One of ballet’s big success stories of recent decades heads for West Sussex as it celebrates its 35th anniversary.
Founder and artistic director Peter Mallek brings his Vienna Festival Ballet to Chequer Mead, East Grinstead, on Wednesday, April 22.
“For our 35th anniversary gala, we are proud to present highlights from the world’s most beloved Tchaikovsky ballets, which have featured in our repertoire over the past 35 years,” says Peter.
“Highlights will include the moment when the Swan Queen meets her prince in Act 2 Swan Lake, the Dance of the Cygnets, Clara’s journey to a glittering land of snow in The Nutcracker and the famous Rose Adagio from Sleeping Beauty where Princess Aurora is introduced to four princes.”
It will all add up to an unforgettable journey through the best of ballet in one magical evening, Peter promises.
“We started out with ten people,” Peter recalls, “and then we went into a full-length production of The Nutcracker, first in Brighton and then we went to Germany on tour for about five or six months, and then we came back to Birmingham. The director of their repertory theatre there was very helpful and helped us with everything. We opened in Birmingham, and then we went on to other places.”
And so it continued from there.
Peter came into it all with a successful background as a dancer: “I came from Vienna, and I looked at it, and I just didn’t like the way it was all set up. You just had to wait until somebody retired to get the nice parts. It was very tricky. In Austria it was a bureaucracy wherever you went, especially if it was a big company where everybody wants a say and you just end up having to wait and wait until you can dance.
“I thought we should get younger people on stage rather than looking at the older ones. I thought it would be so much nicer when the curtains open and you see young people dancing on the stage.”
Peter had worked in the UK with Scottish Ballet and English National Ballet: “I was always coming back to England. I was always working in England.”
But he soon discovered it just wasn’t possible to dance and to run a company. He had to stop dancing. It was the right decision, but in truth it was a decision he didn’t really have too much choice about.
“I stopped dancing and made sure that the business was right or I carried on dancing and I had to close it down!”
Since then, the company has found the perfect niche.
“Everybody else is trying to get subsidised. They are wasting lots of time speaking to people about funding that they don’t end up getting anyway.”
Peter’s policy is to focus on the shows – and on what the audience wants.
“We try to bring the ballets that everyone knows. We have found our niche going to the theatres that would be too small for the big companies and too big for the smaller companies.”
Inevitably, running the business is nerve-racking: “You know what you can hope for, but you know that there are always going to be problems, sometimes sooner, sometimes later, people getting injured, people getting married. But it is fun. We like to talk to the audience. With the internet, we get 15 or 20 emails every day from people saying what they like. It is important to have that kind of communication with the audience. The internet is very important to us.”
Calll 01342 302000 or visit www.chequermead.org.uk.