This was a piéce d’occasion celebrating the 80th birthday of Ninette de Valois, founder of the Royal Ballet. The performance at Sadler’s Wells (where, de Valois reminded the audience, “it all began”) was the last of series of celebrations over the summer months. The evening’s programme included de Valois’s The Rakes Progress. MacMillan’s new work in her honour quoted variously from de Valois’s ballets, its title 6.6.78 (a play on dancers’ counts) the actual date of de Valois’s 80th birthday.
Ian Spurling’s costumes and head dresses for the cast of twelve couples represented signs of the zodiac. Desmond Kelly and Marion Tait, in identically patterned body tights, were the Gemini twins (Gemini was de Valois’s birth sign). “Gemini’s appearance rightly imposed harmony on the apparent disorder of the comical other signs of the zodiac”, wrote Mary Clarke, in The Guardian, “and Marion Tait and Desmond Kelly danced their duets harmoniously.”