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What is wong with A Folk TaleA diagnosis


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#1 Effy

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Posted 20 March 2004 - 11:33 AM

How can one ballet be the greatest Danish and then suddenly be plain awful? There is no doubt that A folk tale is a masterpiece, and there is no doubt that the last production has almost killed the ballet. But what excactly has gone so wrong. Here is my diagnosis:

Not understanding the plot

Folk Tale has never been dramatically coherent. The relationship between the trolls and the elves has always been a bit unclear and so on. This production managed to muddle things even further. For instance the two trolls doing the baby switch should clearly be a younger Diderik and Viderik, not the present little helpers.

Not giving sufficent direction and room for the principals

The principals look to be left to their own interpretations. Birte was at the premiere played by Lis Jeppesen as slapstick farce. most often it looks like the principals are simply forgotten and some of their solos and defining moments are marred by semisoloists and corps members breaking rank and grabbing the attention, like the fat troll joining Hildas solo, The maid trying to mirror hildas Act 3 solo, etc.

Not understanding the functions of the corps

A folk tale includes some of the best Bournonville folk dances but this is not enough for Andersen/Vessel. They are hell bent on expanding the merrymaking by letting the corps dominate and ran all over the scene The choice to make the trolls in the second act represent every aspect of supernational beings mars the scene and you cannot focus on where you should focus

If something is good, expanding it can kill it. The dancing highlight of A folk tale has always been the glorious pas de sept . Andersen/Wessel has expanded the piece into oblivion and marred the starring parts by sharing the solos. It used to include two male star turns and the wonderful first girl, which is now split between two dancers.Spreading the dancing is not keeping up the quality

Else, the Cookery maid, is not the ballerina of the piece

Wessels old part is more or less ruling the show, dressed in an obnoctius red and black costume she is dominating every scene she is in with high gearing pranks

Do I have to mention the decor?

#2 Alexandra

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Posted 20 March 2004 - 12:33 PM

Who could argue with that? :unsure:

I miss Kirsten Ralov's production very much. I don't think it was strongly directed -- they were sometimes just illustrating the story rather than living it, as they were in Brenaa's productions -- but I liked her trolls, which matched the original drawings, as far as I've seen. They weren't "colorful storybook characters" but hunched, subhuman creatures.

I've seen the tape of Brenaa's production, where all the principals (Kronstam, Englund, F. Vlindt) were a little old for their parts, but understood them and so it didn't matter (to me); you could see the ballet.

I think there's a general misunderstanding that this is a ballet about trolls, when I think it's about Junker Ove and Hilda. From what I've learned, that attitude seems to come from Lander's time; his productions emphasized the comic elements.

There's no other ballet in the world like this -- a look at heredity vs. environment (if you're born a troll, can you ever be a lady? If you're born human, can you ever lose your humanity?) And I wish it were taken seriously.

I thought in 2000 it had actually calmed down a bit, Effy, but from what you write, it seems to have deteriorated again. Everything you write about the direction, or lack of it, makes perfect sense to me.

Jorgen? Aspirant? KayDenmark? anyone else see this one?

Edited by Alexandra, 20 March 2004 - 11:29 PM.


#3 Effy

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Posted 21 March 2004 - 01:25 AM

Luckily some dancers still try keeping the parts from being too one dimentional. Gitte Lindstrom gave a very good Birthe whiout too much farce and showed in her solo why it is important to cast a virtouso dancer in the part.

Gudrun Bojesen as Hilda is the best Hilda we can get presently. She loves Bournonville and has the fairy/princess character for the part. But what can she do, when her beautiful solos are put to fast tempi and marred by the fact that anyone can join the show, kitchchen maids and trolls compete doing their dancing during her solos.

Kenneth Greve is a handsome Junker Ove, but it must be said, as the greatest Junker Ove I have seen, Arne Villumsen said: Junker Ove is not a role you get - it it a part one accepts

Monna Ditmar, the reviewer for Politiken wants Nicolai Hübbe to save the ballet. I totally agree. He has that Brenaa touch understanding the theatre in the ballet and the ballet in the theatre.

#4 jorgen

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Posted 03 April 2004 - 04:01 PM

I think the new costumes for the Pas de Sept are terrible. They look more like Caribian pirates than Danish peasants to me.

#5 aspirant

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Posted 04 April 2004 - 12:31 AM

The roles of Diderik and Viderik seemed to be a bit hit or miss with the audience--some days a huge success, some days less so. Lis Jeppesen was quite charming, and played a bit more silly and confused than the others.

Hojlund was excellent as Birthe. Some may say it was over the top, but I think that because the scenery and staging is sometimes so 'busy' it is important for this character to be so very obnoxious. I think that people are afraid to laugh at the ballet today, it is seen as almost inappropriate. I don't think that they should be playing for the laughs, but timing is very important to avoid a disconnected feeling.

#6 Mary

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Posted 08 August 2004 - 12:07 PM

In my oppinion Vessel/andersen have completely forgotten the meaning of the title: A Folk Tale, there is so much poetry lost in their production, they seem to be happy if a peasant in the back draws so much attention from the audience that you miss the real story, but then again it must be really boring for them to watch it every night so they need more action to keep them awake.

Us the audience on the other hand who goes once in a while are attacked by the monstrocity of action going on. It has become ridiculous how many people you can have in one spot. Imagine if all of Denmark, at the time of A folk tale, was as populated as old stage, we would have overtaken china by several millions by now...

it is a real simple story and would be told much better with space for the main characters to breathe and not bump over hills and benches or people.

I dont mind the more slapstick humor certain Birthe's have used, I think Tina Hoejlund was dreadfully funny, but this is also because she never goes too far and always presented with class.

As for hilda...it is more difficult. Lis jeppesen had a dark side that i have not seen anyone have since her days, when the hill opened and she stood there one could get slightly scared. now its all smoke and scenery... I think Gudrun Bojesen is charming but rather pale, yet better than caroline cavallo who seemed more a spinster in the role. Schandorff was stunning as always but i prefer so much more to see her do the sylphide than hilda.

I do love the Queen very very much, but it seems that she didn't get the help from the theatre she needed for the task to do sets and costumes. But i am sure Vessel/andersen doesn't look to far for quality, and they are certainly pleased just by the fact that the Queen did the job...

there is so much to say about this production but i think i will stop here.

#7 Effy

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Posted 09 August 2004 - 12:33 AM

I agree with you on most matters. To save A Folks Tale the foollowing measures will be necessary:

A new director: Hubbe/Englund/Villumsen/Ib Andersen

A new decor or a return to Lars Juhl 1979 version

Good characters dancers as the trolls

Restoring the choreography to the 1979 version and quality

Getting the pas de sept back on track

But I am afraid neither would happen, because when can you graciously dump a Royal decor (maybe they accidently loose it on tour or something)

#8 Alexandra

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Posted 09 August 2004 - 06:41 AM

I think you'd also have to graciously lose the current director :D

I agree with both Mary and Effy. The current "Folk Tale" is overdone -- the current directorial crew doesn't seem to understand stillness. Everything has to be Moving! All!!!! the Time!!!!!!!!! And, as good as Lis Jeppesen is (and Sorella Englund was) as Viderik, changing that role into a travesty part doesn't work, for me. Jeppesen makes him a little boy, and an adorable little boy, but Viderik is an adult troll, and deeply in love with Hilda, so the chemistry is off.

#9 Mary

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Posted 09 August 2004 - 01:39 PM

I agree something drastic should be done, and i also agree that Ib Andersen, Arne Villumsen or Nikolaj Hübbe would be the most natural people to bring in, but the question is do they want that, Ib has been away for decades, Arne is not really connected to the theatre and Nikolaj has also left the ship. It must prove something about their interest.

The thing is we are all looking for the right person for the job, even for running the company, but all this searching means that there is not ONE evident for the job otherwise,in my oppinion, he or she would already be there doing the job.

so the next question is how long can the bournonville style survive this lingering at sea. the direction is fanatically looking in all directions to "save" it, but maybe there is nothing for them to save because they are simply not fit for the job. as i see it they are drowning it more than letting the ballets live their proper life. there are some wonderful ballets and some absolutely awfull ones. Bournonville was more a theatre maker in my eyes than a choreographer, a bit like Flindt is it, which is why there is so little dancing in his ballets and why so few have survived the pace of evolution in ballet. Bournonville is the guiding light for the company but also a large and difficult maze with not just one solution.

i think that a real gala at the theatre would be to put together all the dancing from his ballets into one programme and thus make us enjoy the brilliance of the little dancing there is and keep the whole company in excellent shape. this is just an idea...

all for now

#10 Alexandra

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Posted 09 August 2004 - 01:58 PM

I agree something drastic should be done, and i also agree that Ib Andersen, Arne Villumsen or Nikolaj Hübbe would be the most natural people to bring in, but the question is do they want that, Ib has been away for decades, Arne is not really connected to the theatre and Nikolaj has also left the ship. It must prove something about their interest.


I don't think that the fact they are not there is because of lack of interest. Ib Andersen and Hübbe both applied for the job when it was given to Aage Thordal Christensen. The position was not announced when it was suddenly handed to Frank Andersen, so no one was able to apply for it. Villumsen did come back to coach, during the Aage Thordal Christensen regime, but is now no longer there.

There's an interview with Nikolaj Hübbe that covers his perceptions of what happened when he applied.

I hope Bournonville's ballets aren't tossed out because the current stagings are so poor! I think his ballets are very solidly constructed, unlike Flindt's, which really are theater pieces with very little choreography. Bournonville's have character as well as classical dancing, but when they're well-staged, the mime really does dance. When Brenaa revived "Kermesse" in 1978, it was a huge hit, and the flagship ballet of the company for several years; the revival in 2000 was awful, but that's not Bournonville's fault :D

Edited by Alexandra, 09 August 2004 - 06:00 PM.


#11 Mary

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Posted 22 August 2004 - 12:26 PM

I am not at all against the idea of Hübbe in the post as director. the only thing i want to say is as always: if the right one was around he or she would already be in the seat.

And when it comes to kermessen lets not even start... we can only hope that the new production they are planning will turn dissaster to succes :-)

#12 Helene

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Posted 22 August 2004 - 04:18 PM

I am not at all against the idea of Hübbe in the post as director. the only thing i want to say is as always: if the right one was around he or she would already be in the seat.

From Hubbe's description, it sounds like the selection process and House politics ensure that the right person will not be in the Director's seat.


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