Show Reel Of The Week: Dancer & Choreographer – Sophie Duncan
Give us your elevator pitch of who you are, what you do and what your skill set is.
I’m Dance Captain for the soon to be premiered MGM / SPP show circus show ‘Destiny’ in Macau, but in general, I honestly find it a bit hard to pin myself down! I’m first and foremost a contemporary dancer, choreographer and movement director, but I work predominantly in large scale circus shows as an acrobatic generalist/dancer. More recently pole dance has become a new discipline which I’m LOVING and I’d like to develop into something I can be cast specifically for. I am also the Founder/Director of NGDance, which is a youth dance training program I developed with my long time buddy, Joshua Ecob, back home. We teach Ballet, Contemporary and Choreography to young dancers ages 9 – 18.
What is your ideal role?
My ideal role as a performer would be some epic circus version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and I would be ‘Puck’ where I get to dance, act, do pole and fly throughout. I love Puck, I’ve played him/her before and it’s such a mischievous and magical character, you can go so far with it. So if anyone wants to create that role for me, that would be just lovely.
Ultimately though, I’d like my career to drive towards being a choreographer/director, and for that I’d love to continue working in large collaborative circus/theatre environments. My ideal/dream role would be to create a show based on ‘The Prestige’ (Christopher Nolan). I already have so many acrobatic, dance, scenery ideas for that in my head and my note book… (insert optimistic out breath).
Alternatively, my ideal unrealistic role would be Mick Jagger or Axl Rose (the 90’s still skinny version). Just for that rockstar, sell out Wembley, God on Earth feel. I mean, can’t be bad right?
Name your top 5 credits.
The House Of Dancing Water. Franco Dragone Entertainment. Macau, China.
Dancer and House Troupe
It was my first major credit and during a 3 and a half year stint I got to learn so much and diversify my skills in this show. No 1 because of learning, living abroad and opening my world to circus.
Columbinus. Teatrul Municipal Baia Mare, Romania.
This was the 3rd show I created in Romania (brilliant country), and it got me my first Award – Best Show – at the National Theatre Bucuresti’s Teen Fest in 2016. It was an intense show about the Columbine High School Massacre in 1999, which was immensely tragic and something we really had to respect as theatre makers. Hard work, long hours, cheap beer, totally worth it.
Scalada Vision. Cirque Du Soleil. Andorra La Vella, Andorra.
This was just a great, short, contract and my first time working with Cirque Du Soleil. A lovely, diversely skilled and experienced cast, many of whom I’m still in contact with now and have even made some small projects with since. Really fun show in the summer in the stunning Andorran mountains. What could be better?
EPIDEMIC. The Old Vic London, UK.
One of the first big choreography credits I had, and I got to work alongside my buddy John Ross. Again, a huge learning curve of creating for a large cast and crew (140!) and working for one of the UK’s most influential theatre institutions in the hauntingly beautiful Old Vic Tunnels which are underneath Waterloo Train Station.
Pole Idol Hong Kong Champion 2018
This was only in April and I’m still amazed. At the time, I’d been pole dancing for just over a year and myself and a friend entered, just for the experience really. I first won my Drama Category which got me into the final. I then took the Best Choreography Award and Overall Champion. I was STUNNED. But now I know where I stand in the pole world, and where I need to go next.
What should TheatreArtLife readers know about you?
I’m absolutely terrified of introducing myself to new people.
When I arrive into a new place, project or even a bar and I know that I should be building relationships, I literally plan my outfit based on how much I expect to be sweating in fear.
I have a small stutter, Dyslexia and Dyspraxia. All of which have elements that make me forget who I’ve already met, be clumsy, forget words, sometimes can’t construct sentences and just generally socially awkward A-bombs which make public events far scarier than flying in a harness at 2 meters a second, 25meters in the air.
According to my close friends though, I’m charismatic, fun and ‘good’ at talking to people. This is hysterical to me. In reality, I’ve often rehearsed conversations, thought about a tonne of topics I can bring up during radio silence and sometimes even planned escape routes (conversationally and occasionally practically).
And if anyone else is reading this and thinking, ‘that is SOOOO me’, I was given a great piece of advice from an artist who I thought was great at networking. She said, ‘Just ask them about themselves, everyone loves talking about themselves’. And it’s true. The moment you realise you’re talking about yourself too much, shut up and ask them about them. Enjoy the conversation, but work it in your favour.
Where do you find inspiration?
In people, places and BBC Radio 6…no really.
I’ve been lucky to work with some amazingly talented people but, not all of them know how to stay positive and remain calm in light of the many dramas you encounter in show life.
If there’s two things that I could pass on thus far, is that nothing worth having comes easy, and it’s only in failure that we learn to be better. The ones who can do this, AND manage to stay positive are truly inspiring…and they’re the ones who climb the ladder.
Places inspire me to keep working. I never understood the concept of a Gap Year. What a delightfully middle class life experience that is! Like a lot of people, I want to see the world, I wanna experience cultures (and I mostly want to eat everything), but limiting yourself to one or a couple of years of schwanning about the globe to then go back home and ‘settle down’…urgh. Cannot. I want my work to allow me to travel and with that mentality I’ve managed to position myself so I really can see more of the world, which then inspires my artistic output and choreography.
Finally, BBC Radio 6. No, hold on, hear me out. I get 1 hour a day, walking to and from work to spend in my own wonderland. BBC Radio 6 is not only a great source of eclectic music from all eras which offers me musical inspiration, it also has awesome documentaries on stuff like, ‘The History of the Record Label’, ‘The Rolling Stones Story’, ‘How British Music Transformed America’ and the like.
It’s a delightfully earl grey drinking, stop the world for a moment, old school alternative to Spotify.
I listen to how the Rolling Stones, The Kinks, Queen, Prince, Motown Records came to be the legends we know, with a combination of sheer commitment, tragedy, romance, drama and just epic life experience I’ll never recreate. I’m a working class girl from the Midlands of England brought up on the ‘you get what you work for’ attitude, so it’s just very humbling to hear these stories. I guess it kinda goes back to being inspired by people.
Besides that, the music BBC6 plays is just ‘proper’. I’ve really turned into my late Nana: ‘Uh, thee dornt maake moosic like thee yust to in maa daay.’, (if you don’t know what language that is, it’s called Northerner). Call me an old soul but I tend to agree. I’m sorry but Drake, Rhianna etc can keep selling out with repetitive umbrella ella ella eh eh eh chorused songs, but give me Bohemian Rhapsody any day of the week. The name of that song has more letters in it than an average millennial chorus.
What motivates you to continue performing/creating?
Fear. Legit. Fear and the Pursuit of Happiness.
A positive driving fear which is addictive and a fear that one day this bubble might burst and I’ll have to do something…’normal’. The constant fear of what’s next? A simple fear of learning a new trick, jumping from a higher level, spinning faster on the pole, landing on your face, landing on your arse, or just not landing at all, again and again and again.
The fear of improvising in front of a live audience, putting yourself out there and knowing there’s a possibility you’ll make a tit of yourself. The fear of things that are completely out of your control; a lift stop, an injury during show, a tricky audience member who did exactly the OPPOSITE of what you expected. All that, with the very illusive goal of making a living.
Ultimately, I just never want to leave this industry in whatever way I end up working in it; a multimillion dollar megashow to an unpaid, dusty arts centre sharing, both have valuable learning experiences. I want to make sure that I will always be able to provide for my family, on my own, and be happy doing it.
How do we follow you on social media and contact you?
Well instagram is the most up to date with my stories and posts.