Following the recent Royal Academy of Dance’s Genée International Ballet Competition, I caught up with young British Dancer Hamish Scott, who was awarded a bronze medal at the hotly contested final in Sydney.
19 year old Hamish, now in his final year at Elmhurst Ballet School, was drawn to the world of ballet from a very young age. “I started dancing because my sister went to ballet lessons and I always wanted to join in. I have always been exposed to dance as my father works in The Royal Ballet Sinfonia and I was fortunate enough to have seen many performances.”
This year the UK was represented by three dancers in the Genée competition finals – Jade Wallace, Connor Williams and Hamish himself, who all train at Elmhurst Ballet School in Birmingham. Hamish explains why the Genée is so important to him and his fellow students. “The Genée is one of the most prestigious ballet competitions in the world and it’s held by the Royal Academy of Dance. To compete in the competition you need to have obtained a distinction at RAD Advanced 2 Ballet; this is a feat in itself, so the competitors are all a very high standard. I was lucky enough to receive 96/100 in my Advanced 2 (Distinction is 75+).
The competition is solo based. You present 3 solos: one from set classical repertoire, another choreographed by the competitor/a peer/teacher, and the final solo is a commissioned piece taught to the 86 candidates over the week of coaching before the competition is held.
For me, the Genée is an opportunity to gain exposure on an international level. To be seen by directors of companies and choreographers that wouldn’t have seen me otherwise – if you’re seen by the right person, it might lead to other opportunities. The competition is a goal that encourages me to raise my own technical standard. I feel that having goals gives me something to work towards and something to focus on.
It’s also good to see a culmination of international talent, to see the high standard of other dancers, my age and from across the world.”
It’s been a hectic few months for Hamish, who has had to fit in schoolwork, ballet training and additional preparation for the competition. Hamish agrees “This term has been extremely busy as I was working with Birmingham Royal Ballet from August to the end of October. I had to be very disciplined, as I didn’t have much time to prepare for the Genée. I had to work late into the evenings in the studio to prepare my solos as I still had to participate in all my lessons at school. I had to be really efficient with my time!”
Faced with such a huge challenge, the prospect of competing on an international level, Hamish reveals himself to be a very cool and collected character. “I really try and stay calm and relaxed before a performance or competition. For instance, there was a pool table in the Sydney Opera House green room, so before the final I had a couple of games to relax.”
The Genée is renowned for being an incredibly tough competition and, alongside his focused mind set, Hamish went the extra mile to impress the judges by choreographing his own solo. He explains “The majority of competitors commissioned choreographers or had teachers choreograph (their) variation. I considered three pieces of music before I decided on Tango by Astor Piazzola. I had been listening to the tango for three years and had always wanted to dance to it, and the Genée finally gave me this opportunity.
It took me about one week to choreograph it. I used the studios at school in the evenings and, once I had choreographed Tango Nuevo, Denise Whiteman (a teacher at Elmhurst) coached me and gave me stylistic ideas and corrections.”
As well as this specially choreographed variation, Hamish also had to perform a classical solo. He explains how he changed his approach leading up to the Genée: “In previous competitions I had always gone for the virtuosity solos, showing off and pushing myself physically. This time I wanted to show that I can dance with artistry, (so) I chose to dance Prince Siegfried’s solo from Swan Lake.”
Obviously, even with all of Hamish’s careful planning and consideration, he could not predict exactly what the judges were looking for. “All I could do was prepare as much as I could and hope that on the day that things went well. Dancing on the Sydney Opera House stage was amazing. It’s such a big theatre and I’ll always remember looking out from the stage and seeing all of the red seats staring back at me!”
So, what’s next for Hamish Scott? “I’m going to spend Christmas with my family. I’ve been at boarding school since the age of 11 so I really treasure time at home with my mum, dad and sister. I graduate from Elmhurst Ballet School in July 2017. This year I will be auditioning for companies around the world in the hope to achieve my dream of becoming a professional ballet dancer.”
Huge congratulations to Hamish on his stunning bronze medal at the 2016 Genée, and best wishes for what must surely be a very exciting future!