Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The Brutal Truth: Too Old to Dance at 41; Did He Walk, or Was He Pushed? the 11-Year Reign of Macho Man Irek Mukhamedov at the Royal Ballet Is over. but, in an Exclusive Interview, He Tells Jeffery Taylor, a New Career Beckons

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The Brutal Truth: Too Old to Dance at 41; Did He Walk, or Was He Pushed? the 11-Year Reign of Macho Man Irek Mukhamedov at the Royal Ballet Is over. but, in an Exclusive Interview, He Tells Jeffery Taylor, a New Career Beckons

Article excerpt

Byline: JEFFREY TAYLOR

THERE was a buzz around the Royal Ballet's performance at the Opera House, Covent Garden, last 16 May. It was not just the standing-room-only status in the auditorium - the usual capacity for an Irek Mukhamedov performance. Nor was it the choice of ballet. Giselle is a perennial favourite with the punters, with its romantic tale of lost love, death and redemption, especially with Mukhamedov partnering the enchanting Miyako Yoshida in the title role.

The question on everyone's mind was not will the girl get her man, but will Mukhamedov, hailed as the new Nureyev, get a new Royal Ballet contract?

The answer to both questions turned out to be no. Giselle sank back into her grave ready to rise again, as always. Mukhamedov, after 11 years with the company, packed his bags and exited, stage left.

But as the Royal Ballet puts the finishing touches to its new Covent Garden season starting in October, sans Mukhamedov, the former Bolshoi Ballet star has announced an opening night of his own. On Sunday 30 September at the London Coliseum, the dancer will star in, choreograph and direct A Celebration of Ballet With Irek Mukhamedov, a one-off, fundraising gala in aid of children's charity Kids.

"First of all," he says, "I want to say my personal thank you to all my fans in London who have done so much for me. And," he adds, "it's a deliberate career move. I want to prove to my audience that I'm more than just a dancer and that I haven't stopped as an artist, but am moving forward in a different way."

Not only will Mukhamedov recreate during the evening some of his most famous partnerships with ballerinas such as former Royal Ballet principal Viviana Durante and the Kirov Ballet's divine Altynai Asylmuratova, but will also reveal his new-found role as a choreographer.

On the Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday preceding his gala, Act III of Mukhamedov's rechoreographed Swan Lake will be performed by the Polish National Ballet, the company for which it was created, during Anastasia Volochkova's season at Sadler's Wells Theatre. And during the Coliseum performance, he will also appear in an excerpt from one of his current developing choreographic projects, Valentino, based on the life of the silent-screen heartthrob.

"The brutal fact is," he says, "I won't be dancing much longer. At 41 years of age, something has to give.

In my head I was prepared for the Royal Ballet not renewing my contract, but my heart did not like it.

Maybe they did me a favour by saying no. Suddenly my brain went into overdrive and out came Swan Lake and Valentino and many other ideas all at once. It is uncomfortable but the decision has given me an energy when I least expected it."

Considering the company's history of insulting dismissals of luminaries such Moira Shearer and Rudolf Nureyev, it is moot to ask whether Mukhamedov was honourably retired or summarily sacked. …

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