What prompted your decision to retire?
I would like to experience, for the first time in
my life, not being tied up in a schedule. I turned
70 in 2015, and this means I’ve been working
for 50 years without a stop.
Why did you pick Shakespeare’s Romeo and
Juliet for your last evening-length work, two
It was the last big ballet I wanted to tackle. It
was huge but wonderful, and I was so happy
to find the music, which isn’t Prokofiev but
You called your version Juliet & Romeo.
I tried to go back to the source, which is
Shakespeare—but before that was an Italian
short story called Juliet and Romeo. If you read
the play, the major conflict takes place in the
family of Juliet. There is camaraderie among
Romeo’s friends, with Benvolio and Mercutio,
but there is pressure on Juliet to an extent that
I think means she should get first hand in the
title. With something we know so well, the title
also becomes almost a label, and to turn it
around may open the door to rethinking it.
Will your wife Ana Laguna, who has long
been your muse, retire as well?
No—she’s 10 years younger. She will be in the
first cast of Juliet & Romeo in the U.S. tour.
What are your plans for your works?
I will fulfill the contracts already in place. The
Royal Swedish Ballet has the rights to Juliet &
Romeo for two more years, for instance. Some
contracts have been in place for years, but I’ve
done less and less, and I haven’t signed any
new ones for a while.
Why did you choose to let your repertoire
disappear in that sense?
Otherwise I would never be free. I can’t sell
an existing piece without being active in the
process. It takes time and a lot of consideration
to choose dancers, rehearse…
Are you sad that your ballets won’t be
Maybe I will be. But I don’t forbid myself from
changing my mind. I first want to see what it’s
like to be without any commissions at all, to see
what comes out. And when I die, the rights to
my ballets will be given over to people I trust.
Let’s see what they decide.
What are your plans for retirement?
I don’t want to know. I want to act more spontaneously, improvise my so-called future, at least
for a while. I’m glad to remain in Stockholm as
my main base, but I hope to be able to stay
longer in other places, too. And I won’t stop
thinking and dreaming. n
Since the 1970s, Swedish choreographer Mats
Ek has brought his instantly recognizable brand
of modern expressionism, with its deep pliés
and crude theatricality, to ballet. But his choreography will soon disappear from repertoires
worldwide: Ek officially retired in January, and has
also decided to withdraw his works. One of the
last chances to see one of his pieces in the U.S. is
when the Royal Swedish Ballet brings his Juliet &
Romeo to the Kennedy Center in Washington,
DC, June 1–4.
news | 10 MINUTES WITH...
The choreographer is
retiring—and taking his
ballets with him.
BY LAURA CAPPELLE
The Royal Swedish Ballet
in Juliet & Romeo