Olivier Award-winning director Peter Schaufuss unites ballet stars Irek Mukhamedov and Alban Lendorf in Tchaikovsky’s fantastical masterpieces. Jeffery Taylor finds out more.
For over a century, Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker have inspired audiences around the world. Now, former ballet star and Danish-born director Peter Schaufuss presents his own take on these three much-loved ballets.
Schaufuss is no stranger to the works, having danced the original versions many times during his early career. As a leading choreographer with a string of past directorships – including London Festival Ballet (now English National Ballet), Berlin Ballet and The Royal Ballet in Copenhagen – the Dane is renowned for his radical reinterpretation of classics such as Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Also ranking among his successes is the award-winning Tchaikovsky Trilogy, the debut piece of the Peter Schaufuss Ballet. Founded in 1997 and Denmark’s first independent touring company, Schaufuss Ballet has travelled to great acclaim with the Trilogy. Now, for the first time, it comes to London.
Schaufuss’s production focuses on how the music for each work reflects the composer’s battle with his ambivalent sexuality. ‘In Swan Lake,’ explains the director, ‘the hero, Siegfried, makes a lifelong commitment to the Swan Queen and then flees’; in reality, Tchaikovsky’s marriage was allegedly never consummated. His sexuality subsequently lay dormant, mirrored by the Princess’s hundred-year coma in The Sleeping Beauty. It’s the inspiration behind The Nutcracker, however, which Schaufuss believes is the most poignant. Travelling to America, Tchaikovsky picked up a newspaper only to read of the death of his beloved sister, Alexandra. Memories of the past, including many happy family Christmases together, came flooding back, and he bought a nutcracker as a memento from a street trader.
Opening on Monday 23 July and culminating in back-to-back performances of all three works, on Saturday 28 July, the Tchaikovsky Trilogy sees former Bolshoi and Royal Ballet star Irek Mukhamedov, 52, make his first appearance on the West End stage for almost a decade. He’ll be kept busy in the production, playing several roles across the three ballets, while Danish Royal Ballet’s young star Alban Lendorf, 22 – who made his UK debut in Romeo and Juliet last summer – will dance the leading roles. Former dancer Jeffery Taylor is arts feature writer and Dance Critic of The Sunday Express