Thursday, 1 December 2016

Thoughts on St Andrew's Day

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Yesterday was St Andrew's Day and my thoughts turned to Andrew Laing's Almae Matres as they often do at this time of year:
"St Andrews by the Northern Sea,
A haunted town it is to me!
A little city, worn and grey,
The grey North Ocean girds it round,
And o’er the rocks, and up the bay,
The long sea-rollers surge and sound.
And still the thin and biting spray
Drives down the melancholy street,
And still endure, and still decay,
Towers that the salt winds vainly beat.
Ghost-like and shadowy they stand
Dim mirrored in the wet sea-sand."
St Andrews was my alma mater as it was Laing's. It was there that I first got to know Scottish Ballet and discovered Stravinsky. I don't know whether that great composer ever visited the "little city, worn and grey" but his spirit certainly haunts that town for me. It was his music that I played when I had revision or essays to write. Firebird, Petrushka, Pulcinella and above all The Rite of Spring accompanied me through those four glorious years as my gown slipped from bejant shoulders to magistrand wrists.

Next Autumn, Scottish Ballet will present two contrasting Stravinsky's ballets - MacMillan's Le Baiser de la Fée and a new version of The Rite of Spring by Christopher Hampson. The double bill will be performed first at Glasgow between the 5 and 7 Oct and will progress to Aberdeen and Inverness. Sadly it will not visit England, Wales or Northern Ireland - or even Edinburgh, A shame because this may well be one of the highlights of the year and I cannot be the only Sassenach who is tempted.

According to Scottish Ballet's website the company will be working with the Benesh notator, Diana Curry, and designer Gary Harris to recreate Sir Kenneth's production. I saw a little bit of Curry's work at Ivy House which had been Pavlova's home (see A Minor Miracle - Bringing Le Baiser de la fée back to Life 2 Jun 2014). With the help of James Hay and Donald MacLeary a short snippet of MacMillan's beautiful ballet took shape before our very eyes.

The Rite of Spring will be a complete reinterpretation of Stravinsky's score:
"Christopher Hampson, uses only three dancers to convey a present day story of two brothers destined for different paths to enlightenment. Hampson has created a version that is relevant to our time; his The Rite of Spring is a brutal and physical response to the Stravinsky score. An exploration of rivalry, betrayal and sacrifice, Scottish Ballet’s The Rite of Spring is at times violent, intense and thought-provoking."
I don't know who penned those words but they caught my curiosity. Hampson can't put a foot wrong so far as I am concerned and the trailer looks intriguing,

There was no Scottish Ballet when MacMillan and MacLeary were in their prime. Indeed, there was hardly any ballet except for visits by English touring companies and an occasional exotic visitor to the Edinburgh Festival. Now there are lots of companies in different styles of dance as well as conservatories and schools for the young,  A lot has been achieved since Western Theatre Ballet moved North in 1969.

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