This year marks the 25th anniversary of Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s death. To celebrate the life and work of the internationally renowned choreographer and former Royal Ballet director, the UK’s leading ballet companies joined together to perform a season of MacMillan’s work.
Sturm und Drang—2017 saw the dance world roiling with it, both on and off the stage. Israel’s culture minister hit the headlines for refusing arts funding to performances involving nudity; Palestinian-Syrian refugee Ahmad Joudeh made a prominent debut with the Dutch National Ballet after fleeing death threats from Islamic State; discord boiled over in Moscow as the director of the Bolshoi’s long-awaited “Nureyev” was placed under house arrest on what many suspect are trumped-up charges intended to punish him for celebrating the life of a gay man on stage—a conspicuous challenge to Putin’s ban on so-called ‘homosexual propaganda.’
Cloaked, hooded figures process ceremoniously across the stage. They cross themselves before an unseen altar and disappear into the darkness between towering pillars. Dramatic, stately chimes enhance the pious atmosphere. Kneeling at their pews the company begin a sequence of precise and ordered movement, the angular isolations of their arms and upper body suggesting a ritual of prayer. Yet this devout opening does not last long.