#tbt: Remember When Freddie Mercury Danced with The Royal Ballet?

May 16, 2018

Since the trailer dropped for the new Freddie Mercury biopic, everyone’s buzzing about the upcoming movie (starring Rami Malek, no less). We’re excited too, but, admittedly, a little distracted: Recently, we were reminded of two magical moments that the Queen frontman shared with the ballet world:

“Bohemian Rhapsody” at the Ballet

For a Royal Ballet gala in 1979, Mercury agreed to perform onstage with company dancers to “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “Crazy Little Thing Called Love.” He didn’t just sing; Mercury was integrated into the anything-but-classical choreography (catch his leap at 1:39).

Though he’s no danseur, Mercury rips around the stage with infectious energy—energy that hopefully raised a lot of money for charity that evening. At a time when the fusion of ballet and pop music wasn’t commonplace, it thrilled—and perhaps shocked—audiences. Unfortunately, this clip doesn’t preserve the performance’s original audio, which featured a seamless blend of Mercury’s vocals and a live orchestral arrangement.

An article on Rolling Stone‘s website mentions details of the rehearsal process:

“They had me practicing at the barre and all that, stretching my legs … trying to do things in a week that they’d been doing for years,” he told The London Evening News. “It was murder. After two days I was in agony. It was hurting me in places I didn’t know I had, dear.”

“I Want to Break Free” Meets Nijinsky

When Queen was making the video for their 1984 hit “I Want to Break Free,” Wayne Eagling (then a star at The Royal Ballet) was called in to contribute his choreographic talents. Skip ahead to 2:14 to see Mercury once again performing with the company, but in a much more classical light. It’s an unmistakable homage to Nijinsky’s famed Afternoon of a Faun, and Mercury plays the Faun. Priceless.