Top ballerina scoops first-class degree after balancing profession with studies

Constance Devernay-Laurence has performed in Swan Lake, The Nutcracker, The Scandal At Mayerling and The Snow Queen.

Constance Devernay-Laurence
Constance Devernay-Laurence

A professional ballerina is to receive a first-class degree from a university after six years of juggling a course alongside her full-time career as a dancer.

When not on stage as the sugar plum fairy or the snow queen, Scottish Ballet star Constance Devernay-Laurence worked on her Open University BSc (honours) sport, fitness and coaching studies.

The 31-year-old is a principal ballerina, the highest rank within a professional dance company.

The part-time university course took six years to complete, during which time Ms Devernay-Laurence performed in more than 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 Coppelia and The Snow Queen in The Snow Queen.

The professional dancer, who lives in Glasgow, said it was a fine balance completing her studies with an ongoing, physically taxing performance schedule, which involved travelling abroad for international shows.

“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,” she said.

Constance Devernay-Laurence performed in more than 17 productions during her studies (Julie Howden for Scottish Ballet/PA)

“But, in a way, it allowed me to have an escape from ballet and get some perspective on what is a demanding career.”

Ms Devernay-Laurence, originally from Amiens, France, said she learned valuable psychological and physiological skills on her course which made her a better and stronger dancer.

Surprisingly, she said the backstage dressing rooms proved to be the perfect place to study.

“I studied mainly in the evenings after rehearsals, or during the day, between performances,” she said.

“My favourite place to study is in my dressing room in theatres, as it is a quiet place where I can find my focus.

“Touring nationally and internationally with Scottish Ballet meant that I could find time to study during our travel.”

Ms Devernay-Laurence joined Scottish Ballet in 2009.

She was promoted to soloist – above the corps de ballet but below principal dancer – in 2014.

She then became a principal dancer in 2016.

Alongside her ballet career, Ms Devernay-Laurence also teaches yoga and all-level ballet classes and workshops.

She will be back on stage this winter 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,” she added.

“Studying with the Open University has also boosted my confidence and promoted my own inner drive to keep learning.

“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.”

Ms Devernay-Laurence will receive her degree on Friday at the Royal Concert Hall in Glasgow along with her other fellow graduates.

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.”

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