Born in Cherbourg, northern France, Sophie Martin is one of Scottish Ballet’s best-loved dancers and a real secret weapon, having been a principal dancer with the company since 2008. A rare and highly intuitive talent, she combines rich, graceful movement with expressive and versatile acting skills—from Vaudeville-infused choreography to classical, through to more contemporary lines.
She is an award-winning dancer, having received the award for Outstanding Female Performance at the 2011 Critics’ Circle National Dance Awards, was number 20 in The List’s Hot 100 most influential figures in Scotland, and in 2016 she won Best Dancer at The Sunday Herald Culture Awards.
In 2014, she performed at the XX Commonwealth Games alongside Christopher Harrison, and also performed at the Ryder Cup gala concert with Lewis Landini. Ahead of the latest Scottish tour of Matthew Bourne’s “Highland Fling,” I caught up with Ms Martin to ask about influences, Scotland, choreography and more. Photographs by Karolina Kuras.
How long have you been in Scotland?
I have lived in Glasgow, Scotland and worked with Scottish Ballet for almost fifteen years. I love it here, it’s a vibrant place with a great social scene, and you also have some of the most dramatic landscape just half an hour away from the city. I like nature, and although the weather can be quite temperamental here, Scotland’s countryside is what makes me disconnect from my daily routine.
You have been dancing since the age of five. How did you get into it?
I was a very turbulent child, and my older sister was a lot quieter. There were ballet classes going on near to our school, so my parents decided to take my big sister, so she could come out of her shell a little.
I once went along to see, and obviously couldn’t stay still—at that point, the teacher pointed at me and said, “Can I have the little one, too?” I don’t think my parents realised it would become my career twelve years later!
Did you grow up with The Red Shoes, like millions of other dancers?What were your earliest influences, in terms of ballet films, etc?
I don’t think I ever saw or even heard of The Red Shoes before I was a teenager. By that time, I was already doing ballet everyday in Paris at the Conservatoire. As a kid, I loved watching gymnastics and ice skating on TV, but I can’t remember seeing a lot of ballet then. I definitely had to use my imagination!
Do you think that there is a different approach to choreography in the UK, as opposed to the rest of Europe?
I have only worked in the UK. so it’s hard for me to have a fair judgement. What is great about Scottish Ballet is how versatile the work is. We perform a traditional ballet every winter, but also some very contemporary works throughout the year. In a way, it’s very similar to bigger companies such as Paris Opera, Het National Ballet and Semperoper Ballet, but with fewer dancers, so everyone has to be able to do both styles.
What has been your most memorable or surreal moment of your career to date?
The most surreal moment in my career would have to be when I performed at the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games in 2014, in front of a television audience of one billion people!
You recently performed in (fellow Scottish Ballet dancer and choreographer) Sophie Laplane’s charming piece, “Sibilo.” Can you see yourself making work like Sophie in the foreseeable future?
I don’t see myself choreographing, I love dancing too much! But it’s exciting for me to witness Sophie’s growth as a choreographer. We have known each other for twenty years now, since being at school in Paris, and it’s very special for me to dance in her pieces today.
Finally, is there any advice that you could give to young aspiring dancers?
Versatility is a bonus for a dancer. It definitely keeps you on your toes, and stimulates your creativity and curiosity as an artist. Go and watch performances, and see other types of art forms, understand what moves you. This will enrich your dancing, and make you special and interesting.
Scottish Ballet are touring Matthew Bourne’s “Highland Fling” throughout Scotland in the Spring. For details, visit Scottish Ballet.