‘I’m always accused of dealing only with sex and violence but what I really deal with is life and death.’  Thus quoted Monica Mason, opening the St Hilda’s College/DANSOX Conference Kenneth MacMillan: Making Dance Beyond the Boundaries held on Saturday 16th March 2019.

Dame Monica, former Principal Dancer and Director of the Royal Ballet Company, was just one of many sharing their memories of MacMillan and his creative approach at this smörgåsbord of delights blending academic research, choreography and performance. On a wet and windy day, in political and climatic times that can sometimes feel reminiscent of the dark events triggered at Mayerling, we were treated to talks by MacMillan’s widow Deborah on how MacMillan worked with designers, Guest Lecturer Natalie Wheen on his innovative use of music, choreologists on how Benesh notation helps to preserve his choreography, and academic specialists on his historical imagination. The conference concluded with excerpts from a reconstruction of Playground by Yorke Dance. (more…)

It seems there comes a point in every choreographer’s career when one decides to tackle The Rite of Spring.  To create one’s own Rite of Spring, in the shadow of such heavyweights as Nijinsky, Bausch and MacMillan, is brave to say the least. Michael Keegan-Dolan’s The Rite of Spring for his company Fabulous Beast Dance Theatre is not only brave in this regard: it is daring in its deviance from the traditional narrative and in some of the striking, and dare I say, more outlandish decisions, which are also a feature of the second piece in the performance, Petrushka. (more…)

I expected a weird and unusual performance from Fabulous Beast Dance Theatre in their Stravinsky double bill and was not disappointed. It is difficult to take on two of Diaghilev’s most iconic ballets, and the double bill was a mixed bag of drama, dance and sheer theatricality that could excite, shock, annoy, amuse and very occasionally go on for a little too long. (more…)

I was thrilled by Dame Monica Mason’s talk at St Hilda’s College on Wednesday and the brief extracts of archive footage of her in performance. I saw her as the Chosen Maiden in the 1982 revival at the Royal Opera House, and I remember the excitement of the occasion, and Kenneth MacMillan coming on stage at the end. Unthinking and ignorant, I had no idea at the time that she had created the role for MacMillan, or of the vital connections between her generation of dancers and the Ballets Russes. Her anecdotes about Lydia Sokolova (who shut her eyes at the first night and “danced her own version”) and Marie Rambert’s sometimes embarrassing enthusiasm were both touching and hilarious, and there was a wonderful moment when she stepped forward to demonstrate what it was like to respond to MacMillan’s suggestions as he choreographed in the studio. (more…)

In a year of significant musical anniversaries, here is one of particular dance interest – the centenary of the shocking premiere of Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring by Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes in Paris.  Dr Susan Jones sends information of a special event celebrating this groundbreaking work at St Hilda’s College with guest speakers Dame Monica Mason and Jane Pritchard and a concert performance of the score in Stravinsky’s version for two pianos… (more…)