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On 11 December 1929, Kenneth MacMillan, choreographer of Romeo and Juliet, was born. He trained in dance at the Sadlerís Wells Ballet School, which is now the Royal Ballet School. Whilst there, he met the formidable Ninette de Valois, the founder of both BRB and The Royal Ballet, and developed an interest in choreographing new ballets.
Although Romeo and Juliet is probably MacMillanís most famous work, and is performed all over the world, he created around 50 ballets during his career as a choreographer. Several of these ballets are performed by BRB including Romeo and Juliet, created in 1965, Solitaire, created in 1956 and Elite Syncopations, created in 1974.
Solitaire, subtitled by MacMillan 'a kind of game for one...', features a girl who tries to join in the games of all the other characters on the stage, but is ultimately left on her own. It is a very early MacMillan ballet, and explores the idea of an outsider, an idea that MacMillan went on to develop throughout his career as a choreographer. Despite its apparent sad ending, the ballet is actually quite humorous, and leaves the girl alone, but happy. Click the pictures below to see some
photos of Solitaire.
Elite Syncopations is danced to ragtime music, much like Scott Joplinís The Entertainer, and also very unusually, features the musicians playing on stage in costume, rather than in the orchestra pit. It is set at a dance competition, and shows a much lighter and humorous side to MacMillanís often dark and serious choreography. The dancers, who are playing competitors, take turns trying to impress unseen judges and each other. The ballet features some very difficult virtuoso
dancing and also some very funny moments, such as a very short man attempting to partner a very tall woman in 'The Alaskan Rag', affectionately know to the dancers as 'Big and Little.' Click on the thumbnails below to see some photos of Elite Syncoptaions.
MacMillan was a hugely successful choreographer, holding the position of Director with Berlin Opera Ballet (1966-69) and The Royal Ballet (1970 Ė 77), and was knighted in 1983. He died on 29 October 1992 during The Royal Ballet's first night of a revival of his ballet, Mayerling. At the same time, BRB were also performing his Romeo and Juliet at Birmingham Hippodrome.