“It’s time to turn the tables”

Why Juliet & Romeo?

It’s time to turn the tables, says Mats Ek. Besides, one of Shakespeare’s early drafts was actually called Juliet and Romeo. So you could say that we’re going back to the source. We’re also pointing out that we are using Tchaikovsky’s music, not the usual music by Prokofiev. But the drama’s fundamental conflict remains, of course, with the young innocent lovers versus the established violence – a tragedy in which love triumphs through its destruction.

How do you create your choreography?

I start by working out a libretto and a concept. When I have that, I work with my own body, for myself, so I have a suggestion to offer the dancers. That suggestion is based on my own feelings about the situation to be portrayed. That can turn out to be good, bad or just so-so. It doesn’t matter. Just as long as I have an idea I can explore deeply myself. Then I can change my mind as much as I want during the work with the dancers.

What is it like to work with the Royal Swedish Ballet?

Every company has its own peculiarities. When all is said and done it’s the dancers that make the company and they are different in every place. The emphasis in this company has, under the direction of Johannes Öhman, shifted somewhat towards a more modern dance line-up. But the Royal Opera has to be able to do the classic ballets as well, of course, and I think that is a good challenge for a large company – to be able to do both.

Do you find yourself studying everyone around you, almost as an “occupational hazard”?

Absolutely! I think everyone who works in a creative field should train their observational skills. That’s how I see the dancers, after all, by opening myself for all kinds of impulses. You can’t simply unplug it just because you’re around people that are not dancers.

Do you still dance?

I practise a little and dance now and then with my wife at various galas. I want to keep on doing that in the future. I also think it’s important to dance so as not to forget how much fun it is. And how difficult it is.