Interview for BBC News • Friday, September 23, 2011

Sir Paul McCartney admits to being ballet novice

Interview of Paul McCartney
Published by:
BBC News
Interview by:
Will Gompertz
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Album This interview has been made to promote the Ocean's Kingdom Official album.

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The musician, speaking exclusively to BBC Arts Editor Will Gompertz, said: “I don’t know much about ballet… I kind of know Swan Lake and The Nutcracker.”

Sir Paul added he was “a bit nervous” ahead of the New York City Ballet’s gala premiere of Ocean’s Kingdom.

“But we put a lot of work into it, so I think we’re good. I like it.”

Explaining why he’d ventured into ballet at the age of 69, the former Beatle said: “I’m the kind of person who, if I get an offer that’s exciting or unusual, I would tend to go ‘yes’ and then think later about what I’d bitten off.”

Peter Martins, master-in-chief of the New York City Ballet, was full of praise for the former Beatle, calling their collaboration “one of the greatest I’ve ever had”.

“In a funny way, the fact that he was not familiar with the ballet world meant that he was not burdened with the history.

“So he would have wild ideas and I’d think, ‘we haven’t done it that way before’. It’s been great.”

Sir Paul acknowledged he had started to learn more about ballet after accepting the commission, which he called a “fresh challenge”.

“I put together some music which I thought would be good to dance to, and explored that trail.

“I’ve brought my ideas about what a good night out at the ballet should be. I ask myself what I’d want to see and try to paint that picture musically.”

Sir Paul, who also collaborated on Ocean Kingdom’s story, added that “there is more to ballet than the average person like me thinks”, and praised the dancers’ athleticism.

The work, which was choreographed by Martins, tells the story of an underwater romance.

Sir Paul’s daughter, fashion designer Stella McCartney, created the costumes for the production, and said it had been “exciting” to collaborate with her father for the first time.

“There’s two sides to it,” she explained.

“One side is I’m working with my dad for the first time on a really important project, so you have that emotion – feeling very proud.

“Then there’s the other side where you think to yourself, ‘I’m working with Paul McCartney’. It’s a funny thing.”

Sir Paul has struck a deal with record company Decca to release the score for Ocean’s Kingdom next month.

The label famously turned down the chance to sign the Fab Four in 1962, pronouncing that guitar bands were going out of fashion.

Meanwhile, echoing Sir Mick Jagger’s comments last week, Sir Paul said he had not been approached to play the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics.

“I’ve not had any official requests but, you know, if someone asked me I’d probably say yes.”


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