The following review of the Pie Jesu workshops at the conference has been written by Maria Tabony, who participated in the class on behalf of Criticaldance.
REVEALING MACMILLAN TO ME.
The weekend of the 12th and 13th of October will remain special to all those who attended the Revealing Macmillan Conference held at the Royal Academy of Dance. This was the first conference about the life and works of the great choreographer, Kenneth Macmillan. Born in 1929, Macmillan grew up in Great Yarmouth before being accepted on a scholarship to Sadler’s Wells (now the Royal Ballet School). Whilst having a fabulous career in performing, Macmillan was commissioned on experimental workshop ballets. He excelled into a vocation of choreography and was noted time and again for his remarkable creativity.
In 1992, he was awarded the Laurence Olivier Award for the best new dance production. Sadly, it was in the same year that Macmillan suffered a heart attack and died. Macmillan was awarded the prestigious Laurence Olivier Award for lifetime achievement in 1993. His works are still revived today and there are many memories that will remain in dance history forever. It is for this reason that so many joined together at the Revealing Macmillan Conference.
I am a BA Hons Dance Theatre student at London Studio Centre and have an enthusiasm for choreography. I attended the Requiem workshop on Sunday 13th October. This is my report on the workshop from a student’s point of view.
I arrived at the Royal Academy of Dance, Battersea at 9:00am and was directed into the De Valois Studio. Amid the exciting buzz of people waiting for the conferences to start, I was registered by the pleasant and helpful students of the R.A.D.
At 10:30am, the five participants including myself assembled in the Ashton Studio. We were all in vocational training and were representing London Studio Centre, The English National Ballet School, The Central School, and The Royal Ballet School. As there were only a few of us we were able to do a full ballet class with Frank Freeman, who was incredibly helpful with individual notes and was accompanied by the magnificent pianist, Henry Roche.
At 11:30am we were introduced to Lesley Collier, who had come in earlier to watch our warm-up. As well as her wonderful career as soloist and Principal for the Royal Ballet, Lesley Collier is an Award winner, Repetiteur for The Royal Ballet School, and mother of twins!
We began the first session by watching the video of the Requiem female solo. We were all mesmerised by the beautiful movement and expression, which was collaborated to the calming music. After watching the video, the intentions within the movement were revealed to us. We learnt how Macmillan used the images of a playful and inquisitive child, which was based on his daughter Charlotte. Roche then gave us a description on the musical interpretation and the words to Pie Jesu.
With this information to help us, we began to learn the material. Although the movement was quite contemporary and very interpretative, there was a definite sense of Classical Ballet (even diving across the floor entailed a graceful sense of flow!). By 1:00pm we had learnt the solo in terms of movement, direction, and musical and expressive interpretation.
We stopped for a lunch break and decided that when we returned we would put on our pointe shoes. The majority of people had met in the De Valois Studio for lunch. It was a chance for renowned interpreters, notators, repetiteurs, Macmillan’s artistic collaborators and colleagues, dance writers, academics, leading performers, and students and many others not listed above to meet and discuss the presentations and workshops from the two days, and also share their experience of Macmillan.
On our return to the Ashton Studio at 2:00pm, we did a quick warm-up to get used to our pointe shoes. We were all eager to try out the solo on pointe but Collier made us walk along using the barre to find our stability. This was because the solo involves a lot of walking and balancing in a natural state en pointe. As student dancers we needed to know the safest way of maintaining the strength in our ankles. We began to break down the solo determining which steps needed to go on to pointe and where we needed to pitch our weight in order to successfully balance for specific steps.
Whilst going through the solo we were interrupted by the entrance of Charlotte Macmillan, on whom most of the movement was based on. She told us the story of how her father had taken the image of her following a spider down the wall and playing spinning games. It was brilliant to hear first hand the intentions of the choreographer through the initial source of movement.
After completing the breakdown of the solo, we were given the chance to perform the solo one at a time making full use of the studio space. I was the third to perform the solo and although I have performed many times before, I was definitely nervous. After discussing this with the other girls we felt that the musical phrasing meant that your brain had to work as a computer constantly analysing the next phrase which was only slightly varied to the previous phrase. Unfortunately at 4:00pm the workshop had come to an end, and by this point we were becoming more confident with Macmillan’s beautiful solo
On my journey home I thought about the day and what I had learnt from it. The day was not only a chance to learn a piece of Macmillan’s fantastic repertoire, but to become part of the next generation to retain Macmillan, both his works and his ideas. It was for this reason that I felt nervous whilst performing the Requiem solo. I realised that I was performing a solo that was being left to my generation of dancers and choreographers. This day was a great opportunity for reviving, learning, and celebrating Macmillan, and was an experience I felt privileged to be part of.
Revealing Macmillan To Me.
By Maria Tabony, age 19.
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