October 2017 marks the 25th anniversary of the death of choreographer Kenneth MacMillan.   The festival Kenneth MacMillan: a National Celebration hosted by the Royal Opera House brings together two weeks of performances of MacMillan repertoire by not only the Royal Ballet, but also Birmingham Royal Ballet, English National Ballet, Northern Ballet, Scottish Ballet and Yorke Dance Project, who will be performing his late work Sea of Troubles in the Clore Studio and on tour.  Oxford Dance Writers pays its own hommage to the master here: Susie Crow, a founder member of chamber company Dance Advance for whom Sea of Troubles was originally made and and herself an original cast member, writes about the work, its genesis, and the experience of reviving it for performance by today’s dancers.

Sea of Troubles was commissioned from Kenneth MacMillan by Dance Advance for touring to small and mid-scale venues.  It was officially premiered on March 17th 1988 at the Brighton Festival.  A tour of over 35 performances in what was then the Southern, South East and Eastern regions followed, culminating in two performances at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London. In the following year there were further performances by the company including at Madrid’s Festival de Otoño, and the company was supported by the British Council to perform it at festivals in China and Germany.  In 1991 the work entered the repertoire of Scottish Ballet for a few performances; and in 2002 it was performed by an ensemble lead by Adam Cooper and Sarah Wildor at the Exeter Festival in commemoration of the 10th anniversary of MacMillan’s death.  It was revived at short notice by Scottish Ballet for performance at the Edinburgh Festival in 2014; and in 2016 was remounted from the original notation by Jane Elliott for Yorke Dance Project, who are currently touring it and performing it at the Clore Studio at the Royal Opera House as part of Kenneth MacMillan: A National Celebration.  I was called in as a member of the original cast to coach and rehearse a new generation of dancers. (more…)

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The Royal Ballet presents a major revival of a work by Kenneth MacMillan in the run-up to the 25th anniversary of his death next year.  An identity in crisis, a country in revolution;  Anastasia is a ballet about one of the great historical mysteries of the 20th century, only recently solved. At the height of the Russian Revolution the royal family were executed, but afterwards a young woman appeared – apparently a surviving royal princess, the Grand Duchess Anastasia. Known as ‘Anna Anderson’, she couldn’t remember her past and she was presumed to be an imposter. Many wanted to forget the massacre and the Revolution; many believed, or hoped, that a princess could have survived, a remnant of the old world.  Originally a one-act ballet made for the Deutsche Oper Ballet in Berlin, one of Kenneth MacMillan’s first creations on becoming Director of The Royal Ballet in 1970 was to expand his expressionist Anastasia into a full evening work.  Anastasia is a dramatic and haunting exploration of Anna’s nightmare of memory and identity.  To music by Tchaikovsky and Martinů, we follow the events leading to the murder of a family, and Anna’s confused dreams – or memories. A powerful, psychological challenge for the principal ballerina, this is a rare opportunity to see a landmark ballet by a major choreographer, here at the Phoenix Picturehouse in live transmission from the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.

Date:  Wednesday 2nd November 7.15pm

Venue:  Phoenix Picture House, 57 Walton St, Oxford OX2 6AE

Tickets:  £22 adults, £17.50 retired or student, £10 child (reduced rates for members and family ticket also available)

Book online here or by phone: 0871 902 5736

Yorke Dance Project’s innovative programme at The Mill Arts Centre was an exceptional and exciting opportunity to see both new work and a rarely performed twentieth century ballet.

Sea of Troubles, inspired by Shakespeare’s Hamlet, which Kenneth MacMillan created for Dance Advance in 1988, has been reconstructed by its notator Jane Elliott and rehearsed by Susie Crow, who was one of the original cast. Breaking free from the constraint of strict narrative structure, MacMillan’s barefoot ballet explores the psychological trauma that lies beneath the surface of the play as Hamlet, an embodiment of the ‘outsider’, is tormented by the need for revenge. Dancers must turn on an emotional sixpence as they share roles, representing first one character and then another, to music that, unusually for ballets of the nineteen-eighties, ‘spliced’ together pieces by different composers (Anton Von Webern and Bohuslav Martinu). (more…)