Irek Mukhamedov was born in Kazan in 1960. He trained at the Moscow Choreographic Institute. In 1981 he won the Grand Prix and Gold Medal at the International Ballet Competition in Moscow and was immediately invited to join the Bolshoi Ballet, where he became the youngest man ever to dance the leading role in Spartacus.
For nine years he was the Bolshoi’s leading male dancer. His repetoire included Ivan the Terrible, Don Quixote, Swan Lake, Romeo and Juliet, Giselle, Raymonda and Legend of Love. Yuri Grigorovich created the leading role in The Golden Age for him.
In 1988 he was awarded the Hans Christian Anderson Prize for Best Dancer in the World.
In 1990 he made the decision to leave Russia and join the Royal Ballet in London. His arrival inspired Kenneth Macmillan to create a new pas de deux for him and Darcy Bussell which was performed at the Queen Mother’s 90th Birthday Tribute. This pas de deux became part of the one-act ballet Winter Dreams (based on Chekov’s The Three Sisters), which was subsequently filmed for television and transmitted on the BBC at Christmas 1992. He has appeared on numerous television talk shows and has been the subject of a one hour Omnibus documentary (1991) and London Weekend Television’s The South Bank Show (2002).
For the Royal Ballet he has danced not only the traditional classics such as The Nutcracker, Raymonda Act III, La Bayadère, Swan Lake and Giselle, but also many modern works by the Royal Ballet’s own choreographers. In Manon he danced both the leading male roles in the space of one week, made an unforgettable impression in David Bintley’s Cyrano, took the role of Hero in Frederick Ashton’s ever popular La Fille Mal Gardée, and in 1992 created the leading male role in Macmillan’s The Judas Tree.
1992 saw him make his debut in Macmillan’s Romeo and Juliet to universal acclaim, and thrilled London audiences with his debut in Macmillan’s Mayerling (also filmed for television). In 1993 he danced in Balancine’s Apollo and made his debut in the same choreographer’s Prodigal Son. In 1994 Ashley Page created the lead role in Fearful Symmetries for him, and in 1995 Twyla Tharp was so impressed by his talent that she chose him for one of the lead roles in her first full length ballet for the Royal Ballet Company, Mr Worldly Wise.
In 1999 he appeared for the second time with Arc Dance Company where Kim Brandstrup created the leading role in The Return of Don Juan for him. The same year saw him create the role of Peter Quint in William Tuckett’s ballet The Turn of the Screw.
In 2001 he was invited to make a special guest appearance in Lorka Massine’s Zorbo with the Polish National Ballet in Warsaw.
Irek made his first non-dancing debut as the King of Siam in the King and I for the Covent Garden Festival in the summer of 1995.
He was voted Dancer of the Year (1992) by the readers of the prestigious British magazine Dance and Dancers (only the third ever male recipient of the award) and in the same year was voted Dancer of the Year by the national newspaper The Independent On Sunday. Still in the same year he awarded the London Evening Standard Award for Dance and the Gino Tani Dance Award in Italy.
In 1996 he won the Benois de la Dance Prize in Paris, and in 1998 he was awarded the Nijinsky Medal and invited to become President of the Legat Society. In January 2000 he was awarded the OBE in the New Years Honours List.
In April 1992 Irek led his own small group Royal Ballet Dancers called Irek Mukhamedov and Company, and gave three performances (in Northampton, Oxford and Bradford) to great acclaim. In 1993 the group performed in Bilbao, Spain and in 1994 they made their London debut at the Sadler’s Wells Theatre. For the London season Mukhamedov invited Kim Brandstrup and Arc Theatre Company to join him. Kim Brandstrup created a new ballet for Mukhamedov, Othello, in which for the first time he danced with a contemporary dance company. Othello subsequently received the Evening Standard Award for Dance.
The company also appeared at Hampton Court Palace, London, and Russian choreographer Natalia Volkova was invited to create a new ballet, Rasputin. 1998 saw them appear at the Bustan Festival of Music and Arts in Beirut. 1999 they returned to the Sadlers Wells Theatre in London for a full week, which was a huge success. The year 2000 had the company invited to dance two performances at the Kuopio Dance Festival, Finland, and return to Sadlers Wells for a further successful week.
More recently Irek Mukhamedov has developed yet another facet of his career, for in May 2001 the Polish National Ballet gave the Premiere of his production of Swan Lake, a new conception of this enormously popular ballet which saw the introduction of his own choreography, including a moving pas de deux for the Prince and Odette in the last act.
In September 2001 Irek directed a Ballet Gala at the London Coliseum in aid of Childrens Charities, for this he choreographed Sabres ‘n’ Roses for the children of the Arts Educational School in Tring, and Four Horsemen for himself and other dancers.
Viviana Durante and Irek Mukhamedov in the finale pas from Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s Mayerling.