Ballet has been performed for hundreds of years, from the 15th century Italian courts to modern day Africa (the Cape Town City Ballet for example), producing many famous figures including Vaslav Nijinsky and the great impresario Serge Diaghilev. Ballet may give the impression of an art form that survives on tradition, but this is not necessarily true. Serge Diaghilev collaborated with contemporaries like Pablo Picasso and Chanel as did Tchaikovsky when working on Swan Lake, such collaborations aim to treat the audience to a great story and music on stage.
More recently, the electronic pop duo Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe from ‘The Pet Shop Boys’ (famous for tracks ‘West End Girls’ and ‘Go West’) have worked with Sadler’s Wells Theatre and the award-winning choreographer and director Javier De Frutos to help produce a contemporary ballet. The ballet, titled ‘The Most Incredible Thing’, is based on a Hans Christian Andersen story, originally published in 1870, tells the story of a king who starts a competition to find the most incredible thing.
The Pet Shop Boys liked the story because it was a fascinating drama and had all the ingredients for a great ballet in the Tchaikovsky mould. The idea took off when they were asked to write a score by The Royal Ballet principal Ivan Putrov, who then introduced them to Sadlers Wells. The result is a track list of 21 pieces of music, that has been divided into three acts in the tradition of classical ballet, featuring 15 dancers and a 26-piece orchestra.
It is the Pet Shop Boys first foray into ballet, although they had previously written a soundtracks for films created scores for West End musicals. The group feel that writing music for the ballet stage is an positive development, having created elaborate and theatrical music tours of their own. Director Javier De Frutos feels that working on a Hans Christian Andersen story with music by Pet Shop Boys is an irresistible cocktail, although neither of the duo will be donning on ballet shoes in the actual play, it is in keeping with the ballet’s mix of the classical meeting the new. The Most Incredible Thing will be on show at Sadler’s Wells between 17 – 26 March.