Eve Mutso: 'Christopher Hampson said to me, as a choreographer, never forget how it feels to be on the receiving end as a dancer'
- Kelly Apter
- 13 November 2018
Like a magnet drawing them back, Estonian National Ballet pulled two of its brightest stars home – but for very different reasons. We meet Thomas Edur and Eve Mutso in their native land
He was one of the finest principals English National Ballet has ever known, she brought the same luminous quality to Scottish Ballet. But now both Thomas Edur and Eve Mutso are giving back to the company that helped shape them.
Housed in a vast opera house in Tallinn's gorgeous old town, Estonian National Ballet is one of the jewels in the country's crown. A company that was once populated solely by local dancers and those from nearby nations, now attracts dancers from 16 different countries, including the US, Brazil, Canada, Japan, Australia and the UK. And, watching them in ballet class, rehearsals and performance, it's clear they all brought strong technique and vibrant personalities with them.
Both Edur and Mutso trained at Tallinn Ballet School, and started their careers at Estonian National Ballet, before international fame came calling. Then, in 2009, Edur returned to his homeland to take over the company as artistic director.
'I always wanted to come back here,' he says, when we meet in Tallinn. 'And then this job came up and I was delighted to get it. I did my last performance with English National Ballet at St Paul's Cathedral on 30 June 2009, and then four weeks later I started here – it was such a big move.
'At first it was difficult to change the mentalities here, but my priority was to lift the standard of technique to an international level, and bring in prestigious productions such as Kenneth MacMillan's Manon, John Cranko's Onegin and invite choreographers like Wayne McGregor here.'
It was Manon that saw Mutso return to Tallinn as a guest dancer. But today, she's in the opera house for a whole new, and slightly scary, reason. As part of the 'Estonia 100' celebrations – an ambitious, world-wide, cultural programme celebrating 100 years of Estonian independence (and the 100th anniversary of Estonian National Ballet) – Edur commissioned three emerging choreographers to create a new piece for the company. One of whom, is Mutso.
Known to audiences in the UK primarily for her exquisite dancing, Mutso has also been carving out a new career for herself as a choreographer, with works such as Ink of Innocence, Unknown and Loop. But new piece Echo is not only the first time her work has been presented on a major stage – it's the first piece she hasn't danced in herself.
The day before opening night, with nerves and excitement registering in equal measure, Mutso tells me how Echo came into being.
'I was thinking how do I make a work for this company, when I no longer live here?' she says. 'Estonia is a tiny country of just 1.3 million people – are we alone or are we integrated into Europe and the wider world? How do we see the world and how does the world see us? And on a personal level, I was struck by the daily autopilot that we're all on – following our own journeys and paths.'