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Bournonville Festival Reviews


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#16 Effy

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Posted 10 June 2005 - 01:48 AM

Dear autodidicte,
When I review Caroline Cavallo as the sylph I view her on the basic of having seen allmost all interpreters of the parts since 1978. and a few earlier Sylphs on video, It is natural that my response will differ from a viewer, who do not have the same experience. Your German balletomane may rightly feel that Cavallo is better than Bojesen or the other Sylphs he has seen. I am certain that I did not write that Cavallo is a bad Sylph. What I write is that I wish that she would try a more definitive interpretation rather than staying in the middle of the spectre and that she could consider more variation in the phrasing (the same way Nicolaj Hubbe suggested to Gudrun Bojesen to receive a more dramatic impact) . When I am sorry that Schandorffs Sylph is not included in the festival, it had to do with the quality of her Sylph and the good dramatic match with Blangstrups James, not with the fact that she is Danish. The question is not whether a dancer is Danish or Foreign but whether the dancer understands and can convey the style and acting needed for Bournonville. Sorella Englund, Lloyd Riggins and indeed Caroline Cavallo are prime examples of foreign dancers who are great Bournonville dancers. I myself loves Caroline Cavallos take on her Napoli 3 act variation. I expects great things from Dawid Kapinsky and others of the never intake. You see Marie Pierre Greve doing the most touching Rosita I have ever seen. But RDB is build on a model where dancers spend the whole career span from child to charecter dancer in the company. Making the company more foreign it can change the company into a more traditional company with lot of staff turnover and it is equally important that the dancers have the same schooling. ABT is to me the bad epytome of a company where no two dancers seems to be from the same scholl. The truly great companies like Kirov, Paris Opera Ballet, RDB and NYCB have this close school/company link and I would be sorry to see that go. On the other hand it looks likes RDB has cracked the code of integrating the foreign dancers, but stability is needed staffwise .

Living in Copenhagen present the priviledge of seing all casts and it is clear that casting the festival has been a series of difficult choices. It looks like that Frank Andersen has opted for the democratic solution and giving everybody (save Kenneth Greve) at least one meaty part. The flipsite is of course that certain ballets are not performed by the strongest casts. La Conservatorie misses the Lund/Bojesen magic. I could have wished for everyone to see Mads Blangstrups Gennaro.The Hesselkilde celebration meant no Ryberg in two parts and so on. Maybe people take the roles as Bournonville ambassadors too seriusly if they tell a guest that there are other great interpretations not shown this week, but I think if it is done it is done from love of the company. It may also be need to clarify certain aspects for our guests. Looking at the festival, Kenneth Greve comes up as the servant to Thomas Lunds master. That is certainly not the picture of the last seasons.

You are perfectly right. No one should obstain from their own view and differ to any reviewer. Unlike the audience the reviewer should be able to analyse and argument their conclusions. It is not a question whether you like so and so dancer, but why you like them. How does their interpretation and skills influence the ballet. One thing I have learn during my tenure as a balletomane is that casting is one of th key - if not the key - ingridience in making a ballet work and shine. Therefore casting is an important issue to follow and discus.
And yes the Queen was absolutely right Nina A is a great sylph and likewise have other foreign dancers shown talents for Bournonville. But as this week has shown us Bournonville is a long commitment





I don’t understand Eva Kistrup’s criticism of Cavallo. Last evening I sat next to an elder German balletomane who, with tears in his eyes, told me that she is the most touching sylph he has seen so far … and he has seen La Sylphide many times at the RDB and around the world! I too couldn’t help shedding a tear – and I am not the sentimental type! - during her death scene, especially when she goes blind.
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.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>



#17 Alexandra

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Posted 10 June 2005 - 05:39 AM

Far From Denmark, at the Bournonville Festival, is reviewed by Tobi Tobias in her blog.

My own main complaint about the present production is that it looks as if the company has lost confidence in the ballet.  The dancers don’t seem to inhabit their characters, to know&mdash;or to be interested in&mdash;who they are.  (Mads Blangstrup is certainly the right Romantic type for Wilhelm, but he doesn’t seem to have invested enough imagination or energy in the role.)  What’s more, there hasn’t been much perspicacity in the casting.  (Marie-Pierre Greve makes a pretty Rosita but not an alluring one.)  The practice of using senior members of the company to add an important social dimension and a gracious dignity to the shipboard party has been abandoned.  (The presence of the elders may now be thought a minor concern, yet I’ll never forget Lilian Jensen, playing one of these roles in her sixties, dancing gravely and just “being there.”)



#18 Helene

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Posted 10 June 2005 - 11:23 AM

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.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I wonder what control data the EU used in order to establish that Danes "can't stand seeing foreigners being successful." There are enough historical and "scientific" texts from the past that extol the intrinsic inferiority or superiority of one group over the other, and, in retrospect, we don't think too highly of them.

#19 Alexandra

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Posted 10 June 2005 - 07:18 PM

Eva Kistrup's review of Friday's performance of "A Folk Tale" at the Bournonville Festival is now up on DanceView Times.

"A Folk Tale"

Even though tonight's performance was graced by fine performances by Kenneth Greve as the haunted nobleman, Junker Ove; Tina Højlund as his temperamental fiancée Birthe, who is really a troll; Gudrun Bojesen as the heroine Hilda, the human child raised among trolls; and Peter Bo Bendixen and Lis Jeppesen as the troll brothers, Diderik and Viderik, it is difficult to overlook the problems in the staging, which is done with a very large brush. When Frank Andersen and Anne Marie Vessel talk about Bournonville today, they come across as knowing and considerate Bournonville experts. They may indeed have deepened their skills and knowledge in the last 14 year. But the production still resembles their original and cannot not really be saved even by good individual performances.



#20 Alexandra

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Posted 11 June 2005 - 06:58 PM

Tobi Tobias reviews the a demonstration of the Bournonville Schools in her Arts Journal blog.

Some of the most wondrous dancing in the Bournonville Festival came not from the ballet-by-ballet excursion through the master’s extant works on the Royal Theatre’s capacious, ornate Old Stage, but from a half dozen 45-minute sessions on the stark, small Stærekassen stage—one each for the six Bournonville Schools.  These set classes formed the backbone of the Danish dancers’ training from the end of the nineteenth century through the first three decades of the twentieth and are still revered (and used) as a lexicon of the Bournonville style.

The classes, named for the days of the week and originally danced on the corresponding day (if we’re doing Wednesday Class, it must be Wednesday), were the work of Hans Beck, who led the Royal Danish Ballet from 1894 to 1915.  Fearing that the Bournonville legacy might be lost, he canvassed the older dancers’ personal memories of Bournonville’s teaching.  The Danes being, until our forget-everything times, compulsive recorders, many of the elders had made written notes of enchaînements they had particularly admired or—despite their fiendish intricacy—enjoyed doing.  These eventually came to be accompanied by tunes that, though mostly lowbrow in quality, had an undeniable dansant quality.  Augmenting this material with brief passages from the ballets, Beck made his compilations, which were then passed down, dancer to dancer, in the manner of oral literary tradition.  In 1979, the late Kirsten Ralov, after much consultation with the dancers of her own generation and the preceding one, gave the classes their first published form—the choreography recorded in words as well as formal dance notation, plus the accompanying scores.



#21 Alexandra

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Posted 11 June 2005 - 07:00 PM

Eva Kistrup reviews the closing night Gala in Danceview Times:

The Bournonville week ended with fireworks outside the theatre and fireworks on stage. The programme was a recap of the Festival, with a few miniatures and pas de deux not shown earlier this week. And in tune with the democratic casting of the week, the second casts were put in to action in "Kermesse," "Kings Volunteers" and "Napoli." As the gala was transmitted on Danish television it is possible to document the week but some of the casts put on television were not as sharp and poignant as the earlier shown alternatives. In the second casts, we actually also got more of the foreign born dancers than during the weeks as the native born stars were used primarily in the second segments, solos and pas de deux.



#22 Alexandra

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Posted 11 June 2005 - 07:02 PM

Ah, those "xenophobic Danes" :) (referring to a prior post).

The weekly email from the Royal Danish Embassy covered the Festival this way. The item is posted in its entirety:

Denmark Celebrates Bournonville’s 200th Birthday
This past week the famous American ballet critic John Rockwell wrote no less than two glowing articles about the Bournonville Festival taking place in Copenhagen these days. You can read the reviews on www.nyt.com. For almost fifty years the great 19th century Danish dancer and choreographer, August Bournonville (1805-1879), led the ballet at Copenhagen's Royal Theatre with a tight rein, coaxing it into a blossoming period and providing the Danish repertory with a cachet which has stood the test of time and become an integral part of Denmark's literary and musical heritage, although it was originally based on a French model. With international experience in choreography, hard-working, impulsive, multi-talented, and ambitious, Bournonville became the embodiment, so to speak, of the Danish "Golden Age", counting poets and artists such as Hans Christian Andersen and Bertel Thorvaldsen among his contemporaries and personal friends. Assembling a fine staff, he built up a repertory of more than fifty ballets, of which twelve ballets and minor divertissements have survived to this day. Moreover, he carefully reorganized the ballet-school forming such solid foundations that his spirit and art still dominates the Royal Danish Ballet more than a century after his death. This is probably the greatest of his achievements. Read more about the festival at Bournonville.com



#23 Jane Simpson

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Posted 12 June 2005 - 05:05 AM

About La Sylphide: the English language version of the programme describes Anna as 'a tenant' and James as her son (and Effie as her niece). I completely disagree about the tartans - I thought James's much the chicest and felt seriously sorry for Effie marrying Gurn and having to spend the rest of her life dressed in mustard!

#24 Alexandra

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Posted 12 June 2005 - 06:35 AM

Anna is usually "Anna Reuben" [with James as her son, as Jane notes]. Which means that James is the only ballet hero iin the extant 19th century repertory with a last name!

#25 Alexandra

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Posted 12 June 2005 - 10:02 AM

Tobi Tobias reviews Konservatoriet in her Artsjournal blog.

The anecdotal sections of Konservatoriet were, needless to say, dependent on the performers’ mime skills.  The stand-out here was Paul-Erik Hesselkilde in the role of the Inspector.  As is typical of the RDB’s veteran mimes, Hesselkilde takes a large measure of responsibility for building his character, working of course from the basics the choreographer has outlined.  His Inspector is an aging, self-important, rather stupid fellow, decidedly short on human sympathy.  He’s rudely ungrateful to the faithful aging housekeeper he’d once promised to marry and curtly dismisses poor little Fanny because she can’t pay for lessons.  Yet, as often happens with potential bad guys in Danish ballet, he turns out to be only foolish and, actually, rather sweet.  Hesselkilde is got up to look physically unprepossessing, rather Tweedledum/Tweedledee-ish, and he has devised a complementary fumbling manner for the Inspector that belies the character’s superficial bluster.  The whole thing is done with a very quiet sense of humor.  This performance has absolutely nothing show-offy about it.  It simply grows on you until you come to sympathize with the character, who seems to have slipped out of a novel by Trollope.



#26 Alexandra

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Posted 12 June 2005 - 07:32 PM

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.



#27 Alexandra

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Posted 14 June 2005 - 09:53 AM

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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