The Scotsman Sessions #159: Sophie Martin

Welcome to The Scotsman Sessions. With performing arts activity curtailed for the foreseeable future, we are commissioning a series of short video performances from artists all around the country and releasing them on scotsman.com, with introductions from our critics. Here, we see Scottish Ballet principal dancer Sophie Martin rehearsing for the company’s new show, The Secret Theatre, which combines elements of The Nutcracker and The Snow Queen

Six cities, 68 performances and thousands of audience members. That’s how Scottish Ballet should have been spending this winter, bringing sparkle into people’s lives with Peter Darrell’s much-loved version of The Nutcracker. Instead, like everyone else in 2020, Scottish Ballet has had to adapt. If we can’t go to them, they’ll come to us via a brand new film to watch at home that captures the joy of live performance.

Combining elements of The Nutcracker and Christopher Hampson’s The Snow Queen, The Secret Theatre is seen through the eyes of a young boy who wanders backstage in an empty venue. Props and costumes from previous shows are magically brought to life through dance – including the beautiful Sugar Plum Fairy solo, danced by Scottish Ballet principal Sophie Martin.

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Practising in this short video, Martin shows the usual stop-start nature of a rehearsal. But while brief breaks to adjust pointe shoes are a regular sight in a ballet studio, pausing to pull away a mask and take gulps of air is a new phenomenon.

Sophie Martin

“Once your heart rate starts going up, wearing a mask is really hard,’ says Martin. “So whenever you’re by yourself, you take a bit of fresh air to get your muscles going again. It’s not just about breathing, it’s that we forget to relax our faces, which makes the whole upper body a bit stiff.”

A dancer with Scottish Ballet for 12 years, French-born Martin has performed in countless stage shows and digital works. Yet she and her fellow dancers found another surprising side effect of rehearsing 2020-style.

“For The Secret Theatre we only removed our masks for a few rehearsals before filming,” she says. “So at first, everybody felt quite shy with their facial expressions because we’d been hiding from everyone for months.”

The Secret Theatre is available to view online at www.scottishballet.co.uk from 21 December

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