t have any mantras or mottos. I just tend to try and remain creative and engaged in any creative work I happen to be doing. It’s where I feel most rewarded and motivated.
 

Bonus Question: Tell us a joke?

A priest, a pastor and a rabbit walk into a blood donation clinic.
The nurse asks the rabbit: “What is your blood type?”.  “I’m probably a type-O” said the rabbit.
 
 

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