More used to being onstage as The Sugar Plum Fairy or The Snow Queen, one of Scotland’s brightest ballet stars will today collect a new accolade when she receives her first-class degree from The Open University in Scotland.
Scottish Ballet principal dancer Constance Devernay-Laurence has juggled her Open University BSc (Honours) Sport, Fitness and Coaching studies alongside a full-time career as a professional ballerina with the national dance company.
The 31-year-old admits it was a fine balance to complete her studies at the same time as a physically taxing performance schedule.
“It was definitely challenging at times to fit my studies around the company's heavy rehearsal and performance schedule and its inevitable toll on my body, but, in a way, it allowed me to have an escape from ballet and get some perspective on what is a demanding career,” she says.
“I have also learned valuable psychological and physiological skills with each module, which in turn helped me become a better and stronger dancer.”
Through the six years she studied part-time for her OU degree, Constance has performed in over 17 different productions including as Odette/Odile in Swan Lake, The Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nutcracker, Mary Vetsera in The Scandal at Mayerling, Cinderella in Cinderella, Swanhilda in Coppélia and The Snow Queen in The Snow Queen.
Surprisingly, the backstage dressing rooms have proved the perfect place to study.
“I studied mainly in the evenings after rehearsals, or during the day, between performances. My favourite place to study is in my dressing room in theatres, as it is a quiet place where I can find my focus,” she says,
“Touring nationally and internationally with Scottish Ballet meant that I could find time to study during our travel.”
Born in Amiens, France, Constance has lived in Glasgow since 2009 when she joined Scottish Ballet. She was promoted to Soloist in 2014 and became a Principal dancer in 2016.
Alongside her ballet career, Constance teaches yoga classes and all-level ballet classes and workshops. She will be back on stage this winter delighting festive audiences with a further performance of The Snow Queen.
“It’s great to be able to inspire other people through dance both on and off stage. Studying with The Open University has also boosted my confidence and promoted my own inner drive to keep learning,” she says.
“I now feel better equipped to transition from my career as a professional ballet dancer when the time is right, but also to tackle everyday challenges.”
Susan Stewart, Director of The Open University in Scotland, said:
“The same focus and determination that Constance demonstrates in her ballet career shines through in her degree achievement. Her story is a fantastic example of how you can combine Open University study with work and other aspects of your life.
“More than three quarters of our students in Scotland work full-time or part-time while studying with us. It is very flexible, you don’t need previous qualifications, and you can enrol for one module at a time, choosing whether or not to build up a certificate, diploma, or degree.”
Photos by Julie Howden
28 October 2022