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The Power of Creative Women

International Women’s Day 2024 

International Women’s Day (8 March) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating women’s equality. Here at Scottish Ballet we work alongside brilliant and inspiring women every day. Today, we celebrate International Women’s Day 2024 and acknowledge the hard work, talent and determination of the female creatives behind many of our most celebrated productions.

Choreographer Helen Pickett created Scottish Ballet’s The Crucible which had its world premiere at the Edinburgh International Festival in 2019. Emma Kingsbury created the set design as well as the memorable Puritan-inspired costumes. The production received critical acclaim and continues to be a firm favourite amongst audiences, having toured throughout Scotland, London and the US. Helen is currently finalising a short work with Boston Ballet. She then will start work on creating a brand-new full-length work for both American Ballet Theatre, and later this year for Dutch National Ballet.

Scottish Ballet dancers in Helen Pickett's The Crucible, with costumes by Emma Kingsbury. Photo by Andy Ross

Helen Pickett – Choreographer 

“I’ve been working as a choreographer for 18 years now and feel passionate about fostering and providing guidance to the next generation of women coming into this wonderful industry. I love to see new and emerging female choreographers getting into the field, often these women have been working tirelessly for some years before getting their breakthrough. I founded a group called ‘the female choreographers big round table’ which takes place on zoom and has 150 participants, I set it up during the pandemic, but it has continued to provide an invaluable space for distributing information, sharing experiences, and for having thought-provoking discussion. Through the many trials and tribulations we face as female choreographers, dancers, directors and artists I consistently find this league of women incredibly inspiring.”

“I’ve had the great pleasure of watching friends of mine after their years of hard and intelligent work, go on to receive directorship status – it’s extremely validating that their knowledge and talent is now recognised. There are many women that have taken the helm of ballet companies across the world – I feel very fortunate to be living in this time and to be watching, listening and sharing space with all of these amazing women. I also regularly work with a multitude of dancers from different companies all over the world and I’ve identified a commonality amongst all the women who I get to work with – a courage, that I find infinitely inspiring.”

In 2020, Jessica Wright and Morgann Runacre-Temple (known as Jess and Morgs) collaborated with Scottish Ballet to direct the critically acclaimed feature film The Secret Theatre, created by Artistic Director Christopher Hampson and Lez Brotherston.

Their films are ambitious, full of high-octane choreography designed specifically for the camera and feature large casts shot on spectacular locations. Their work draws on surrealist imagery and humour, crossing art forms and genres which hold broad appeal for a wide range of audiences today.

Most recently, the duo premiered Coppélia at Edinburgh International Festival in 2022, it was later performed to sold-out London audiences in March 2023 and won the award for Best Classical Choreography at the National Dance Awards 2022. Designer Annemarie Woods created the modern and appropriately futuristic costumes.

Freelance Video Designer Hayley Egan worked with Scottish Ballet on Coppélia as well as The Scandal at Mayerling and our most recent winter production Cinders. Hayley’s work includes various theatre productions and live events.

Hayley Egan – Video Designer 

“As a freelancer, a sense of belonging can be difficult to sustain. My work (and life) is transient, and it can often be years before I work with the same people again. Since 2021, I’ve had the privilege to work with Scottish Ballet regularly, on The Scandal at Mayerling, Coppélia and Cinders.”

“Investment in long-term collaboration has allowed me to explore my own voice as a designer, and their trust has given me a confidence in my work. As a woman working in video, trusting my own knowledge and instincts has not always been an easy task. Contributing to these incredible shows and creative teams, however, has given me the space and support to foster this. I’ve also made some brilliant friendships and connections at Scottish Ballet. Every time I return to Glasgow, I feel like I belong.”

Madeline Squire is a creative dance artist, choreographer, and movement director. She joined Scottish Ballet as an Artist in 2014, she was then promoted to First Artist in 2016. In 2021, Madeline was one of the first females to perform the role of the enigmatic magician Drosselmeyer in our winter production The Nutcrackerthe role in our production had only been performed by male dancers prior to this.  

“When I was a little girl, I loved the Marvel stories and used to watch superheroes like Spider-Man, never giving a thought to whether the hero was male or female – they were just the hero. Then, over the years, you realise so many of the hero roles you grew up watching were all male. Drosselmeyer is the hero of The Nutcracker story – the character guides Clara, whose journey the audience follows. I feel so honoured to have been asked to be one of the first female Drosselmeyers”

Her creative work is influenced from her own experience of neurological recovery and approach to disability, Madeline celebrates and explores the beauty in uniqueness. In 2019, Madeline created her first choreographic work for Scottish Ballet, short film The Three Graces.

Since then, Madeline has created three further works for Scottish Ballet – The Shimmering Extraordinary where Madeline shares her story with disability and neurological recovery, Tether which explores young people’s mental health and wellbeing, and Forming where she worked with two women from Scottish Ballet’s Elevate – a programme of dance classes for people living with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) – alongside Scottish Ballet Principal Marge Hendrick. Forming was created with – and inspired by – the work of photographer Chloe Rosser and co-directed by Scottish Ballet’s Brand Creative Lead, Eve McConnachie. 

Madeline is a white woman with long brown hair smiling at the camera

Madeline Squire First Artist, choreographer, and movement director

Madeline Squire –Scottish Ballet First Artist and Choreographer 

“I am constantly empowered by the beautiful grit women hold. I have been so fortunate to be surrounded by inspiring female creatives that have not only shaped my career, but my own life also. My mum has always encouraged the value of creativity and strength in daring to be unique. This is something I try to continue in my own work as a dancer and choreographer. To celebrate everyone’s uniqueness!”

Scottish Ballet’s dancer turned Resident Choreographer Sophie Laplane hung up her pointe shoes in 2017 and was made Scottish Ballet’s first ever Choreographer in Residence. Since then, Sophie’s critically acclaimed work has been performed all over the world by internationally renowned performers. Sophie has choreographed short films for Scottish Ballet including Maze, Dive, Oxymore and Indoors, and created stage productions Sibilio and Dextera. Set and Costume Designer Elin Steele created the designs for Sophie’s Dextera and has since worked with Scottish Ballet on The Scandal at Mayerling and Cinders. 

Elin Steele – Set and Costume Designer 

“I was recently invited to speak to pupils at my old secondary school – they had included me in a project on Welsh women who have had a cultural impact.  I attended a state comprehensive in rural Wales; a career in the arts wasn’t something that was immediately accessible to most people, and it was assumed that you would definitely need to leave for London in order to be successful. I stayed in Wales to train, and have since worked internationally, as well as on projects back home.  It was great to be able to tell young people that it is possible to support yourself while working in the arts, and to hold up examples of inspiring female creatives – friends, collaborators – who are leading the way throughout our sector.”

Elin trained at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, graduating in 2018. She was a 2019 Linbury Prize Finalist, and recipient of the 2020 Royal Opera House Bursary. 

Scottish Ballet’s production Twice-Born was created by Dickson Mbi and premiered in Autumn 2023 before touring Scotland. Dickson’s creative team included Costume Designer Debbie Duru who recently received 7 OFFIE nominations including costume design, and multi-award winning Lighting Designer Jessica HHY. 

Ruby Law is the Twice-Born Set Designer and has crafted theatre sets at the Royal Albert Hall, Sadler’s Wells Theatre, Walt Disney Concert Hall, and the National Museum of Qatar. Her expertise extends to concert stage designs, working with esteemed musicians like Jorja Smith, Billie Eilish, Haim, Joey Yung, and Terence Lam. Notable collaborations with iconic brands like Prada, Gucci, and Disney highlight her versatility. 

Ruby Law [RULA] – Set Designer & Spatial Artist

“Growing up I attended an all-girls school for both primary and secondary education. This was a formative experience for me which instilled a deep sense of admiration for the strength and capabilities of women. I was surrounded by peers who showed me on a daily basis that gender is never a barrier to achieving one’s dreams – I gained a profound belief in the power of female ambition.”

“Later, when I embarked on my journey into the theatre industry as a set designer, I was fortunate to be guided by remarkable women whose mentorship proved invaluable to me. Their support and encouragement fuelled my passion and helped me to navigate the complexities of this creative field. Working alongside talented women in theatre has been an enriching experience filled with camaraderie and shared inspiration.”

As we celebrate International Women’s Day I am reminded of the importance of fostering environments where women in the theatre industry can feel included and recognised for their immense contributions. Let us continue to uplift and empower one another, creating a future where every woman’s voice is heard and celebrated on stage and beyond. 

Ruby Law, Twice-Born Set Designer

This article focuses on the creative women behind the scenes of Scottish Ballet’s main stage productions. Meanwhile, on stage, this spring sees the female members of the corps de ballet push themselves to their athletic limits in Swan Lake, in an extraordinary test of endurance, stamina and artistry.

We look forward to welcoming more incredible, creative women to Scottish Ballet productions in the future – watch this space.

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