I was invited by the British Council and the Scottish Ballet
on behalf of Creative Scotland to attend the world premiere of Kings
2 Ends (2011), a brand new work created for Scottish Ballet by Boston
Ballet's Resident Choreographer Jorma Elo, as part of the Edinburgh International Festival in Edinburgh,
Scotland, held during the world renowned Edinburgh Festival Fringe. We will be
presenting Kings 2 Ends, along with Song of the Earth, performed by the Scottish Ballet next
Staying on Grassmarket at the foot of Castlehill, my hotel room had a perfect view of the iconic Edinburgh Castle, and I looked forward to the Edinburgh Military Tattoo (an annual festival of music, theatre, and entertainment), with its nightly fireworks, tartans and tweeds, misty rain, and echoing bagpipes. There simply is not a more magical city in all of Scotland.
The world premiere of the program was on Friday, August 19 at the historic and glorious Edinburgh Playhouse. As I descended down the hill on Leith Street below Calton Hill, it was fantastically romantic to walk by traditional Scottish pubs, street sellers, and Scottish folk getting ready for the celebratory weekend of Festival events.
I arrived at the Edinburgh Playhouse, and I quickly took my seat after a few sips of pear cider. Sitting next to Ashley Page, Artistic Director of the Scottish Ballet, and Cindy Sughrue, Chief Executive of the Scottish Ballet, you could feel the excitement in the air. It is not necessarily easy to attend an opening night of a world premiere, as there is so much riding on the success of the program, but the evening was gorgeous. It was magisterial, lush, and ephemeral, and the dancers, many of them young, danced their hearts out to the complicated and complex movement.
Finnish-born Elo's Kings 2 Ends was the first piece on the program and featured Steve Reich's Double Sextet and Mozart's Violin Concerto No 1. Conceived as a large group work, the performance began with a solo performed in silence, which then moved to large-scale group work. I read in the program notes that Elo played hockey in his youth, and that the quick movements he associated with hockey could also be seen in his signature movement style, that was both classical, and sometime odd and quirky, and really interesting and surprising. I thought that Minnesotan's would love the hockey reference.
The second half of the program featured a classic reconstruction of Sir Kenneth MacMillan's Song of the Earth (1965), his heralded masterwork that was conceived to be choreographic offering set on Mahlers' Das Lied von der Erde. The sheer, classic simplicity of this production will stun our audience. It was really interesting to find out that MacMillan had wanted to create this work for several years, but the Royal Ballet of London rejected it twice, stating that such great music should not be set to ballet! It was not until the Stuttgart Ballet commissioned the work, that the Royal Ballet laid claim to its importance and called it their own.
I always look forward to attending the Edinburgh International Festival and the Festival Fringe because this is the festival that arts administrators and curators go to see the current state of international art. We go there to be inspired, to discover new artists, and to celebrate the widest range of world-class arts from throughout the world. With thousands of performance artists, it is simply one of the best places to rediscover your creative self. It was such a thrilling experience to attend the Scottish Ballet performing in Scotland with Scottish audiences, and it is not something I will soon forget.
Because of its importance in global culture, it was thrilling to know that the Edinburgh International Festival was commissioner of the Scottish Ballet program, and I became even more excited that this special program is coming to Minnesota on Sat, Oct 22, and our patrons will be so proud that this company performed these epic works in Minneapolis.
-Ben Johnson, Director of Northrop Concerts & Lectures
*Check out the reviews below and video clips from the piece, along with clips from Song of the Earth: