BALLERINA Samantha Saygilier, whose first ballet classes were with Berwick based teacher Jane Keenan, will perform to an audience of an estimated 750 million in the closing ceremony of the 2012 Olympics, on August 12.
Since the end of May Samantha has been busy with rehearsals for the performance of ‘A Symphony of British Music’ during the closing ceremony.
“Ever since I can remember, ballet has been such a huge part of my life,” said Samantha, a former pupil at Longridge Towers whose father Zafer runs Charlies nightclub and bar in Berwick’s Golden Square and her mother Lorna McCaffer has run Ministry of Design hair and beauty salon in Berwick’s Bridge Street for almost 13 years.
“I started taking weekly classes from the age of two and a half and I haven’t looked back since. From a very young age performing has been one of my passions.
“Ballet has always been my main focus and I have been blessed with wonderful teachers who believed in me and pushed me to become the best I could be.
“I have one teacher in particular to thank, Jane Keenan, for making me believe in myself.”
Her love of ballet made Samantha determined to become a professional dancer, and four years ago she auditioned and was accepted by Ballet West, where she graduated last year with BA Classical Ballet & Dance Performance.
Ballet West is an established ballet company that uses a mix of professional dancers with students in the final stages of their dance training. Over recent years, the company has developed a reputation for producing high quality, classical ballet. Productions of ‘The Nutcracker’, ‘Swan Lake’ and ‘Coppélia’ were sell-out performances across theatres in Scotland.
“During my time at Ballet West, I feel like I really grew as an artist,” said Samantha.
“I graduated with a BA in Classical Ballet and also obtained my Advanced 2.
“Since leaving Ballet West, I have been offered the amazing opportunity to be part of the Olympic closing ceremony. It is such a once in a lifetime opportunity and I feel so honoured to be part of London 2012.
“Now we’ve started rehearsals it feels more real. And every time we have rehearsals they remind us that we’re dancing in front of 750 million people!”
Having signed a confidentiality clause, Samantha is unable to expand on exactly what she will be doing during the closing ceremony, but she revealed that the part of the ceremony that she is involved in is specifically ballet.
“Some of the dancers are still students, some are professionals from the Royal Ballet and the English National Ballet. It’s fairly demanding, so you couldn’t really do it without having had training.
“At the moment I have rehearsals every few weeks but once we start rehearsing in the actual stadium later this month it will be very different.”
The closing ceremony of the Olympic Games, ‘A Symphony of British Music’, celebrates music as one of Britain’s strongest cultural exports over the last 50 years. The worldwide broadcast of the ceremony starts at 9pm and features more than 4,100 performers, including the London Symphony Orchestra, 3,500 adult volunteers and 380 schoolchildren from the six east London host boroughs.
Creative director and choreographer of the closing ceremony, Kim Gavin, wants to showcase established British acts and new talent.
He said: “Music has been Britain’s strongest cultural export of the last 50 years and we intend to produce an Olympic closing ceremony that will be a unique promotion of great British popular music. For the closing ceremony we will not only be working with our most globally successful musicians, but we also want to use this opportunity to showcase our stars of tomorrow.”
Kim and his team will only have 17 hours to change the stadium after the final two events - the women’s high jump and women’s 4x400 m relay - from an athletics track to a performance arena.
“I’m assuming it will rain,” said Kim Gavin. “In the absolute sheeting rain, the lighting can look great.”
As well as the artistic spectacular the closing ceremony celebrates the achievements of athletes at the London 2012 Olympic Games, and includes the handover from London to Rio de Janeiro for the 2016 Olympic Games hosts. It also features the extinguishing of the Olympic Flame, signalling the end of the games.
Samantha has already performed to an international audience. With the Ballet West School of Classical Ballet, where she gained her professional dance qualifications, Samantha was also part of two tours of China in 2010 and 2011.
In 2010 they toured ‘Nutcracker’ to nine Chinese theatres, performing it 13 times during the 25 day tour.
Company Director Gillian Barton said “It was a marvellous experience for the young dancers, as well as the seasoned professionals, to perform on vast stages in front of full houses of 1500 excited ballet fans.”
Ballet West was invited back to tour China again last year with ‘Romeo and Juliet’ and once again Samantha was part of the corps de ballet. This time they travelled to 12 different cities, including Shanghai, Shijiazhuang and Ningbo, performing 17 shows to packed auditoriums.
This spring it was ‘Swan Lake’ they took to their Far East audiences.
Samantha’s first ballet teacher Jane Keenan, who lives near Coldstream and teaches in Berwick, is very proud of her protege.
“Samantha deserves every bit of her success, and I am immensely proud of her,” said Jane, a Royal Academy of Dance teacher who was a professional ballerina herself before taking up teaching when she had a family.
“She is one of the most determined students I have ever had and a shining example of what hard work and dedication can do. I so look forward to watching her career.
“What an amazing start!”