The man to whom all eyes turn is Sir Peter Wright. It is his Sleeping Beauty that was premiered tonight and which has brought us all together at this high-spirited afterparty. It is almost midnight already when this amazing group of dancers and ex-dancers, ballet staff, guests, sponsors, orchestra members and technical staff gradually quietens down for Sir Peter. They know it and they feel it – a ballet legend stands before them. Here is ballet history in the flesh. This man was already a star before the Dutch National Ballet had been founded, and at the age of 84 he is still a star. He has worked with all the great ballet companies in the world and moulded all the stars of the ballet world. He has seen everything; experienced everything. He’s known the Dutch National Ballet for years as well, as since 1986 we’ve given many performances of his version of The Sleeping Beauty, which he created especially for the company. He has always turned up at the end of the rehearsal period to add the final perfecting touches. This year, too, he reigned in our studios for a week. And there he stands now at the party after the premiere, this frail man, on the spot where Ted has just thanked all the dancers, applauded tonight’s principals and unleashed tumultuous applause when he thanked Sir Peter on behalf of the company for the enormous inspiration still engendered by working with him.
Now he has asked to say a few words himself. Speaking in public is something he does rarely, as he is too modest. But you can see that this time he doesn’t want Ted’s words of thanks to go unanswered. His voice immediately betrays emotion. Could it be that, in view of his advanced years, this might be the last time he comes to see us? Or is it the emotion evoked by an incredibly beautiful performance? ‘Coming home’ is how he describes his relationship with the Dutch National Ballet. He has also felt welcome this time – bathed warmly in hospitality and affection. And then there are the compliments. He’s been with us so often, says Sir Peter, “but the way the group is working now, what it looked like tonight, and what you are achieving at the moment.... this company is looking fantastic. Hats off to you all”.
My eyes fill with tears – and not for the first time this evening (sentimental idiot that I am). Maybe it’s down to Tchaikovsky that the emotion is so close to the surface. Or maybe it’s down to tonight’s principals, Jurgita en Cedric. But later on, it’s our ballet mistress Sonja who unintentionally explains why this man’s words move me so much. “If Sir Peter gives compliments, that means something. That really means something!” And that’s it. He has put into words what we are all feeling; what we have all experienced tonight. That at the moment everything is going really well for us, and that the quality of the company has reached even greater heights. And also that we have not yet reached the limit of our capacities, that our hard work has paid off and not gone unnoticed. Indeed – if Sir Peter Wright says something like that, then it means something.
He ends his speech simply and effectively with an emotional "Thank you. Thank you. Thank you". No, Sir Peter, thank YOU!