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This plotless ballet for 24 dancers has three movements: "The Beginning," "The Middle," and "The End." It unfolds before an abstract backdrop that shifts in color from deep browns to blood red, suggesting at times dark buildings and a misty, moonlit clearing in a forest. In Scottish composer James MacMillan’s commissioned score, there is a tension between turbulent, dissonant tones and spirited traditional Scottish melodies. At times the two occur together, suggesting redundant uneasiness. Christopher Wheeldon borrows movements and gestures from traditional Scottish dance. In the first movement, dancers perform a "sword" dance, with women prone on the floor while men dance over them. Although there are moments of brightness, the ballet’s overall tone is dark. MacMillan’s score was partly inspired by Scottish poet Edwin Muir’s "Scotland 1941," which refers to Robert Burns and Walter Scott as "sham bards of a sham nation." MacMillan dedicated his "Cummock Fair" for piano and strings to Muir. Wheeldon asked the composer to expand this piece into a ballet score. It is the composer’s second piano concerto.
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