Paul McCartney's foray into ballet opens in NY

NEW YORK Fri Sep 23, 2011 10:58pm IST

Former Beatle Paul McCartney and his fiancee, New York heiress Nancy Shevell, arrive for the world premiere of his ballet ?Ocean?s Kingdom? in New York September 22, 2011. REUTERS/Kena Betancur

Former Beatle Paul McCartney and his fiancee, New York heiress Nancy Shevell, arrive for the world premiere of his ballet ?Ocean?s Kingdom? in New York September 22, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Kena Betancur

NEW YORK (Reuters) - It was hardly rock 'n' roll, but Paul McCartney's debut into the world of ballet with an orchestral score and tale of love set in a royal undersea court premiered at a gala event to stars, music and ballet lovers at a warm reception held on Thursday.

McCartney, 69, posed for photos and fans with fiancee Nancy Shevell, 51, along with fashion designer daughter Stella McCartney and actors Sarah Jessica Parker, Naomi Watts and Alec Baldwin at a packed house at the New York City Ballet gala held on Thursday for "Ocean's Kingdom."

But the work McCartney created with the company's ballet master-in-chief Peter Martins, who choreographed the work and admitted in media interviews the crowd was there for McCartney rather than the hour-long ballet itself, was met with a mixed response in one early review posted on Friday.

Britain's The Telegraph said the music "certainly wasn't an embarrassment. A sparse string interlude was moving in its delicacy," but, noting McCartney had a hand in the story and choreography, the review added "As the lights dimmed and the dancing started, it was clear that the performance was ballet for beginners."

The former Beatle took more of a role in the ballet than most composers. He worked on the love story about an ocean dwelling princess called Honorata as well as the set, costumes by his daughter, and elements of the choreography. The production was budgeted at around $800,000.

Martins and McCartney met at the School of American Ballet's Winter Gala in 2010 and began discussing the possibility of working together on a production.

McCartney has said on his website the composition work differed from writing songs as it was a more abstract exercise in expressing pure emotion "... so you have fear, love, anger, sadness to play with and I found that exciting and challenging."

He told the Huffington Post "I had no idea what the rules were or in fact if there were any, so I just went back and wrote music with dance in mind that excited me and that I thought might excite Peter."

(Reporting by Christine Kearney, editing by Bob Tourtellotte)

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