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hommage to the master here: Susie Crow, a founder member of chamber company Dance Advance for whom Sea of Troubles was originally made and and herself an original cast member, writes about the work, its genesis, and the experience of reviving it for performance by today’s dancers.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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Last year saw the revival of a little known late work by the renowned choreographer Kenneth MacMillan by the enterprising company Yorke Dance Project as part of their programme of works old and new, Rewind Forward.   Sea of Troubles based on Shakespeare’s Hamlet was originally created for Dance Advance in 1988, a company founded by a group of six dancers who broke away from the Royal Ballet with the intention of creating and performing new ballet based work on a more intimate scale.  Their venture was supported by MacMillan whom they commissioned to create a new work for the company’s first programme.  Sea of Troubles toured small venues and was performed by Dance Advance across the UK, later in Spain, Germany and China.  Scottish Ballet adopted the work two years later but it remains a work that is seldom seen.  DANSOX presents original cast member Susie Crow and Yolande Yorke-Edgell with dancers of Yorke Dance Project in a rehearsal/lecture demonstration exploring how this fascinating work has been brought back to life for a new generation of dancers.

Date:  Thursday 16th February, 5.30-7.00pm

Venue: Jacqueline du Pré Music Building, St Hilda’s College, Cowley Place, Oxford OX4 1DY

The event will be followed by a drinks reception. Free and open to all – booking essential at Eventbrite.

Book your place here

Find more information about DANSOX (Dance Scholarship Oxford) here

or by contacting Dr Susan Jones here

And find more information about Yorke Dance Project here

I found Sea of Troubles a tremendously complex piece – and would love to see it again. MacMillan’s grasp on the source text seems to me formidable. Indeed I think that at present my responses to it are only half formed, because it was so definitely not another production of – or even another version of Hamlet – but something very much of itself, an organic being, and generating its own difficulties for the lucky viewer required to grapple with the explorations in which it was engaged.

I was struck even before the piece began by the simplicity of the staging – even in a studio production. It was so effective having just the arras (and through that signalling the significance of what remains hidden and the immanence of an impending Death) because this arras also focused us on the silvery, ghostlike presence of dreams and nightmares: its form insubstantial and suggesting that nothing is solid – but at the same time asserting that all perceptions of the real are rarely right and often lead us astray. (more…)

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…)

Following a sold-out preview performance at the Royal Opera House’s Clore Studio earlier this year, dynamic Yorke Dance Project’s latest touring programme Rewind Forward (formerly titled Inspirit) will be touring this Autumn and in Spring 2017, and opens its tour with performance at The Mill Arts Centre Banbury on Thursday 22nd September as part of their current Season of Dance. Rewind Forward features work which crosses boundaries between ballet and contemporary dance, placing revivals of two masterworks from Kenneth MacMillan and Robert Cohan alongside three, stunning world premieres by Robert Cohan, Yolande Yorke-Edgell and Charlotte Edmonds.

The programme features a rare reconstruction of Kenneth MacMillan’s 1988 Sea of Troubles, a short work originally created for Dance Advance, an ensemble of former members of the Royal Ballet. In a programme note for the premiere MacMillan explained his inspiration: “I have taken as a starting point the effect of the death of Hamlet’s father without a literal telling of the play. With the appearance of his father’s ghost, and Hamlet’s realisation of the need for revenge, his tormented world became a nightmare”

Alongside MacMillan’s work is a revival of Robert Cohan’s Nympheas. Choreographed in 1987, Cohan’s serene duet is set to Debussy’s Clair de Lune.  The programme also includes the world premiere of Cohan’s newest duet, Lacrymosa, set to music by Dmitri Yanov-Yanovsky.

For the second time, the company performs a world premiere by Charlotte Edmonds, currently the Royal Ballet’s Young Choreographer in Residence. With support from the PRS Foundation, YDP commissioned Edmonds and composer Donna Mckevitt to create a new work following their participation in the company’s 2015 Cohan Collective.  Self is inspired by the famous trio from MacMillan’s Manon. The programme concludes with the premiere of artistic director Yolande Yorke-Edgell’s Untethered, choreographed for the entire company to music by the string quartet Brooklyn Rider.

There will be an informal Question and Answer session after the show with company Director Yolande Yorke Edgell and Susie Crow, member of the original cast of Sea of Troubles.

Performance:  Thursday 22nd September 7.30pm

Venue:  The Mill Arts Centre, Spiceball Park, Banbury, Oxfordshire OX16 5QE

Tickets:  Tel: 01295 279002
Box office open Mon to Sat 10am – 8pm: or book online here

Find out more about Yorke Dance Project here

 

As part of the Shakespeare Oxford 2016 Festival programme the Weston Library will be hosting the dynamic contemporary ballet company Yorke Dance Project directed by Yolande Yorke Edgell.  The company will be in residence on Sunday 18th September, presenting an open rehearsal and excerpts of Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s rarely performed work, Sea of Troubles, based on Shakespeare’s Hamlet, with an ensemble of six outstanding dancers.  Nine separate scenes comprise MacMillan’s only bare-foot ballet, which focuses on Hamlet’s psychological state, interpreted through the physicality, emotion and complex partner-work of the choreography set to intense and evocative 20th century chamber music by Webern and Martinu.  Susie Crow, who danced in the original production commissioned from MacMillan in 1988 by innovative ballet company Dance Advance, will rehearse the dancers and explain the fascinating creative process.  The work will subsequently be touring as part of the company’s programme Rewind Forward, which also features works by master contemporary choreographer Robert Cohan, emerging talent Charlotte Edmonds and Yolande Yorke Edgell.

Date:  Sunday 18th September, 11.30-4.00pm

Venue:  Blackwell Hall, Weston Library, Broad Street, Oxford OX1

Free of charge

To fully immerse yourself in the process before the performances on Sunday 18th September, why not come to the:

Talk and Movement Workshop led by Struan Leslie and Susie Crow

Free of charge; open to all

7.30pm on Thursday 8th September at Summertown Library, South Parade, Oxford OX2 7JN.

You can see Yorke Dance Project in Rewind Forward in performance at the Mill Arts Centre in Banbury on Thursday 22nd September: book tickets here and find out about the Rewind Forward programme here

Susie Crow writes about the work of reviving Sea of Troubles here