The novel by Abbé Prévost was published already in 1731. What was it in the character of Manon that intrigued Sir Kenneth MacMillan?
She is a bit of an outsider figure. I can’t put my finger on it completely except that I think it is romantic, but it is also quite though, its brutal. Kenneth was very much on the side of the outsiders and people who were knocking their heads against what was the social norms of the time.
I would like to ask you about the broader creative process. How do you create a piece like Manon?
It is a bit of alchemy really. The way it happened is that he chose the music and he sort of wrote the story that he wanted but that was it. He had the piano reduction, and everything then happened in the studio, and what he expected of his dancers was a totally creative approach to making the work. He used to say I can work for two hours, if I get two minutes out of that I am doing well.
It is a sort of human triumph as it comes together a few days before the audience sees it and it gets judged by critics on the first night. There has been a lot of cuts of course. It is this sort of curious, strange thing that sort of grows.
I think that the minute you set something in stone you are doomed. The dancers training has changed, audiences have changed, everything changes all the time, it is quite important to understand that.
Manon originally premiered in 1974, almost half a century ago. Should one adapt the ballet to modern times, even if the main story remains the same?
What do you do with the sword fight? I was approached by a company that asked if they could set it in the current time and the designer hadn’t thought about that. We have to have to the sword fight, and I don’t know quite how you would do that in a modern dress.