World premiere: Stockholm, Royal Opera house, 27 April 2012

Tyll is an affectionate commentary on the classic ballet where Alexander Ekman explores what ballet is and where it comes from. Ekman also decided to call himself as a balletographer since it was not his own steps. Choreographing ballet is more of a puzzle then creating new steps. This is Ekmans first piece working with point shoes and the first piece where he used the classical ballet vocabulary as a base for the choreography.

The music is electronically processed by the New York based composer Mikael Karlsson, who among other things, have worked with the International Contemporay Ensemble, Kleerup and Lykke Li.


”In early 2010 I was asked to create a piece for the Royal Swedish ballet in Stockholm. Classical ballet is something I have great appreciation for and have practiced for most of my life. It is a very complex and difficult art form to execute. After 10 years in training and one year as a dancer at the Royal Swedish ballet I wanted to cross over to the modern dance world were and started choreographing my own work. In Modern dance there is no rules and you can create whatever you want to create. However, after creating around 30 modern works I thought it was time to try something new… or old rather.

I decided it was time for me to try to choreograph a classical ballet.

What is ballet? Where did it come from? Why are they wearing those hard shoes? Why is Swan Lake so famous? Why do we need ballet?! Do we need ballet? All these questions popped up in my head and became the core concept for the piece.

I was thrilled to create a work for the Opera house in Stockholm, It is where I grew up!… the first big Opera house I had seen. As a child I remember running around in this big house playing with props and watching the stage from the side. I can still remember the extreme happiness I felt from just being in there. The costumes, the red velvet, the gold, simply the magic of the theatre…

At that point in my life I lived in a chain house in a suburb of Stockholm with my family. In my room I had created my own little theatre in a shelf made out of cardboard and strings which controlled the curtain and the scenogrophy on my very own little stage. I remember playing the first track of Swan Lake in act 3 and pulled the string for the curtain to raise at just the right moment in the music. I would sit there for hours and just play with this mini theatre I had created.

Maybe you can understand the happiness I felt when many years later I was sittings in the real Opera house by the directing table watching the real curtain raise to the sounds of my new piece.

When I brought family and non dancing friends to the ballet I realized that there is a lot in ballet which they dont really understand. In ballet there is a right and wrong for every step. It got me thinking… and I wanted to create a ballet about ballet which would explain and discuss ballet. Almost as a sort of a ballet documentary. I decided to call the ballet Tyll which means Tulle and is the fabric that is used in those famous skirts which sticks straight out from the womens waist lines.

On the first of March 2012 we had the first rehearsal of Tyll. I was extremely excited when I could feel that the dancers where on my side. Usually you can feel on the first day how the process when creating a piece will be. I wanted to create a large ballet with many typical ballet formations and really give the audience ballet in its fullest and greatest way. I originally wanted to have 50 dancers on stage but had to settle with 35.

The whole process was a great time in my life. It was one of those positive processes that as a choreographer you always dream about. We were laughing but working hard at the same time and making something which we could feel was relevant.

I asked composer Mikael Karlsson if we could use some exciting fragments from the big ballets in the new composition and he thought it could work. We started listening to the big famous ballets; Swan Lake, Nutcracker, Giselle, Coppelia, La sylphide etc. We picked out our favorite fragments and Mikael started working on the new score.

After two months of rehearsing and working on music, lights and costumes we finally premiered the piece on the 27th of April 2012. I was more nervous then ever before, sitting there in the auditorium sweating and wondering how the piece would be received. It is always a very strange feeling when the whole auditorium suddenly is packed with people! All there to view, judge and hopefully enjoy what we have created. If you feel that the audience is interested and enjoying it, it is the most rewarding feeling in the whole world. To feel people around you laughing and being amazed by something we have created is my truest happiness.

The curtain raised and there was a great excitement from the dancers which seemed to be very contagious in a way. It spread out in the audience and people seemed to enjoy what we had created. It was as if everybody just knew that we had created something special.

The talk started around town and every performance was sold out.

I will remember this process for the rest of my life and feel a true love for this work. It is not usual for me to feel this way for a work I have created… So far, out of 35 pieces I have only felt it twice. Cacti for NDT2 and this one. For some reason these two pieces just made sense. It was almost as if they had their own power, their own life. They woke up or became alive in some weird way.

If you are watching a video recording of this work you are only watching a vague memory of it. You dont hear the dancers breathing, you dont smell the sweat, you are simply not there, live. My art is a live art form and no video will ever make it justice.”

Alexander Ekman.

Other pieces by Alexander