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Mats Ek


Everyone Choreographers
Birthplace: Malmö
Nationality: Swedish

Mats Ek (Malmö, 1945) is one of the ‘masters’ in the development of contemporary dance. He earned world fame with his radical interpretations of the classics Giselle (1982), Swan Lake (1987) and Sleeping Beauty (1996), in which he placed the characters in a totally new context. He sees movement rather as a way of individual expression than being primarily of aesthetic value: “dance is thinking with your body”. Nowadays Ek only creates plays, operas (for instance Orphée for the Royal Opera in Stockholm, 2007) and film. Ek received various awards for the ballets he made especially for television, like the Dance Screen Award, two Emmy Awards and the ‘Prix Italia’.

Ek is the youngest son of actor Anders Ek and the famous dancer and choreographer Birgit Cullberg. Dance was not really his thing. At the age of seventeen he did try at Donya Feuer in Stockholm, but gave up after three months. After studying at the Folkhighschool, he discovered his liking for theatre. Ek started his theatre training at the Marieborg College (Norrköping, Sweden) in 1965. From 1966 to 1973 he worked as assistant leader and producer at both the Marionettes Theatre and the Royal Dramatic Theatre in Stockholm.   

In 1973 Ek joined the Cullberg Ballet and in 1975 he became a member of the corps de ballet of the Ballett der Deutschen Oper am Rhein in Düsseldorf. His debut as a choreographer was in 1976, when he made The Officer’s Servant for Cullberg Ballet, the dance company that under his mother’s leadership had developed into a high-profile company where new opportunities were created for contemporary ballet. From 1978 to 1980 he shared Cullberg Ballet’s artistic leadership with his mother Birgit Cullberg. After working as a dancer and choreographer with Nederlands Dans Theater for one season in 1980, he returned to Stockholm where he became artistic leader of Cullberg Ballet until 1993.