Less than a fortnight into his five-year contract, he's already started to put his own plans for the company into action. As we settle down to chat about those plans, elsewhere in the building production staff are engaging with the designs for the spring 2013 show that will nail (some of) Hampson's colours to the company mast.
Matthew Bourne has agreed to let Scottish Ballet perform Highland Fling, his witty, gritty re-working of the classic one-act ballet La Sylphide. Set in a gallus working-class Glasgow – many a hop, skip and jete away from the fanciful Highlands of the 19th century original – Bourne's choreography delighted audiences when it briefly played at the Theatre Royal some seven years ago. It's a hook-up that has "popular appeal" stamped all over it. Unlike some of the other choreographers that Hampson enthusiastically lists as possible future collaborators, Bourne is a bankable name that audiences on both sides of the Border recognise and warm to.
If it seems a safe bet, it's nonetheless a coup for Hampson. It will be the first time Bourne has handed his work over to another company. This degree of trust is probably connected to Hampson's habit of going in to teach class for Bourne's New Adventures company.
The news that, in September 2013, the prestigious Genee International Ballet Competition will be held for the first time ever in Glasgow – in partnership with Scottish Ballet and the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland – marks another coup that leads directly back to Hampson. As a roving freelance choreographer and teacher, his links with the Royal Academy of Dance, and the Genee Competition it manages, have been well-established through coaching and choreographing the young participants in previous years. He will, in fact, be on the 2012 judging panel. This year's event is being held in New Zealand, and no doubt while he's there Hampson will meet up with old friends from his time working with the Royal New Zealand Ballet (RNZB). It was his version of Romeo and Juliet that RNZB brought to Glasgow's Theatre Royal in 2004.
Bit by bit, pieces of his career so far begin to fall into place, forming an image of why Scottish Ballet chose him to implement a different agenda from that of his predecessor, Ashley Page. Hampson has invested a great deal of energy and conviction in projects that don't necessarily show up centre-stage in his own choreographies. He has acquired a back catalogue of dance-works made for companies all over the world, but he has also spent time in studios coaching and encouraging dancers, and he has a declared interest in education and outreach work. When I bumped into him at a matinee of Scottish Ballet's Streetcar Named Desire earlier in the year, he was almost as excited by the audience, and the number of young people in that mix, as he was by the ballet (which he loved). He commented enthusiastically at the time on what the education and outreach department had obviously achieved.
His enthusiasm takes on new meaning when he outlines other aspects of his future plans. During Wednesday's press conference, Scottish Ballet's chief executive Cindy Sughrue had introduced Hampson as a "curator, catalyst and also, on occasions, a choreographer". That last part will come into play in the winter of 2013, when he creates a new full-length ballet based on Hansel and Gretel. Long before then, however, a complementary roster of projects will have rolled out all across Scotland under the umbrella title, Hansel & Gretel and Me. "
"Actually, we've already started," says Hampson, grinning broadly as he describes his recent visit to a school in Linlithgow where pupils were introduced to the music he'll be using. "We're using the Humperdinck opera score, because it has such gorgeous melodies – really great hummable tunes. The kids had all picked the music up in under an hour, and they loved it." He then explains that, as part of Hansel & Gretel and Me, schools (and colleges, community groups and other partners, such as Forestry Commission Scotland and the National Galleries and National Library) were already involved in generating ideas that he would be "harnessing and harvesting in future months".
"Story-telling ideas – the author Louise Welsh is also involved here – and design ideas. Movement ideas as well. They will feed directly into the final production in a way that will give the people of Scotland a real feeling of what it is that goes into making a new full-length production. Usually the education and outreach work comes when all that is already complete. For Hansel and Gretel, that research and engagement will part of the production's ongoing journey."
That badge of inclusivity nods in the direction of Hampson as "a catalyst", though, in tandem with his role of curating the company's repertoire, that function of assisting change and evolution will spill over into the choices of future choreographers. He details a wish-list that names California's Helen Pickett and the award-winning Canadian dance-maker Crystal Pite (an associate choreographer with Nederlands Dans Theater). They are, he agrees, unknown quantities to most dance-goers in Scotland, as is 22-year-old James Cousins, winner of the recent New Adventures Choreographer Award set up by Matthew Bourne.
Guess what? Hampson was one of the judges. Yet another pie he's had a useful finger in, it seems.
The past will not be excluded from his plans. He talks of revisiting works by Scottish Ballet's founder-choroegrapher, the late Peter Darrell, and of bringing in more pieces by Kenneth MacMillan. Meanwhile, there's the autumn tour to get on the road.
"I feel totally committed to being here," he says. "I've already moved up. I've got a city flat that's 10 minutes from everywhere I need – or want –to be, and I'm getting to know Glasgow again. I'm 40 next year and for me, this is the right time to bring all my experience, my skills, together in one place. We may be the smallest of the national ballet companies in the UK but like Scotland itself, we're outward-looking and pioneering."
The way the word "we" fits so naturally into the flow of his conversation suggests Hampson feels well at home at Scottish Ballet already.
Scottish Ballet's autumn tour opens at Glasgow's Theatre Royal on October 4.
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