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One Dance UK Featured Choreographer – April 2019

18 Apr 2019

Featured Choreographer of the month: Jamiel Laurence

What motivates you to pursue a career in choreography?

A great question I was asked in my early days as both a professional dancer and as a creative was “What are you trying to say?” I have been asking myself that question constantly since that day, and am now finding that that once I have discovered what it is I am seeking to communicate through movement, it then becomes something I simply can’t stop ‘saying’ for the duration of that process! This is where I learn the most about my own subconscious viewpoint on the issues that I am portraying through my work, and I often learn that how I thought or felt about a particular subject going into a creative process, is not necessarily the same coming out of one. This need to discover the answers to questions I only half realise I’m asking is a big part what drives my work.

Can you share with us some highlights of your choreographic career and/or your current engagements?

Having my piece “Young Edmund” on stage with one of Celtic Connections’ 2019 Headline Acts, Jarlath Henderson and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra was a great way to start the year!

In February 2019 I was contacted by the BBC to lead creatively on a project that brings dance across Scotland together into one journey, produced in the form of a mobile film. Mobile filmmaking became my primary way of outputting my ideas and material in 2018, and so to be asked by such a well-known and respected organisation to produce work for them is a great achievement; particularly as I will not only be choreographing, but also capturing and editing as I had been with all my online output up to this point.

Throughout 2019, I will also be adapting and choreographing a version of Hansel & Gretel, based on a production originally choreographed by Scottish Ballet Director & CEO Christopher Hampson. The touring production of “Wee Hansel & Gretel” will be aimed at a younger audience; as a first introduction to ballet.

How has your choreographic process and work developed over time?

In 2017, I really turned a corner creatively after taking part in the SB CREATES choreographic Mentorship Programme. Being selected as part of a group of choreographers from across Scotland, the programme provided me with a safe environment in which to be challenged creatively and discover new ways of working. These came in the form of conducting small experiments in the way I was generating material, but also conducting the studio, planning my day and approaching subjects that I would not traditionally associate my work with. It took nearly a year of reflection to regroup and really discover how the many benefits of SB CREATES would then help my work find its voice within the creative landscape.

 What do you think are some of the main challenges choreographers are faced with today?

I think that choreographers and creatives can benefit hugely from mentorship, and guidance in how to receive and process feedback of all types. Creating in an echo chamber of unending approval or working in a vacuum without critique are both unhealthy ways to be evolving and challenging your own process. Working with mentors and also keeping the conversation alive and active with fellow creatives and artists from across different fields is a great way to develop your own practice, and I am constantly on the lookout for programmes that can offer this alongside my creative engagements.

What advice would you give to emerging choreographers?

Keep evolving to keep emerging! It can be tempting to settle on a way of working or certain approach to choreography once you have achieved a particular commission or creative engagement. However, I am an advocate for constant progression and the evolution of all the elements that go into being a creator, including your practice, your process and even the medium in which you are outputting your creations.

What kind of work are you currently interested in pursuing?

I am very excited to be working and developing in both my own movement style with projects like my mobile filmmaking, as well as being able to create in the classical style of the ballet that I am currently adapting for Scottish Ballet. When planning new projects, I am most often creatively led by music, and I am always developing new relationships with composers from across the musical spectrum. Live music is always on my Wishlist when pitching a project, and so I’m very interested in working with everything from 4 part bands to symphony orchestras.