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The RDB situation


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#1 Nikolaidenmark

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Posted 05 October 2003 - 01:48 AM

HEY :(

Just a comment:

Living in Copenhagen and following the RDB through some years, I feel that the companys position is viewed differently abroad compared to how i see it... :wink: my view:
The companys base is Bournonville - its the most important style and identity of the RDB - BUT since we only have about 5 or so bournonville ballets its not enough to make a rep season after season - therefore the company have to and should do other stuff.... also the people in copenhagen have seen bournonville already - and as a government funded institution the rdb role is to be the dance/ballet center in Copenhagen - not just satisfying the 3 old ladies that see Napoli every night but also the new generation wich ofcourse can see la sylphide and get something out of that - but have to see modern ballet and other ways of expression in motion. I mean when La sylphide was made it was not about the past or a fairy tale - it was a new piece educating the audience and telling them something about the life that they live! we should do that today aswell....
SO I think its OK how bournonville is treated now - ballet should not be a museum or a retelling of the past.. ballet is motion and the fascination of control and bodys showing emotions or even saying stuff...
but ofcourse as long as la sylphide still "tuch" people it should be alive... and perfectly danced true to the tradition...
Another thing is the dancers.... :party:
The RDB have a great line of famed male dancers - both due to the many male bournonville parts but also that when the RDB "qonquered" the world it was the "only" company with dancers that were really fit and challenged as dancers.. so ofcourse they hit instant fame because they were on a new high level - but today the same can be said about the hole south american group of dancers - they are reaching new levels of control and bravour that are new to people.... soo the danish dancers are not getting worse and worse they are just somewhat left behind on some issues in ballet (technic) :thumbsup:
So i think that its always gonna be a problem because we have a audience at home thinking differently of the company then the internatinal dance world - its a balance act thats very hard to keep - even harder then any balance in Don Q :P
Uhh that was kinda long - whats your view???

:D

#2 Mel Johnson

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Posted 05 October 2003 - 06:53 AM

Nikolai, I doubt that you could have found a more RDB-friendly site on the web!

Many of us are great fans and followers of the company, and of dancers who come from it. One of the most frequent-encountered concerns is in regard to the ability of the company responsibly to continue to dance in the time-honored Bournonville tradition, and produce the ballets faithfully, while reaching out to the International style to dance other ballets. I don't know if Bournonville himself ever had an absolute monopoly on choreography for the RDB, but the way of handling other choreographers' works was always distinctive.

I don't think that there's ever a danger that the company will become dipped in amber and fossilize. There's the better metaphor for a company which merely freezes productions rather than a "museum company". There's nothing wrong with being a "museum company", in fact I wish somebody would form one and say, "We ARE a museum company, ya wanna make somethin' of it? :angry: " But fossils are another story. Just the remains of something, while a specialized interest of some, are not more than a curiosity to most. I don't think that the Danes, any more than any other audience, would let that happen to their company. :thumbsup:

#3 Alexandra

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Posted 10 October 2003 - 09:39 AM

More comments? This is a big issue in Denmark, and it's been a big issue since 1951.

One thing I'll say is that no one says they should dance ONLY Bournonville, at least no one I know. Somehow that's how the American-British interest in Bournonville is often heard by people there, both in and outside the Theatre. I thought Edvard Brandes put it very well -- a very long time ago now. He's like a huge stone monument that, because of the growth fo the city, is now in the middle of the road. It can't be moved. It could be destroyed, but you can't do that, becuase it's so damned good. (I realize that's a paraphrase.)

#4 Nikolaidenmark

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Posted 10 October 2003 - 01:33 PM

Mel -
im very well aware that this forum is extremely RDB friendly - and im not saying that you cant critisice (you should) but I think that the role of the RDB is broader then many people see it....
And yes the standard of bournonville hasnt been top noch B) the last couple of years - its a way of doing things that needs to be changest but its very hard to change things overnight "there" (rdb) - it take ages aswell as a good boss that have the power [small snip] and a good way of doing things!

Alexandra -
i know that extremely few people would want bournonville to be the only context of the rep - ... just trying to make a point about the difference in the way that people see the rdb... :P

Nikolai B)

#5 Alexandra

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Posted 10 October 2003 - 02:41 PM

It takes more than power. It takes artistry. The last time I saw the Bournonville stagings, they were Not Good and it wasn't just that there was a problem with the level of dancing. There are some changes scheduled for the 2005 festival -- I'm interested to see what Riggins will do with Kermesse.

Nikolai, I edited your post slightly for its language. We stick to words that can be used on American network TV :P

#6 Mel Johnson

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Posted 10 October 2003 - 04:44 PM

Nikolai, I'm certainly in agreement with you that the RDB is more than just any ballet company. It's a national treasure of Denmark! :) Many Americans don't get the idea of Royal Charter. In the US, we don't have the concept of a separate state and government. The President is, by law, the head of both state and of the government. A US company with a "Presidential Charter" (no such thing exists, by the way) would be a ridiculous idea to the great majority of Americans. But a Royal Ballet is a matter of a sovereign declaring: This is the very finest that my country puts before my people and the people of good will of all the world. It's a more involved way of thinking than most of us Americans are used to. For many reasons, the RDB has been the only company to speak of in Denmark. Now, Hans Christian Smörrebrød might form a pickup company, and that might last for several years, and do good work, but it's not like it would be the instrument of state that the Royal is. I agree, changing anything so much a part of the fabric of the state will take place at nearly glacial speed, and even the most aggressive balletmaster will need in equal balance with power, expertise, and an effective work plan, a major measure of perseverance.

#7 Effy

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Posted 11 October 2003 - 10:54 AM

The problemwith RDB is that it is still to good to stop caring. When you feel you have reached a low point,. they will suddenly of of nowhere make a star performance, a fantastic Sylph a great Manon and you stay hooked. The root of the problem is that RDB is not a strong company because of the tradition but the strenghs is really down to a group of very good dancers and a few good directors. It is not the company who created Kronstam, Villumsen, Hubbe, Ib Andersen etc. It was in fact them that created the company. At present we have, as has been the case for a number of years a company consisting of a few but very good leading dancers, a unexperienced corps the ballet and a growing import of foreign dancers. When you see the line of home grown talents, there is no solo dancer under the age of 27. I do not worry about the 2005 festival I vorry about the years ahead. We have been in the situation before and each time we have been saved by a sudden burst of talents and a few good enclaves of dancers It my fail to happen.

Thre strenght of the company is primarily in dramatic works even though the current crop may be better in Martins ballets than in Bournonville. At present Frank Andersen is building a repetoire of trying to repeat proven succes formulas. We have had succesfull Neumeier ballets before. Lets try a few? We had a hit with Martins, Lets bring him on, and so forth

#8 Alexandra

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Posted 11 October 2003 - 11:03 AM

The problem with RDB is that it is still to good to stop caring. When you feel you have reached a low point,. they will suddenly out of nowhere make a star performance, a fantastic Sylph a great Manon and you stay hooked.


Yes. I would say that, too. And one of the things I learned from studying the history of the company is that -- things can get better! Sticking to a tried and true formula for choosing repertory may not be the most exciting thing in the world, I agree, but it may not do as much harm as trying anything new, just for the sake of trying it. The dancers gain from working with Neumeier and Martins and they'll feed off that in the future. I'm saddened that some of the living great Danish artists -- Ib Andersen and Arne Villumsen -- aren't there to work with the dancers.

I agree, too, that the worry is for 2005+ With the international focus off of Bourononville, he'll be dumped (as happened in 1993-94) and 2079 is a long time to wait for another resurgence of interest. NOT that the rep should be all-Bournonville, but if you want to keep the company's identity, the dancers have to speak his language, and I think Kronstam's solution of having 3 Bournonville ballets in the rep each season-- but rotating -- was a good one. That way the dancers were in touch with them without over-dancing them.

As for new rep -- join the waiting line! :)

#9 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 11 October 2003 - 08:23 PM

It is not the company who created Kronstam, Villumsen, Hubbe, Ib Andersen etc. It was in fact them that created the company.


I think you undervalue the institution a bit here. I know I'm not over there to watch, but it really does seem to me that the institution created those dancers. They didn't spring from the head of Zeus.

#10 Alexandra

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Posted 11 October 2003 - 08:38 PM

I think it's both. There's something THERE, in the walls (in Copenhagen and in any other great institution that has a history) and it feeds the artists and, in turn, feeds off them.

#11 Effy

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Posted 12 October 2003 - 10:17 PM

Off caurse they did not came from the head of Zeus, but was created not by the institution but by excellent teachers, Vera Volkova, Henning Kronstam, Stanley Williams. Where the institution played in was the fact that it was a respected part of the Danish cultural establishment. It really was something to be a solo dancer at RDB - almost like making the national football team. If the institution itself could create great dancers, we would have seen a constant ongoing supply, like in Paris og Kirov. In Denmark the situation has alway been that we exist on good yearligs. I think it was in 51 that five male dancers was made solo dancers, that group plus especially Henning Kronstam who came a few years later was the foundation for the succes of great male dancers in the 50ties. Another group exploded in the mid70ties with Arne Villumsen, Ib Andersen, Frank Andersen, Annemarie Dybdahl, Mette-Ida Kirk, Lis Jeppesen, Linda Hindberg and Heidi Ryom who are all born between 1950 -56. And then there was a waste talent gab untill the arrival of Hubbe, Kølpin, Greve, Aage Thordahl, Peter Bo Bendixen, Schandorff, Olsson, Gad. The group also included dancers like Niels Balle, who got injured at a crucial time, Michael Weidinger, who also was injured out of a promising career, Nilas Martins and caracter dancers Petruska Broholm, Henriette Muus and Mette Bødcher. Since then wehave only managed to produce 4 solo dancers out of the school, Mads Blangstrup, Thomas Lund, Gitte Lindstrøm and Gudrun Bojesen, plus soloists Morten Eggert, Tina Højlund and Diana Cuni. And they are al in their late 20ties. After them it looks pretty empty. We should see at least two generations approching (we see dancers from the age of 16 on the stage). It may have to do with the recruting activities, which I know is supported by varous activities. But at the moment it lookes like the are focusing on the recruitement, but is oblivious to the quality of the teaching. I can only join Alexandra in her view that it is sad that the major stars like Arne Villumsen and Ib Andersen is not part of the process. I know that youlearn more from someone who has gone all the way than from someone who was just looking on. For an insight view I can recommend Anne Flindt-Christensens book of interviews with dancers from last year and may I qoute the late great critic Henrik Lundgreen who during Frank Andersens last tenune said: Frank Andersen is not the course of the RDBS problems - but he is not the solution either. Frank has returned an older, and wiser ballet master, but at best he can reproduce old success formulas. he has so far been unable to define new ones or to do the necessary changes to the management of the ballet school. Any other institution which has performed so poorly over so long a period would be subjected to a change in management.

#12 Mel Johnson

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Posted 12 October 2003 - 10:24 PM

Effy, do you think that a change in the Office of the Theater Chief would have a beneficial effect here?

#13 Effy

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Posted 12 October 2003 - 10:43 PM

Probably not. What I would like to see is more money for the ballet department, better marketing, employment of an inhouse corographer, as they have lost the services of both Tim Rushton and presumebly Alexey Ratmansky, better teacher, directors and deeper undestanding of casting as the sucess parameter. At the moment RDB is suffering at the box office. There is little or no buz around the company. There is only a small group of constant attenders. When I started out at ballet fan, the ballet was king with the opera as the poor cousin. Now the roles are reversed. It probably makes sense to spend the most money on the most popular art form. But we all hope that the new Opera and (ballet) house will allure more people to attending performances. What the company need is another Romeo & Juliet, A Midsummer nights dream or Onegin to pull in the crowds. Neither a very fine Manon nor a less than stellar Odysseen have managed to do that recently. I must also ask, as a professional marketeer, why the thetre understand so little of audience behavour, that the constanly put the potentil bestseller by the endd of the season. Instead the should put the big new productions early in the season and milk them for the whole period. Instead it is like they cannot understrand why a premiere in May do not sell in October. They should also use the stars better as the drawing factor. At the moment it is almost impossible to find out who will be dancing when and the dancers are not used as a marketing pull.

#14 Mel Johnson

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Posted 13 October 2003 - 02:00 AM

That's probably more what I meant about a change in the Theater Chief's Office. Not so much in the office-holder, but more in the nature of the structure and function of the Office itself. Thank you for seeing through to the actual question. :clapping:

#15 Effy

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Posted 13 October 2003 - 03:04 AM

The Royal teatre is speciel holding four artistics units. Much could be said for spliting into totally separate units, but it will also be a break with tradition and probably not wise for the ballet as the majority of the spectator are teatre goers who do not mind an odd ballet or so. Each artistic division is then led by a chief. I would say the greatest problem with the current system has been that neither the chief of the theatre, the minister for culture, nor several of the ballet masters were top notch artistic leaders. There has been a large difference compared with the opera, who for several years have been lead by an artistic capability and a dynamo and pr -oriented figure. There is nothing he will not do to to spread gospel. i can see Frank Andersen taking one or several conceps from Kaspar Bech Holten. The difference remains that Kasper is on top of his artistic game, where as Frank Andresen is a Try- and error man. When the chief of the teatre do not really knows the difference either it is difficult to move forward. When Michael Christiansen appointed Frank Andersen, after nobbing him previously, it was considered a cautious move, after four (five if you includes Frank Andersens first tenure) appointment mistakes, the known quantity became a desirable solution. Backing up with lloyd Riggins as crown prince was a wise move, as those who could not support Frank, would likely support lloyd riggins, who enjoyed large popularity internely and externally. no Lloyd sems to have decided to continue his dancing career and the running much be considered open.


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