This autumn, Yorke Dance Project will give the world premiere of its film of Sir Kenneth MacMillan's ballet Sea of Troubles which explores the psychological truths and dynamics between the characters in Shakespeare's Hamlet.
The film premieres at the Royal Opera House's Clore Studio on Tuesday 10 October, which is World Mental Health Day.
Yorke Dance Project is a contemporary ballet company – “rooted in tradition while looking to the future” – founded by Yolande Yorke-Edgell and formed in Los Angeles in 1998 before relocating to the UK in 2009. The company first revived Sea of Troubles in 2016 at the Royal Opera House as part of the 25th anniversary of MacMillan's death. Now, in association with The Royal Ballet, it has adapted MacMillan's work for film. Sea of Troubles is a tale of grief, despair, revenge, power and madness. It has been directed by Emmy-nominated documentary director, David Stewart, and was filmed on location in the house and grounds of Hatfield House, the Grade I listed country house built in 1611 by Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury. The work's music is by Anton Webern and Bohuslav Martinů.
MacMillan's ballet was widely viewed to have broken new ground in its treatment of mental distress and this autumn, Yorke Dance Project will be running a series of workshops entitled Mindful, co-created and co-facilitated with HFEH Mind (Hammersmith, Fulham, Ealing and Hounslow). Taking the mental health journeys of Hamlet and Ophelia as its artistic focus, the workshop uses the characters to explore conflicts and emotions which some young people may also be experiencing. It uses specifically devised movement exercises that have been designed in collaboration with mental health practitioners, to encourage communication, self-expression and understanding, “reinforce a sense of agency and increase resilience, physical and mental wellbeing”. The workshop will be given in secondary schools and community settings, with the teachers or community workers selecting twelve participants, aged 13 to 18, whom they believe will most benefit from the workshop.
Sea of Troubles was choreographed by Kenneth MacMillan in 1988. It was commissioned by, and created for, Dance Advance, a touring ballet company comprised of six dancers who had broken away from The Royal Ballet to take new chamber ballets to a nationwide audience. MacMillan became their patron. The original cast consisted of Michael Batchelor, Susie Crow, Jennifer Jackson, Russell Maliphant, Stephen Sheriff and Sheila Styles.
Following the autumn tour there are plans for a cinema release of the film in 2024.
Dane Hurst plays Hamlet and, playing various roles including Ophelia, Gertrude, Polonius and Claudius are Freya Jeffs, Romany Pajdak (Royal Ballet soloist), Oxana Panchenko, Edd Mitton and Ben Warbis.
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano') about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman's Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia' column for Dancing Times magazine.