He has found fame with the Royal Ballet, but now Johan Kobborg wants to go back to his roots. He tells all to Luke Jennings
Slouching on the floor in black T-shirt and sweatpants, 31-year-old Kobborg is almost vampirically pale. He has spent the summer working under the striplights of the studio, putting together a programme that he is to present and star in at London's Queen Elizabeth Hall. Entitled Out of Denmark, this is no vanity project, but an attempt to show British audiences some of the lesser-known masterpieces of Danish dance, by Harald Lander, Flemming Flindt "and of course," says Kobborg, "Bournonville".
The great 19th-century choreographer August Bournonville is the founding father of Danish classical ballet, and until the 1990s his work was the cornerstone of the Royal Danish Ballet's repertoire. A series of would-be modernisers, however, has presided over the unravelling of this heritage - an evolution roughly comparable to the Royal Shakespeare Company ditching the Bard. This, says Kobborg, has been disastrous. "To see the company now, you can't even tell it's Danish."
He decided to leave his position as a leading dancer at the RDB when "a well-known Danish ballet figure" ordained that dancers shouldn't think, just dance. "It's the absolute opposite of what I think," Kobborg says.