For the gala at Covent Garden to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II’s Silver Jubilee Kenneth MacMillan made a new work set to the festive dances from Benjamin Britten’s opera Gloriana. Britten’s original was commissioned to celebrate the Queen’s coronation in 1953 and it harked back to Elizabeth’s illustrious namesake, the Virgin Queen, hailed with cries of ‘Gloriana’ after the defeat of the Spanish Armada.
Queen Elizabeth I was an enthusiastic dancer – even “danced La Volta high”. In MacMillan’s choreography she is not a spectator merely but an active participant, even to the point of being turned upside down by her courtiers in the course of a pas de quatre. “The deep arabesques and unorthodox supported turns were not entirely majestic, noted John Percival of The Times. “No complaints however about the choreographic invention for a group of six attendant gentlemen who began the proceedings with an exhilaratingly boisterous entry, full of jumps, hand-slappings and turns."