INTERVIEW: Laura Carruthers brings Scottish Highland traditions to new film

Laura Carruthers is the creative force behind the new film Grace Fury. Photo courtesy of J. Reiss.

Accomplished dancer and choreographer Laura Carruthers is an expert in the fine art of Scottish Highland dancing who has often taken the traditional form to many different media. Her new film is Grace Fury, which is gearing up for a run of film festivals and possible distribution. In the movie, her autobiographical journey as a dance maker is tracked from its early stages to its current mastery.

The film, according to press notes, is one focused on training, technique and passion, allowing viewers a behind-the-scenes look at how finished stage performances are developed and brought to life. Grace Fury follows Carruthers’ other projects, including the concert work Fire & Grace and the short musicals Driven Celtic and Outside In.

Recently, Hollywood Soapbox spoke with Carruthers about the new film and her career. Here’s what she had to say:

On the development of Grace Fury …

“Well, actually Grace Fury is a project a long time in coming. She’s something that marks what I would say is a culmination of roughly 20 years of experience and my experimentation building works on stage or on film or both, pretty much from the ground up. She’s, for me, my story inside and out in the form of dance or my choreography as well as my diary, so she represents that experience that I’ve had over the course of, as I said, a couple of decades working in and out of traditional realms and various bubbles and among other artists and craftsmen and people, what have you. As a woman, I’m coming from a relatively obscure world called Scottish Highland dancing, so in that sense she’s very much my evolution to this point as an artist.”

On the performers assembled for the film …

“She’s a mix of both New York and L.A., so half the cast is coming out of the Los Angeles area. And the other is the New York City realm. … Some of the projects of late have come out of Los Angeles and the Pasadena area, and I’ve built contacts, developed relationships with various professional dancers there after having already been a professional dancer myself coming out of Ballet Arizona.

“And I launched into the choreography side of things, and I managed to develop these contacts in Los Angeles who then also had contacts in New York. And so we all eventually talked amongst ourselves and decided to go forward with this project, so it was kind of a crazy endeavor but interesting in the sense that we were able to bring half the cast in from the East Coast. So it was an East meets West kind of moment, and it was really great.”

On her introduction to Scottish Highlands dancing …

“My parents were involved in the Scottish Highland games that take place all over the country and in Canada. … I was born into that. That was all happening before I was even born, so my father was a Scottish Highland athlete. These festivals have events, mostly competitive events, that involve competing either as an athlete tossing cabers and heavy weights, what you would think of as field events as in track and field events. …

“But they also involved bagpiping competitions and pipe band competitions, drumming, that sort of thing, and they also have Highland dancing competitions at the same time. So they’re these big festivals full of, as I say, concerts and ceremony and contests in these various areas, and so my father was a competitive Scottish Highland athlete. He was into the heavy weight side of things, and as a little tot, I would always wander over to the dancing area.”

On her early memories of dancing …

“I always like to say I was born a dancer. I was already very enamored with dance from my earliest memories. As I say, I was just born a dancer, so I was very intrigued with that whole thing, as young as 3 years old and wanting to emulate and imitate anything I would see on television or in live experiences where people would be dancing. So naturally with my family going to these various events, I would find fascination with the dancing side of it. It just happened to be the way in which my own passion was channeled in that particular direction because of my father’s activities. Yes, we do have Scottish heritage. That’s part of it, but he was also a very competitive person. So he liked trophies and that sort of thing. It just happened to be that that’s the route I ended up taking initially in terms of my dance passion.”

On making dance not only a personal passion but a profession …

“It was a side thing, competing in various championships and what have you, but the focus was going to be academic. I got a degree at Arizona State University, but only after actually that did I start moving into the professional ballet realm.

“I had come across a mentor and a person at Arizona State that honed in on my skills, and within about three years, I had transformed myself from Highland dancer to professional ballerina. And I decided to take a launch and leave the academic setting after already getting a degree, and then I decided to go into the local state ballet company and got accepted and what have you. But it never really was part of the plan. …

“I always thought that I was going to be something other than that. In fact, I thought I was going to be a psychologist for a very long period of time when I was in elementary school and junior high and high school. I thought that’s really where I was going to end up, and just events and life and circumstances of meeting various people who then find fascination with your skills and then think you can channel those skills in a different direction, and so then I just followed that. It just happened. It just occurred.”

By John Soltes / Publisher / John@HollywoodSoapbox.com

Grace Fury, featuring Laura Carruthers, is gearing up for film festivals and possible distribution. Click here for more information.

John Soltes

John Soltes is an award-winning journalist. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Earth Island Journal, The Hollywood Reporter, New Jersey Monthly and at Time.com, among other publications. E-mail him at john@hollywoodsoapbox.com

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