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  • Your Reaction: What did you think of Kenneth MacMillan: A National Celebration?

Your Reaction: What did you think of Kenneth MacMillan: A National Celebration?

Audience responses and press reviews of the festival bringing six British dance companies together on the Royal Opera House stages.

By Chris Shipman (Head of Brand Engagement and Social Media)

19 October 2017 at 3.54pm | 25 Comments

What did you think of Kenneth MacMillan: A National Celebration? Add your thoughts in the comments below.

Kenneth MacMillan: A National Celebration runs until 1 November 2017. Tickets are still available.

This article has 25 comments

  1. Dr David Montgomerie responded on 20 October 2017 at 11:20am Reply

    About time the ROH moved on from McMillan

    • David Brinkman responded on 20 October 2017 at 6:22pm

      I don't think that RB have ever danced McMillan but I might be wrong, however "moving on" from Kenneth MacMillan would be a dreadful mistake, he is danced all over the world and is a truly great choreographer. To have a programme acknowledging his talent on the 25th anniversary of his death is fully justified.

    • r.a. responded on 22 October 2017 at 12:31am

      the sell-out audiences for these Macmillan events clearly don't agree with you ...

  2. Graeme Williams responded on 20 October 2017 at 2:30pm Reply

    Wednesday's opening night (Concerto/ Fairy's Kiss/Elite was like a sandwich with excellent bread but a rather bland filling in the middle.

    Standout: Ms Adams in Elite. Wow, she has a great future, just get her over to the Company

  3. I came mainly to see Le Baiser de la fée as it had not been performed at Covent Garden for decades; additionally, I was curious to see how they would pull off the "combined" presentation of Elite Syncopations with dancers from 5 companies- how would they manage to rehearse together? The idea of having "doubles" of Royal Ballet members performing the group dances and the guests dancing the solos and pas de deux was brilliant.

    As it turned out, I was the most awed by Birmingham Royal Ballet's performance of Concerto- probably because it's my favourite of the three ballets with its beautiful score: Shostakovich's Piano Concerto Number 2. The dancers inhabited the unfamiliar stage (BRB has not toured to Covent Garden for over 2 decades) as though they danced on it every week, with neat corps lines and crossing the stage with assured leaps (especially from ebullient Momoko Hirata and Tzu-Chao Chou). Jenna Roberts and Tyrone Singleton were moving and gorgeous in the iconic central pas de deux of the Second Movement: simply heavenly. Delia Matthews moved across the stage in the energetic final movement solos with ease and aplomb.

    Le Baiser de la fée has had new designs for this Scottish Ballet production - eye catching yet very different from the originals. The production was beautifully lit too. On one hand it looks like a Romantic Era story ballet (think La Bayadère meets Coppelia but Gamzatti gets Franz!) but in the fiendishly difficult 20th century choreography, you can already see some signature MacMillan lifts and steps that appear again in later ballets like Romeo and Juliet or Mayerling. Andrew Peasgood is virtually dancing a solo or partnering the Fairy (Constance Devernay) or his Fiancée (Bethany Kingsley-Garner) nonstop in all but the first quarter of the 45-minute ballet. A compelling piece with Stravinsky's seldom heard score (using several familiar Tchaikovsky melodies) that the Scottish Ballet corps, soloists and principals performed with great commitment and charm.

    The festival atmosphere continued with the final ballet- jolly, jokey Elite Syncopations. The Royal Ballet with their guests were on outstanding form, with memorable moments from Tierney Heap, Elizabeth Harrod and Itziar Mendizabal (in the Cascades pas de trois), Scottish Ballet's Marge Hendrick & Constant Vigier (fine comic timing in the tall lady/shorter partner pas de deux) and BRB's Karla Doorbar and Mathias Dingman. It must have been daunting for Precious Adams (English National Ballet) and Riku Ito (Northern Ballet) being the sole representative of their companies on the opening night programme but both carried it off with the cheery confidence that the ballet requires. Adams being particularly memorable in her musicality as well as her assured turns and balances.

    The packed audience, which included Natalia Osipova, Lauren Cuthbertson and Marcelino Sambe as well as a few rows of artistic staff and former dancers from BRB and Scottish Ballet, were abuzz with excitement and enjoyment throughout the show, and it was lovely to hear the audience giving enthusiastic support to the cast, especially the visiting dancers. What an exciting evening at Covent Garden and a brilliant celebration of MacMillan's range and genius. Thanks to Kevin O'Hare and the staff and crew of the visiting companies that made this possible. I'm hoping there will be similar Celebrations for Ashton and Cranko too!

  4. Patrick Buckingham responded on 20 October 2017 at 3:29pm Reply

    A definite hit with me. Concerto was pinpoint sharp, still looks very fresh and was a great advert for the talents of Birmingham Royal Ballet. It's very different to Ratmansky's more recent Concerto DSCH (which has a faster tempo in the 1st and 3rd movements and includes some jaw dropping jumps) but Macmillan's stylish ballet from half a century ago more than holds its own as a significant statement of what can be done in an abstract ballet.

    Le Baiser de la Fee was a complete surprise as I had no idea Macmillan had ever choreographed anything quite like this. It's difficult to like a fairy who goes out to steal a baby and effectively sabotages his life for her own selfish ends. The dancing was great but I think the ballet needed a psychological edge which it never really acquired. Odd to think of a Macmillan narrative ballet without a high level of psycho drama but I guess he had to start somewhere! I suspect Macmillan may have struggled with the Stravinsky score which is a little too sweet for a dark story. A real curio and certainly well worth an outing after so many years out of sight.

    My first view of Elite Syncopations did not disappoint. It is on the brash, crowd pleasing side but that's really the point. Having the orchestra up on stage was a lot of fun and I do love those Ragtime tunes. Precious Adams was particularly noteworthy and I was much impressed by Nicol Edmonds' pairing with Akane Takada. All of the artists looked like they were really having fun which made for a jolly audience.

  5. David Brinkman responded on 20 October 2017 at 6:12pm Reply

    Just a thought:-

    It would be polite and proper if you acknowledged Tamara Rojo the Artistic Director of ENB and one of the dancers on the 1st November in the 1st photograph of Song of the Earth.
    You have after all acknowledged all the RB dancers in the selection of photographs and they won't be dancing it on the night.

    • r.a. responded on 23 October 2017 at 12:55pm

      I absolutely agree that Tamara Rojo should be credited in the photo of her performance in Song of the Earth. I was fortunate enough to see her dancing in that role (also with the wonderful Carlos Acosta) a few years ago, and it has remained one of the memorable ballet performances I have ever seen.
      It would also be nice if the casting for the visiting companies could be added to the information once it is known. The casting for ENB in Song of the Earth was advertised last week on their website, but still doesn't appear here.

    • Chris Shipman (Head of Brand Engagement and Social Media) responded on 3 November 2017 at 10:17am

      Thanks for your comments and feedback.

      Regarding your query about crediting - as you may see from other production pages, this is related to the design of the page. Lead images/first images on the carousel of photos on production pages don't feature credits. We are looking to refresh this in due course.

      We will also explore adding of other companies' casting once confirmed.

      Best wishes,


  6. elleG responded on 21 October 2017 at 10:52am Reply

    Congratulations to Kevin O'Hare for an inspired initiative. Showcasing the amazing range of MacMillan's work and, in doing so, sharing the stage the other companies is a wonderful tribute to this outstanding choreographer. Let's hope that it leads to more (perhaps less familiar) pieces being staged in the regions as well as in London.

    Particular laurels so far to Jenna Roberts (BRB), Precious Adams (ENB) and Yasmine Naghdi (RB). But a big thank you to everyone involved.

  7. Pat Roberts responded on 21 October 2017 at 5:25pm Reply

    Fantastic evening. So good to see talented dancers from other companies on that wonderful ROH stage. Why not organise an annual festival week or fortnight featuring dancers from across the UK, joining the Royal Ballet dancers. This worked wonderfully well!

  8. alex responded on 21 October 2017 at 7:52pm Reply

    My wife and I attended the Opening Night and what an amazing event it was. What a wonderful idea of Mr O'Hare to invite various UK companies to share the ROH stage with dancers who can only dream of dancing on the Covent Garden stage. What a thrill it must have been for all those dancers. We enjoyed watching Concerto, danced by BRB, and Baiser de la fee by SB but we most of all enjoyed Elite Syncopations! RB principals Yasmine Naghdi and Ryoichi Hirano were outstanding, they looked really great together. Miss Naghdi was simply stunning, totally in character (so was Hirano) and a real gorgeous "babe". The couple from SB and a ENB dancer (sorry don't know their names) were also good. All in all a very enjoyable evening, we love MacMillan ballets so keep them coming please.

  9. VIVIEN BROOKS responded on 22 October 2017 at 1:20pm Reply

    I find it hard to believe that anyone could suggest that the ROH should 'move on' from Kenneth MacMillan. So no more Manon, Romeo and Juliet, Gloria, Elite Syncopations, Song of the Earth, Requiem, Concerto, Winter Dreams, Prince of the Pagodas, Anastasia, Rite of Spring etc etc? These ballets alone cover a huge range of styles - light, dramatic, heart-rending, narrative pieces that actually make sense, beautiful abstract pieces. Far from moving away from these pieces the company should be making the most of its wonderful historic repertory (both Ashton and MacMillan), while continuing to showcase new pieces. There is so much variety in ballet (the classical and romantic ballets, the great American choregraphers, the Ballets Russes) it's hard to see everything but perhaps at the very least a few less Nutcrackers every year might leave room for more variety.

  10. Charles N responded on 23 October 2017 at 1:45pm Reply

    What a fantastic festival. I've attended the Concerto mixed bill, and the MacMillan film over in Ham Yard Theatre so far, as well as Jeux. The ability to get immersed in one choreographer for a couple of weeks is inspired. Can we do this every year!!???

  11. Suzi responded on 25 October 2017 at 11:00am Reply

    Bit confused with Fedja Hadrovich’s tweet in the above article... do they mean Yasmine (Naghdi)? I don’t recall seeing Yuhui cast.

  12. Jakegee responded on 25 October 2017 at 6:05pm Reply

    Yuhui Choe did, indeed, dance in “The Cascades”, part of “Elite Syncopations”, on opening night, 18th October, together with Itziar Mendizabal and Melissa Hamilton.

  13. peterstephen responded on 28 October 2017 at 1:19am Reply

    I saw Gloria, The Judas Tree and Elite Syncopations tonight 27/10/17. Gloria I accept was a salute to the trauma of WW1 which was tragic, real and devastating to many families. Elite Syncopations was a joy and delight. But the Judas Tree... the sexual violence was too graphic and prolonged. I came to watch Lauren Cuthbertson dance and I was mortified to see her in this role. The ROH should have warned about the content of this ballet. It was shocking and disturbing and I resent being traumatised in this way.

    • Chris Shipman (Head of Brand Engagement and Social Media) responded on 28 October 2017 at 10:56am

      Hi Peter,

      We apologise that you feel you were made unaware of the sexual content in The Judas Tree and acknowledge that it is not as easy to locate the warning on our website as it should be. We now recognise this and are presently making changes to ensure it is more visible at an earlier stage in the user journey.

      Best wishes,


  14. peterstephen responded on 29 October 2017 at 8:22pm Reply

    We are a sophisticated audience who understand that there are wicked events in the world. Suggest them by all means, allude to them, show us the aftermath if you must but please avoid the graphic visual degradations that appeared on stage in The Judas Tree. We didn't come to the Royal Opera House to see a young woman humiliated and brutalised, we came to see great art.

    • r.a. responded on 2 November 2017 at 4:30pm

      While I understand the comments about giving an indication of the subject matter so that the audience can make up its mind whether to go to the performance or not, I completely disagree that live performance should not be shocking or disturbing. Great art should be able to provoke and draw our attention to some of the more unpleasant aspects of life as well as the most joyous. The leading news items over the past couple of weeks show that the abuse of women is still a feature of our society and gave this story a particularly topical twist. Given that Elite Syncopations appeared in the same programme as the Judas Tree, there was a balance in terms of subject matter and the mood and emotions they evoked. What you see in The Judas Tree is not remotely graphic by comparison with TV dramas that appear on a daily basis: what was different was that the choreography and the artistry shown by (on the night I saw it) Melissa Hamilton, made it incomparably more powerful. Personally, I go to the ROH to be see opera and ballet which is thought-provoking as well as entertaining and I hope choreographers will continue to challenge the audience in this way.

  15. chloe baveystock responded on 2 November 2017 at 3:43pm Reply

    I agree with the above view -whilst the dancing was great the subject matter degrading to watch. Voyeuristic violence and especially sexual violence may appeal to some men but for me, as a woman , I felt disgusted to be a party to this view of rape, endorsing the usual canard that "she asked for it"
    Hopefully, we are entering a new age when male dominance and lust is being called to account. Perpetuating vile ideas in the name of art just wont do.

  16. elleG responded on 4 November 2017 at 6:46pm Reply

    Now that the MacMillan celebration is over, I want to reiterate my thanks to Kevin O'Hare for masterminding this amazing collaborative venture and to everyone involved for making it happen. Dancers from the 'outside' companies have been floating on air for days following their experience of appearing on the ROH stage. Those of us who follow them, as well as the RB, have been bursting with pride at seeing them all perform so well. And the complementary programme of short ballets in the Clore and films/talks elsewhere has added significantly to our knowledge and appreciation. It has truly been a fortnight to remember an incomparable choreographer. THANK YOU again.

  17. Geoff responded on 11 November 2017 at 8:59am Reply

    May I echo the congratulations on this excellent season? And add my voice to those calling for something like it for Ashton?

  18. It was great to see Song of the Earth performed by a different company for this celebration after seeing 2 excellent Royal Ballet casts in the ballet last season, but it would be more meaningful and cohesive if the artists in leading roles had consisted of English National Ballet company dancers rather than guest artists joining briefly to enjoy the glory the company members have worked hard to produce. I would have preferred to have had company dancers Ken Saruhashi or Aaron Robison as the Messenger of Death, as they had given powerful and thoughtful performances outside the celebration.

  19. Josephine responded on 26 November 2017 at 12:47pm Reply

    A few weeks on but I am still thinking about the MacMillan events. Many thanks to all the companies involved in this wonderful celebration.

    Special gratitude for these outstanding memories:
    1. Gloria so beautifully interpreted by Northern Ballet. Very moving to watch and to remember.
    2. Some very insightful 'MacMillan and Me' conversation events. I thought that the format of a discussion panel of several dancers gave much greater insight and spontaneity than does the usual one to one interview format. I hope it will be repeated in other Insight contexts.
    3. The Judas Tree, very disturbing to watch but exerting great power in making me think repeatedly about its imagery long after seeing it. This is largely due to the second cast whose realism in performance made the contrasting surreal elements far more vivid and powerful, superbly led by Bennet Gartside's compelling portrayal of a deeply troubled Foreman, becoming also a tragic Everyman figure in this dark vision.

    I would have loved to see Laura Morera and Bennet Gartside dance together somewhere in the celebrations - pre-eminent interpreters of MacMillan in my view, e.g. Anastasia. I also regret the omission of Requiem, and I think it would have followed The Judas Tree more potently than the works chosen to do so.

    But thank you for the inspired thinking in the overall planning of these celebrations. It was amazing to be immersed in MacMillan's work and to be able to see all the wonderful UK ballet companies performing so memorably together at the ROH. I hope very much that the concept will reappear in future seasons, to showcase MacMillan, Ashton and others. For MacMillan, please revive Winter Dreams someday soon.

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