Scottish Ballet are about to go on tour with the widely acclaimed EIF performance, The Crucible. Constance Devernay, who performs in the dance as antagonist Abigail, was born in Amiens, France and trained at English National Ballet School. She joined Scottish Ballet in 2008 as a guest artist before being kept on as a permanent dancer in 2009. Constance was promoted to Soloist in March 2014 and to Principal in June 2016. She spoke with The Fountain about performing as Abigail and working with choreographer, Helen Pickett.
TF: You are about to embark on a UK tour after the premiere of The Crucible at Edinburgh’s International Festival, you must be excited, certainly after the response it received?
Absolutely! We had some time off after the Festival performances and it has been really beneficial to have the time to reflect and absorb the audience response. It has allowed me to think back on my performance and see what worked or, perhaps, didn’t. Now we are back in the studios rehearsing ahead of the tour, I can concentrate on the smaller details and further polish the role of Abigail.
TF: Obviously Scottish Ballet’s adaptation of the Arthur Miller play, how close to the original text has Scottish Ballet’s The Crucible stayed?
Reading the play was part of our character’s background research, so we did that before we created any steps. The main difference is that the ballet starts with the affair between Abigail and John whereas in the play, the story begins post-affair. Similarly, we use our bodies to convey the emotional force of the play, which is translated to great effect.
TF: And performing as Abigail Williams, there are many complexities to your role, how do you convey those through ballet?
It was important to do some background research on Abigail to understand the motivation behind each of her actions, while at the same time, ensure to add my own personality and artistry. Alongside choreographer Helen Pickett, we worked closely with Director James Bonas, who helped us to find the meaning behind each movement. I learned to use various dynamics, levels and sharpness of movement to portray the different layers of Abigail. Being part of a new creative work is wonderful but having the opportunity to dance the part of the antagonist of such an iconic play made this creative journey even better.
TF: And what has it been like to work with Helen Pickett, deservingly awarded for her choreography?
Helen’s passion for dance can be seen in her choreography. I have learned to not be afraid to make mistakes in the dance studio and to push myself beyond my artistic and technical limits. With her choreography, Helen is able to bring a dancer’s deepest emotions out to the surface and if you let it happen, you are able to grow as an artist. Although, the rehearsals were intense due to the drama of the play, we always had a laugh in the studio too.
TF: You are performing a list of Scottish dates, and then Washington, how did that come about in the tour? Do you have a personal preference as to a favourite venue to perform in?
We performed A Streetcar Named Desire a few years ago at the Kennedy Centre and I’m looking forward to heading back there with this production. It is an incredible theatre and I loved the city during our last visit.
Following critical acclaim at the Edinburgh International Festival, Scottish Ballet is set to embark on its Scottish tour of The Crucible opening at Theatre Royal in Glasgow from 25 Sept, before touring until 10 Oct. More information here.