The realms of fairy tale ballets are filled with imaginary queens.
But in Denmark, the nation's real-life, reigning monarch, Queen Margrethe II, fills the stages of fairy tale ballets with her original costume and decor designs. In fact, she's been the in-house set designer for the Pantomime Theatre of Copenhagen's famed Tivoli Gardens since 2001. Her most recent work can be seen in Yuri Possokhov's Cinderella, which runs through August 27 at the Pantomime Theatre. The production is performed by Tivoli's dance company, Tivoli Ballet Theatre, which features an international roster of 18 classically-trained dancers.
HM Queen Margrethe II of Denmark watching rehearsals of "Cinderella." Photo courtesy TIVOLI, Copenhagen.
The queen is a devoted fan of ballet. She regularly attends performances and has taken lessons as an adult. She's also created artwork for decades and even illustrated the Danish edition of The Lord of the Rings. Her first ballet costume and set designs appeared in the Royal Danish Ballet's 1991 production of Bournonville's A Folk Tale.
When asked about what the people of Denmark thought of her artistic job, she told The Telegraph: "They probably got a shock the first time, but now they're used to it."
And though sovereign of the land, she's not afraid of receiving critiques of her creations. "I know that when I have an idea that doesn't work people will tell me. And that is how it should be, since our goal is to create a performance that works, that entertains and pleases the audience and which will be a success for the theatre," she said in 2007.
For Tivoli Gardens, she's served as designer for The Nutcracker (2012) and five ballets based on the tales of Danish author Hans Christian Andersen: Love in the Dustbin (2001), Thumbelina (2005), The Tinder Box (2007), The Swineherd (2009) and The Steadfast Tin Solider (2013).
Fenella Cook, Robert Thomsen and the corps de ballet in "Cinderella." Photo courtesy TIVOLI, Copenhagen.
During the creation of Cinderella–which premiered last summer–the queen was part of a creative team that included Possokhov and Danish electro-pop singer Oh Land.
In a press conference with her collaborators, the queen described their version of the fairytale as "on the humorous side" but added that it's also emotional. "I'm always very excited about it," she said. "I try to do my best and I feel that you can never get away with doing less than your best." Possokhov went on to say that, while working with her, he sometimes forgot she was the queen. "I hope so," she replied with a laugh.
HM Queen Margrethe II of Denmark inspects Cinderella's glass slippers. Photo courtesy TIVOLI, Copenhagen.