Kenneth MacMillan: A National Celebration at The Royal Opera House this autumn

Six of the UK’s leading ballet companies, Yorke Dance Project, The Royal Ballet, Birmingham Royal Ballet, English National Ballet, Northern Ballet and Scottish Ballet, are to join forces for Kenneth MacMillan: a National Celebration, The Royal Opera Ballet’s marking of the legacy of the master choreographer on the 25th anniversary of his death. Taking place from 18 October to 1 November, the programme includes a special series of talks kicking off on 10 October.

Directors on board are Kevin O’Hare: The Royal Ballet, David Bintley: Birmingham Royal Ballet, Tamara Rojo, English National Ballet, David Nixon: Northern Ballet, Christopher Hampson: Scottish Ballet and Yolande Yorke-Edgell: Yorke Dance Project.

Audiences can catch Concerto / Le Baiser de la fée / Elite Syncopations (18-19 October); The Judas Tree / Song of the Earth (24 October and 1 November); Gloria / The Judas Tree / Elite Syncopations (26-27 October); Jeux (18, 19 and 24 October); Sea of Troubles (26–27 October, 1 November). Meanwhile, aficionados can swot up on their knowledge via a 10-session strong Insights series of talks, with titles such as The Genius of MacMillanMacMillan and Me – Dancing Romeo and Juliet; and MacMillan and Me – Dancing Mayerling.


For MacMillan and Me – In conversation with Deborah and Charlotte MacMillan, the artist and photographer discuss how as a family they are looking after the legacy of the late choreographer.

Yorke Dance Project (YDP) will present MacMillan’s rarely-seen 1988 work Sea of Troubles, which artistic director Yolande Yorke-Edgell revived for her company last autumn. MacMillan’s widow Deborah MacMillan designed the work, in collaboration with Susie Crow, one of the original performers, and Jane Elliott, the original Benesh notator.

Employing a cast of six, Sea of Troubles was a gift from MacMillan to Dance Advance, an ensemble of former members of The Royal Ballet. It is set to a score by Anton Webern and Bohuslav Martinů, and builds a narrative from the death of Hamlet’s father, in a story woven with ghostly apparitions, torment and revenge. YDP will also tour Rewind Forward (formerly titled Inspirit) from 13 October, which places revivals of masterworks by MacMillan and Robert Cohan, alongside three new works by Cohan, company artistic director Yolande Yorke-Edgell and Royal Ballet’s young artist in residence, Charlotte Edmonds.

Said Yorke-Edgell: “Sea of Troubles has been an incredible work to revive, not just because it was created by Kenneth MacMillan but because it has been so interesting to discover the detail of the work and understand MacMillan’s approach to creating movement, there are so many layers to unfold. Sea of Troubles was the only barefoot ballet MacMillan created at a time when he had begun working with contemporary dancers so audiences will be able to see how he was exploring new ways of moving.

“I am very grateful to Kevin O’Hare, The Royal Ballet’s director, who saw Yorke Dance Project perform Sea of Troubles and asked us to be part of these celebrations. For me as an artistic director, it comes at a pivotal time in my company’s journey. We are establishing ourselves as a small company presenting high quality productions of works by master choreographers (both contemporary and classical) alongside work by emerging artists. Being part of The Royal Ballet’s autumn programme and Kenneth MacMillan: a National Celebration sits perfectly with the ethos of the company.”

Kenneth MacMillan: a National Celebration is an initiative by Kevin O’Hare, director of The Royal Ballet to bring together Britain’s leading ballet companies under one roof to demonstrate the profound impact of MacMillan’s vision on dance in the UK.