Kenneth MacMillan's ballet combines technical precision with playful warmth. The youthful energy of Shostakovich's piano concerto is complemented by Jürgen Rose's bold designs.
Concerto marked the start of a new phase in Kenneth MacMillan's career. He had recently become director of the Deutsche Oper Ballet, Berlin, and was keen to redefine the company and showcase its full range. He selected a score of youthful vivacity – Dmitri Shostakovich's Piano Concerto no.2 in F, which was created to mark the 19th birthday of the composer's son. Concerto was greeted with a standing ovation on its premiere in 1966 and immediate requests to acquire it from ballet companies worldwide.
MacMillan's choreography complements the precision and invention of Shostakovich's score perfectly. In the energetic first movement, the corps de ballet marches en pointe in unison, in response to a military flourish in the music. A slow, sensuous Andante follows, featuring a pas de deux that was inspired by seeing Lynn Seymour, MacMillan's friend and muse, warming up at the barre. The final movement brings the work to a spirited close, with a large corps de ballet dancing with quick, prancing steps. Jürgen Rose's bright designs reinforce the ballet’s warmth and energy.
Kenneth MacMillan’s ballet explores repression and sensuality through groundbreaking choreography. It is based on a play by Federico García Lorca.
Las Hermanas, first performed in 1963, was the first of six works that Kenneth MacMillan made for the Stuttgart Ballet. It is based on Federico García Lorca’s 1945 play La casa de Bernarda Alba and set to Frank Martin’s Concerto for Harpsichord and Orchestra.
MacMillan creates a powerful exploration of sexuality, repression and familial jealousy. The sisters' contrasting temperaments are communicated through their movements: the eldest, introverted sister dances with clenched fists and her pas de deux with her fiancé is rigid and inhibited. By contrast, the sensual younger sister dances with abandon. MacMillan pushed classical choreography to new limits with Las Hermanas, not least in its shocking final scene. Nicholas Georgiadis's stark, prison-like set and Frank Martin’s score combine to create an atmosphere of unsettling claustrophobia.
Kenneth MacMillan's moving one-act ballet is set to Gabriel Fauré's serene choral music. It was created in memory of his friend and fellow choreographer John Cranko.
Kenneth MacMillan's Requiem was created for the Stuttgart Ballet in 1976. MacMillan knew the dancers well, which allowed him to experiment with boldly inventive movements. The company was also intimately connected with John Cranko – he had been its director at the time of his death – resulting in a work that reflects their shared loss.
MacMillan drew inspiration for his choreography from William Blake's drawings of human and sacred figures. The work begins with the entry of a group of mourners to the first section of Fauré's Requiem, the 'Introitus'. Their fists are clenched and mouths open in silent despair, and a figure is held high above their heads. The piece moves through a series of linked vignettes, the Company fluidly adopting roles of mourners and angels or spirits. There are some striking pas de deux and a touching solo that MacMillan based on watching his youngest daughter at play. The setting reinforces themes of loss and transcendence: against a spare, white backdrop, translucent pillars reach upwards, evoking the space of a church.