Fresh from their Brit Award for Lifetime Achievement, electropop duo Pet Shop Boys have announced that they're working on a ballet. The new work, to be based on a Hans Christian Andersen story, will be staged at Sadler's Wells in 2011. Choreography will be by Javier de Frutos – until recently director of Phoenix Dance Theatre – with a scenario by writer and director Matthew Dunster. The Royal Ballet's Ivan Putrov is expected to dance a leading role. Two scenes have already been workshopped at Sadler's Wells.
Of course, the Pet Shop Boys have always been an art band. Past collaborators on videos and stage shows include the director Derek Jarman and visual artists Sam Taylor-Wood and Turner Prize-winner Wolfgang Tillmans. The Pet Shop Boys have even written their own musical, Closer to Heaven, which received mixed reviews in 2001.
Meanwhile, pop music's demand for dancers on stage and in videos has led to plenty of crossovers with contemporary dance – Rafael Bonachela and Akram Khan have both created dances for Kylie Minogue. But this new project is on a much larger scale. It's also inspired by an older dance tradition: the evening-length story ballet.
Neil Tennant has compared it to a Tchaikovsky ballet, a narrative work. "There's a lot of music to write," he explained. "We've written about half an hour of it" – apparently a third of the score. It will sound "a little bit like Battleship Potemkin," their score for Eisenstein's silent movie, with "electronics and strings." Having made their name with dance music that told witty, melancholy stories, the Pet Shop Boys are now getting ready to tell stories with dance.