Scottish Ballet brings in 'intimacy coaches' for first time in its history

Scotland's national ballet company has revealed it has started working with “intimacy coaches” for the first time in its history to help protect dancers performing “erotically charged” and violent scenes.

Scottish Ballet believes it is the first ballet company in the world to bring in specialists to help “safeguard” its dancers, who will be tackling scenes depicting sexual violence in its next major production.

It has announced the move ahead of the world premiere of The Scandal at Mayerling, which will will explore themes of sexual obsession, mental illness and drug addiction through a series of “increasingly intense” duets.

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A brand new version of a ballet first staged by the Royal Ballet company in 1978, the production focuses on a dysfunctional royal family and the events leading up to the death of a prince and his teenage lover.

Scottish Ballet said it expected the show – which charts the excessive lifestyle of the crown prince Rudolf and explores his morbid fascination with death – to “startle” audiences.Intimacy coaches or coordinators are becoming increasingly used in film and TV productions to provide extra protection for actors.

Artistic director Christopher Hampson said The Scandal at Mayerling featured some of the “most visceral and emotionally charged” choreography ever produced for the stage.

He said the specialist workshops for its dancers and staff working on rehearsals would give them "the relevant skills to authentically portray the characters and scenes while maintaining a safe a respectful working environment."

The ballet is based on the true-life “murder-suicide” in late 19th century Austria, when the crown prince Rudolf and his love Mary were found in a hunting lodge near Vienna.Scottish Ballet performers and staff are attending workshops on preparing and performing intimate scenes, “boundary setting” and the use of replica imitation firearms on The Scandal at Mayerling, which will premiere in Glasgow in April before going on tour to Inverness, Aberdeen and Edinburgh.

Principal dancers Christopher Harrison and Sophie Martin will play Crown Prince Rudolf and Mary Vetsera in Scottish Ballet's forthcoming production of The Scandal at Mayerling. Picture: Mihaela Bodlovic

Scottish Ballet will be warning audiences in advance that the production will be exploring themes of mental illness, sexual violence, addiction and suicide.

Mr Hampson said: “It’s important that all our dancers, rehearsal staff and stage management are fully supported as we embark on rehearsing and performing scenes which include intimacy, sex, and physical and sexual violence.

“Rc-Annie will lead workshops including boundary setting and coaching on how to safely rehearse scenes which include sexual content and emotionally charged exchanges.

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“I believe that taking this approach will equip our dancers, and their coaches, with the relevant skills to authentically portray the characters and scenes, while maintaining a safe a respectful working environment.

Rishan Benjamin, Christopher Harrison, Constance Devernay and Sophie Martin in rehearsals for the forthcoming Scottish Ballet production of The Scandal at Mayerling. Picture: Mihaela Bodlovic

"I’m proud that Scottish Ballet is investing in this necessary training and look forward to how it will help us grow as we develop our repertoire for the future.”

Christopher Harrison, who will be playing the crown prince in Scottish Ballet’s production, said: “It’s such an iconic role for a male dancer and is known to be one of the most challenging characters to perform - both physically and mentally.

“It will require a lot time in the gym building my strength and stamina, allowing me to fully focus on the complex character of Rudolf in rehearsals.

“There are seven major pas de deux with five different dancers, so I’ll be on stage nearly all of the time.”

Scottish Ballet principals Christopher Harrison and Sophie Martin, who play Crown Prince Rudolf and Mary Vetsera, in rehearals for The Scandal at Mayerling.

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Scottish Ballet's production of The Scandal at Mayerling will see Constance Devernay play Princess Stephanie, Rishan Benjamin play Mitzi Caspar and Sophie Martin play Mary Vetsera. Picture: Mihaela Bodlovic
Principal dancers Christopher Harrison and Sophie Martin will play Crown Prince Rudolf and Mary Vetsera in Scottish Ballet's forthcoming production of The Scandal at Mayerling. Picture: Mihaela Bodlovic

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