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Alexandra

Bournonville Festival Reviews

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Tobi Tobias writes about an exhibition of ballet photographs at the Festival.

Housed in Copenhagen’s Round Tower, Sylfider, Trolde og Linselus:  En Fotografisk Rejse i Bournonvilles Balletter (Sylphides and Trolls Caught in the Lens:  A Photographic Journey Through Bournonville’s Ballets) is a modest, pleasurable exhibition produced by the Royal Theatre and designed by Mia Okkels with the assistance of Kirsten Simone.  Organized by ballet, it traces each of the main extant Bournonville works through the casts that have enriched it over time.  The display feels like a family album, the family happening to be one of Denmark’s most significant in the realm of culture.

One way to look at this exhibition is to choose a single dancer and trace his/her career through the repertoire.  A number of the artists represented are first seen as mere children, since Bournonville created countless roles in his ballets for the RDB school’s young students, to provide them with stage experience from their earliest years.  The late Kirsten Ralov, for example, appears here first in Konservatoriet, as little Fanny, the child of impoverished itinerant performers, who aspires to a place in the classical-dance academy.  Ralov, of course, went on to be a sparkling principal dancer and, subsequently, a teacher, a stager of Bournonville’s ballets, a company administrator, and the first to preserve the Bournonville Schools fully and formally.  Nilas Martins can be seen as one of the children taking dance class with their elders (fulfilling Fanny’s dream, as it were) in a later production of the same ballet; he’s the blond boy with the cherubic face and the gorgeous instep.

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Clement Crisp reviews the Festival in the Financial Times

In the treasury of the Bournonville repertory (less than a dozen works survive from his tremendous output) we have the best and most compelling view of 19th-century ballet. The French and Russian repertory of this same period, from Giselle to Raymonda, is mostly corrupt, bruised and amputated by revisionism and producers' mania. What survived of Bournonville was loved and kept intact in Copenhagen but for the past half-century, as the Danes ventured into the larger ballet world with these precious relics, there has been a continuing process of cleaning, rethinking, revising, and (sometimes) remaking.

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