Bournonville Festival Reviews
Posted 04 June 2005 - 08:53 AM
Posted 04 June 2005 - 05:01 PM
Each viewer's distinct history, expectation, and eye seem to contribute as much to the impression we go home with as do the dancers, designers, directors and choreographers.
Posted 06 June 2005 - 08:49 PM
"La Ventana," "La Sylphide"
Bournonville's "La Sylphide", the copy that survived the original French Romantic ballet about the young man who leaves his mortal fiancée to dance with his dreams in the forest, is to the Danish ballet scene what Hamlet is to Royal Shakespeare Company. The leading roles can be interpreted in hundred different ways, and each interpretation as valid as the other. In recent years we have seen, James the poet (Flemming Ryberg); James the proud man, bought down by passion and revenge (Arne Villumsen); the innocent farmer boy (Lloyd Riggins) etc. And for the Sylph, the possible range is equally broad, The Innocent Waif (Lis Jeppesen), The Ice Queen (Mette Hønningen): The Fairy (Mette-Ida Kirk), The sweet girl, (Rose Gad), The Femme Fatal (Silja Schandorff), the creature in Love (Christina Olsson). Each James and Sylph will find their own interpretation. The drama can be intensified by how you mix the Jameses and the sylphs. You can have anything from two soft interpretations together to two strong wills against each other. In my experience the soft/hard or hard/hard combination gives the most effective and dramatic performances. Both Gudrun Bojesen as the Sylph and Thomas Lund as James are relying on the softer approach. It is a sweet girly Sylph paired with a quiet burdened James, who is almost brought to the forest against his will and who nearly asks Effy to save him, before he is reluctantly drawn away. The strength of this couple is very much in their dancing especially in the second act divertissement. Bojesen and Lund are such experienced Bournonville dancers that they can handle any phase and each movement is carefully presented. I saw a stage rehearsal when Hübbe was working on the piece with Bojesen and Lund, and he taught them how to use light and shadow in their dancing and through them to syncopate their movement in the first act walk downstage. The result is never a dull moment, never a phase underused and no monotony in the dancing. Lund's ability to jump and present jump sequences were especially fine tonight and everything was landed precisely. He could not have wished for a finer performance.
Posted 07 June 2005 - 03:01 PM
Morten Eggert is a sturdy demi-caractère dancer with a fine technique, dramatic flair and few opportunities to show them in the current repertoire. Like Thomas Lund he is little catered for outside Bournonville and instead of moving forward he is standing still career wise. He cut a fine figure as Abdallah without turning him into the wimpy fool. American Amy Watson has had many opportunities over the last seasons. A striking but somewhat imprecise dancer, she is constantly used in a broad repertoire. As Irma she may lack the delicacy and lightness that is Gudrun Bojesen's main attraction in the part, but Watson is a skilled actress and made her character vibrant and alive. Haley Henderson must be the tallest female dancer in the company. She danced cleanly without hinting at any personality. In the supporting roles, Diana Cuni, a small dancer who covers an enormous amount of space, showed why she could have been an obvious choice as Irma. Camilla Ruelykke Holst, who has hardly had a featured part before this week, showed promise in two different roles, and Peter Bo Bendixen used his charisma for the part of Sheik Ismael, the fleeing ruler who is helped to safety by Abdallah and grants him a magic candlestick for thanks.
Posted 07 June 2005 - 07:43 PM
Both Gudrun Bojesen and Thomas Lund have matured in the roles of the Sylphide and James. Bojesen has, as was inevitable, left the dewy innocence of her early career behind her. Now more womanly, she’s positively incandescent, and her Sylphide tempts James away from his bourgeois existence into the ecstatic unknown more as a dangerous siren than as an ethereal spirit. Lund, whose technique, like Bojesen’s, is surer than ever, has boldly continued down the path of spontaneity and sincerity in his acting. He doesn’t simply believe in his role; he is James—lost in dreams, perpetually confused as they begin to materialize, and finally spurred to the decisive action that will be his tragic undoing. One of the most shocking and novel effects between Lund’s James and Bojesen’s Sylphide comes when, frustrated by her luring him on while refusing to let him touch her—that is, possess her—he forcibly binds her to him with the scarf the witch has poisoned, covers her bosom with kisses, and thus destroys her. The action, which looks like a rough embrace, registers as a rape.
Posted 08 June 2005 - 07:46 AM
The Bournonville Festival is reviewed in the Times by John Rockwell.
The company, with 27 foreigners (albeit foreigners schooled in the Bournonville style) out of 91 dancers, seems in transition from the upheavals of just a few years ago. It may lack any dominant star, although Thomas Lund comes close. But the general level of dancing does Bournonville, and Copenhagen, proud. Mr. Lund appeared in all three big ballets, as the amorous Geert in "Kermesse," which revealed his delightful comic skills; as the fisherman Gennaro in "Napoli"; and as the lovestruck James in "La Sylphide." He is an elegant, multitalented dancer and actor, the present-day epitome of the Bournonville style.
Posted 08 June 2005 - 03:10 PM
The genius of this exhibition, experienced in situ, is that it takes a multitude of small objects that need to be looked at closely, one after another (a surefire recipe for tedium), and creates for them a world—one that reflects Andersen’s unique imagination—in which they can cohere. Jan de Neergaard, a well-known designer for the stage, is its architect. He has fashioned a theatrically dark, compact space and, working with panels pierced with shapes borrowed from Andersen’s fanciful paper-cuttings, has created a fence that separates the familiar reality the visitor is leaving from the intriguing, perhaps slightly dangerous fantasy he’s being tempted to enter. Inside, this wary yet willing guest must thread through cunning half-secret curving passageways, his orientation pleasantly dislocated by a crazy-quilt patterned floor, some of its segments mirrored. Everywhere, the mysterious gloom is illuminated by pinpoint lights that allow him to discover the exhibition’s wonders. At the center of this space lies an improvised theater—an oval with a dozen chairs visitors can shift at whim—where, onscreen, a wise professor with the kindliest voice in the world (think of a grandmother with a Ph.D.) narrates (alas, only in Danish) the marvelous tale of Andersen’s life and achievement. As a whole, this inspired environment suggests a child’s playhouse, where, without forsaking a fragile tether to reality, dreams and illusions may be granted full sway.
Posted 08 June 2005 - 04:37 PM
Mads Blangstrup and Marie Pierre Greve have over these last seasons established themselves as an almost unbeaten pairing in romantic ballet. They were great in Ratmansky's "Anna Karanina" and Robbins' "In the Night." As Wilhelm, Blangstrup uses his dramatic skill and his ability to perform ambiguity. It is not an easy part. The fiancée is never shown, there is little dancing. Yet he managed to convey his character by his ability to use his body to express his feeling and turmoil. Rosita is often performed as a scheming stupid girl, but Greve managed to give her depth and convey the image of a girl totally in love and therefore sad and disappointed when Wilhelm finally acknowledges his betrothed state. Surrounding the couple we can enjoy the spectacle of a party at sea and some fine cameos, especially the good dancing of Diana Cuni as Poul, the young boy at sea, and Jean-Lucien Massot as Don Alvar, tight as a wire of jealousy. This is what Bournonville is all about. You can find a strong human story in almost all his ballets, and it can be bought out by good direction (Anne Holm-Jensen, Frank Andersen and Flemming Ryberg).
Posted 09 June 2005 - 03:30 PM
Two more reviews of the Bournonville Festival:
- John Rockwell in the Times
The performances by the Royal Danish Ballet were predictably lovely, and their appeal on one level fairly transparent: consummately elegant yet seemingly simple dancing, a complex technique enlisted to produce an illusion of naturalness, a charming young company proving that the Bournonville tradition is in good hands in the person of Frank Andersen, its once and current artistic director. (He was forced out in 1995 and rehired in 2002.)
One reason for the current good state of Bournonville performance in Denmark is the encouragement the company and its dancers feel when they are admired by foreigners. "I think we have gotten much more into the details because of all the interest from the outside," said Thomas Lund in the festival's daily journal; on the basis of his festival performances, Mr. Lund counts as today's premier exponent of Bournonville style.
- Tobi Tobias in her blog
While the Bournonville Festival is dedicated to presenting the complete extant repertory choreographed by the master, with Abdallah the Royal Danish Ballet has also made room for some faux-Bournonville.
This ballet does not claim to be part of what the Danes call “the living tradition”—works that have been passed down in an unbroken line from generation to generation of RDB artists. Choreographed in 1855, Abdallah was decidedly not a hit with either the critics or the public, and by 1858 it was off the boards. Apparently, viewers thought it contained too much pure dancing—ironically the very element to which today’s step-hungry public is perfectly willing to sacrifice the balancing element of mime.
Posted 09 June 2005 - 03:32 PM
Yesterday Mads Blangstrup as Wilhelm in "Far from Denmark" flirted with disaster and came close to dropping his fiancée for an exotic beauty. Tonight as James in "La Sylphide" he went over the edge. The depth and the despair that were only hinted at in the lighter piece came full front tonight and demonstrated Blankstrup's gifts for big, passionate, dramatic dance acting. Tonight he was also spot on in his dancing, strong, elegant and high-flying. Acting and dancing on such a high level is a joy to watch.
Blangstrup's interpretation of the role differs totally from Thomas Lund's. There is no reason to discus which is the better James, because it is part of the allure of "La Sylphide" that you can interpret the roles very differently. Blangstrup's interpretation links backs all the way to Henning Kronstam's over Arne Villumsen's and Nicolaj Hübbes version's. It is easy to say that Blangstrup, with his height and striking appearance, has been given a lot, but it is the details and the total absorption of the character that marks this as a truly great James.
It is great to see the confidence boost that this festival has given the Royal Danish Ballets and it brings the best out in all the dancers. I do not think that I have seen either Jette Buchwald as Madge, Marie Pierre Greve as First Sylph or Morten Eggert as Gurn better than tonight.
Posted 09 June 2005 - 09:30 PM
Well, that just shows that opinions are diverse and indeed subjective. So dear audience, there is no reason to think that the opinions of the self-proclaimed critics and experts are better and more objective than yours. The reason why I write this now is that I have spoken with some foreigners during this festival who have enjoyed - notably foreign – dancers and then got confused by hearing these dancers being pulled to pieces by Danes. They get insecure and begin to doubt there initial intuition. I just hate when so-called experts ruin people’s joy of going to the theatre. That’s maybe why ballet is regarded as an elitist art.
So let me just make something clear: no, the foreign dancers are not worse than the Danish dancers. Why else are so many of them getting soloist parts and being promoted instead of the Danes (and yes, there are still plenty of Danes in the company)? The Bournonville style is a difficult style but it’s not rocket science! Everybody with the talent and dedication can learn it (the Queen is quoted as saying after a performance that Nina Ananiashvili was one the best sylphs she had ever seen). I think in order to understand the Danes’ unfounded criticism of foreign dancers, one has to be aware of the fact that the Danes are the most xenophobic people in Europe (as documented twice in reports from the European Union) who can’t stand seeing foreigners being successful. So dear foreign guests, bear that in mind the next time you have your positive theatre experience ruined by a grumpy Dane. And please keep coming back to the RDB.
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