Scottish Ballet announces digital-only programme as part of 2017 line-up
With a nod to the past as it heads into unchartered territory, Scottish Ballet is proving itself to be a trailblazer in all kinds of ways
As it strides boldly into the future, Scottish Ballet is reaching a hand back to bring aspects of ballet's illustrious past with it. In the coming year, the company will present a programme entirely delivered on digital platforms, and commemorate the 25th anniversary of choreographer Kenneth MacMillan's death by staging one of his lesser known works.
It's a dual approach that deserves applause all of its own. For classical ballet to survive, it needs to evolve and grow – but to disregard a heritage so rich with creative talent would be foolish indeed.
And so, in 2017 we'll find Scottish Ballet delivering a wide and diverse repertoire both at home and abroad.
A commitment to visit the United States biennially will be delivered through three separate engagements in Minneapolis (where they'll perform Matthew Bourne's Highland Fling), New York (a triple bill featuring works by Bryan Arias, Christopher Bruce and Scottish Ballet's artistic director, Christopher Hampson) and Los Angeles (the award-winning A Streetcar Named Desire).
'We're well loved in America,' says Hampson. 'And those three shows give a great snapshot of where Scottish Ballet is right now. I'm thrilled that the Americans will get to see Highland Fling – an irreverent take on Scottishness and the only production Matthew Bourne has ever licensed to a ballet company, so that's a great flag for us to be flying overseas.'
Here at home, the company has a particularly exciting world premiere in store for its return appearance at Dance International Glasgow in April. Dutch/Israeli choreographic duo Uri Ivgi and Johan Greben have been making waves in Europe for a number of years, and Hampson has been keeping an eye on them.
'I'm really intrigued by the visceral nature of Uri and Johan's work,' explains Hampson. 'It always has a political point and something quite strong to say about the world we're living in today. I've been watching them progress, and I think Scottish Ballet is really ready to embrace their particular brand of dance theatre. It's pretty physical but perfect for something like Dance International Glasgow.'
Not everyone can get to Glasgow, of course, but in April, fans of Scottish Ballet across the world will be able to enjoy Under the Skin – an entire programme which can only be viewed digitally. Numerous partners will be brought onboard for the project, including Glasgow School of Art.
'We're really aware that the digital world is important,' says Hampson, 'and think we need to be embracing it and seeing what it can do for dance – and what dance can do for it.'
A trip to London in June will see Scottish Ballet re-visit its stunning Edinburgh International Festival double-bill from 2015. Those who saw it will know that Crystal Pite's Emergence and MC 14/22 (Ceci est mon corps) by Angelin Preljocaj showed our national ballet company in a hitherto unseen light.
'That programme was groundbreaking for us,' says Hampson. 'It's been amazing for me to see the dancers rise to both of those challenges and I think they've come out of it a better company. So I'm excited to bring it back.'
Back home, the company will tour Scotland in the autumn with a very different double-bill, celebrating the music of Stravinsky – and the 25th anniversary of Kenneth MacMillan's death. Hampson's own Rite of Spring returns, having wowed audiences during Dance Odysseys at the 2013 Edinburgh International Festival, but it's many a year since MacMillan's Le Baiser de la Fée has seen the light of day.
Exploring the darker aspects of Hans Christian Andersen's fairytale The Ice Maiden, Le Baiser de la Fée was originally created in 1960 and has only been revived once since then.
'We'll be working with Donald MacLeary,' explains Hampson. 'A former principal at the Royal Ballet who was in the original production, so Kenneth created it on him. Donald is also Scottish, and guested at Scottish Ballet many years ago, so that's a wonderful connection.'
Which will lead nicely into another nod to Scottish Ballet's past, when in December 2017 the company brings Peter Darrell's Nutcracker back to the stage, following its hugely successful revival in 2014.
'I'm proud that we're presenting our founder Peter Darrell along with his colleague, choreographer Kenneth MacMillan,' says Hampson. 'But also our new choreographers who will be creating pieces and working on the digital season, along with great living choreographers such as Christopher Bruce and Crystal Pite.
'And I'm really thrilled that Scottish Ballet is at a point now where we're able to offer this kaleidoscope of creativity. And with our first digital season you'll see that it's not just with choreographers, it will be beyond dance as well.'