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Alexandra, January 18, 2004
Posted January 18, 2004
Did anyone go to either performance today?
Yes DD and I drove up to DC for Napoli, and La Sylphide, Etudes. We were both very impressed and We are both glad we made the trip and she had to skip an audition to make it happen!
The performances of La Sylphide and Etude's were wonderful. It was my first time for the ballets and for the RDB.
I saw both Saturday performances. La Sylphide I thought was a fine staging worthy of the ballet's position in the RDB repertory — something that can't be said of the current production of Napoli. The mime in the first act was very clear, quite a contrast to the muddied mime in Napoli.
There were two fine Effys in Tina Hojlund (matinee) and Maria Bernholdt (evening). Hojlund, with her warm, down-to-earth quality and expressive dark eyes, is perfect for the part, and Bernholdt acted the role very well. Both Gurns were very good in different ways — Morten Eggert (matinee) was more obviously jealous and angry, while Nicolai Hansen (evening) was kinder, someone you felt would treat Effy well. Thomas Lund (matinee) is a good dancer, but neither physically nor facially is he the danseur noble type. James is within his grasp, though, because the character's internal conflict makes the role susceptible to interpretation by a wider range of dancers. Mads Blangstrup (evening) was much more the typical leading man type. What I missed in both performances was James's joy in being part of the sylph world in the second act. Other Jameses have danced his buoyant solo as an expression of intoxication with the fairy world — Baryshnikov was almost giddy with delight, Niels Kehlet could hardly believe his good fortune. The sylphs, Gudrun Bojesen at the matinee and Silja Schandorff in the evening, both took the innocent and playful approach, which is what I'm used to seeing. They were both good without being especially memorable. The female corps in Act II was perhaps too straightforward in its dancing. Accounts of performances in the 1950s all stressed how carefully each girl seemed to be holding her head, neck, and shoulders, and I would like to have seen some of that yesterday.
Etudes was pretty awful. It's hard to believe that this thirty-minute exercise in bombast is a Danish ballet, but apparently this production was staged by a Frenchwoman who set the showy POB version on the company instead of their native interpretation. It was disheartening, too, to see not a single Dane among the principal cast. Actually, I have nothing against foreign dancers as long as they absorb the company style, but I didn't see that here. Caroline Cavallo at least tried, but Andrew Bowman and Jean-Lucien Massot gave aggressive, look-at-me performances that would have been right at home at ABT. The audience, sadly, lapped it all up.
Posted January 19, 2004
I attended the Saturday matinee (Sylphide & Etudes).
I adore this production, which is every bit as wonderful as the one that I remembered in 1992 at the KC (with Lis Jeppesen & Nikolai Hubbe as the leads then)....miles ahead of the horrendous Peter Schauffus production of the mid-90s.
Thomas Lund is a fantastic James, in every sense - spectacular ballon & appropriate positions; convincing acting (snooty jerk of a James); lovely physical proportions, if a bit on the short side. Loved the corps including the kids in the Scottish Reel in Act I. Lis Jeppesen's Madge was richly nuanced. Tina Hojlund's Effy was multi-dimensional and clearly danced. (I would have loved to have seen Hojlund as the Sylph or Teresina in Napoli this week.)
Alas, there were weak points to this performance. Gudrun Bojesen is more Kitri than Sylph...she's a creature of the earth in temperament, looks, style. Morten Eggert's dancing as Gurn was 'weak Scotch' compared to Lund...then again, it may not be fair to compare ANY man's dancing of a Bournonville solo to Lund's.
I agree with Ari regarding the inadequate trio of soloists. On the other hand...the corps was brilliant. Yes, Virginia, there is great hope for a brighter future within the spectacular corps de ballet of the RDB! All one has to do is, for example, gaze at the magnificence of China's multi-gold-medallist, the gorgeous YAO WEI -- who was a demi-soloist on Saturday afternoon and began the ballet by demonstrating the five positions -- to get an idea of the high level within the corps. Diana Cuni...Kris Sakurai...Sascha Haugland...I could go on & on, there is so much amazing talent within the RDB corps. Seeing the beauty & precision of the initial barre moments of this ballet made me smile and remember why I love this great art so much. BRAVO!
Posted January 20, 2004
I went to the Sat eve & Sun matinee performances. This was the first time I’d seen the RDB, and I really enjoyed them. I grew up on Erik Bruhn’s staging of La Sylphide for ABT, which supposedly was based on Bournonville’s choreography. It’s been many years since I’ve seen it, yet I feel sure that I’ve never seen it danced this way before. I loved those beautiful arms, so soft and low, as well as the buoyancy & lightness of their lateral movement. There were many other lovely stylistic details that really added to the atmosphere and the look of this production.
I regret not being able to see the first cast, but I really enjoyed both of the casts that I saw. Mads Blangstrup was my James in both performances, and I liked his dancing and his characterization. A little of the arrogant lord of the manor, but just a touch. Still likeable, actuallly he was quite impetuous & romantic. I preferred Amy Watson’s Effy to Maria Bernholdt’s. Both danced beautifully but Bernholdt was too coquettish for me - her personality was almost too similar to the Sylph’s. Watson was a lovely Effy but definitely more earthbound. I liked both Madges, but preferred Mette Bodtcher. I never cared for ABT’s practice of casting men as Madge - I always found it too campy. I thought Bodtcher’s performance was very naturalistic, and just chilling.
I would be hard pressed to pick a favorite between Bojesen and Schandorff as the Sylphide. Both were beautiful and ethereal, and both portrayed her as a playful, innocent creature - which is the only way I can imagine the role. To my mind, though, I found Schandorff’s Sylph somewhat flirtatious with perhaps even a hint of seduction. As if her innocence was more a lack of understanding of the human world, not a child vs. woman type of innocence. Even if she couldn’t understand the gulf between her world and James’s, she did seem aware that the gulf existed. I definitely felt an undercurrent of mischievousness to her character. Not scheming or manipulation, but somehow an awareness, a sense of knowing. Maybe a sylph who was both innocent and yet slightly sophisticated at the same time? It really doesn’t make sense, but that’s the best I can do at explaining my take on Schandorff’s sylph!
Bojesen’s Sylphide seemed much more innocent and childlike, which is the approach I tend to prefer. Both of them danced the role beautifully, I marveled at the lightness of their dancing. Bojesen’s Sylph seemed particularly windswept, yet when I look back it’s Shandorff that I remember. Her slow turns in arabesque, her amazingly pliant feet. That’s a detail that I really noticed in her performance. A lot of the sylph’s footwork was not on point, and she still looked like she was gently flying or hovering above the ground. Her feet were just so soft, the way she worked through that footwork it looked like she didn’t have a bone in them.
I really liked the production as a whole, the decor, scenery, all the little details. If I have any complaint at all, I think it was a little bit static. I couldn’t put my finger on anything in particular, but looking back I agree with Ari’s comment about James lacking a sense of joy or awe at the sylph’s world. I remember being very moved, and much more struck by the tragedy in past performances (Baryshnikov/Kirkland comes to mind), but then that was a very long time ago....
I like Etudes, and it was good seeing it again but coming after La Sylphide the difference in style was very jarring.
Napoli (act 3) was like a burst of sunshine, I’ll have to add missing the full length production to my list of regrets... hopefully the RDB will return soon, and maybe even add a stop in Manhattan to their tour plans.
It is very interesting for us Danes to hear your perception of the ballets and the dancers. I am a bit surprised that Gudrun Bojesen and Silja Schandorff is perceived as almost identical, because in Denmark we tend to view them as very different dancers. It could also look like Schandorff has modified her original reading of the Sylph as almost demonic to a sweeter sylph (which she also presented at her first performance in the Hubbe version). I am glad thar Thomas Lund has done so well. He is a great Bournonville dancer, allthough he may not fit the type as James and Gennaro as well as Mads Blangstrup. Unfortunately you are missing our greatest dancer - in more sense than one - Kenneth Greve, who is just recovered from injury and one of our great performances Manon. Re. Etudes I think the casting reflects policy rather than a strong urge to present the best casts. Cavallo is also casts as the Sylph and Teresina in Napoli and as she is the most steedy performer on the home front, putting her and Massot (who is also perforning as Gennaro) in the Etudes looks bit like a comfort price. Andrew Bowman has also covered a lot of performances when Greve, Blangstrup and Lund was out with injuries. He is not cast as James or Gennero, but as a leading dancer he rightfully may expect to dance leading roles on an important tour. When the three dancers in questionspremiered in Etudes the reveiws were not 100% favorable and the management should not really be that surpriced when the American reviews matches the local. Due to injury, maternaty leaves and double duty the best casts was not available, so maybe it would have been better to present another ballet, which could been danced better. RDB does a very fine In the middle somewhat Elevated and a fine Serenade.