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Royal Danish Ballet, "Hot Hot Hot", including new WheeldonThree new ballets show Nikolaj Hubbe has some good dancers in waiting


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#1 KayDenmark

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Posted 15 May 2008 - 01:11 PM

The Royal Danish Ballet put on a show of "new" works at the newly opened Skuspilhus, a gorgeous and cozy theater - go out of your way to see a show on the main stage if you're in Copenhagen.

The three short works were by Nacho Duato, Christopher Wheeldon, and Ohad Naharin.

Best part of the evening: seeing that the Royal Danish Ballet has a great crop of young, energetic dancers coming up to replace their elderly, boring principals.

The young dancers were used energetically in "Coming Together," the Duato, which seemed to be a takeoff on "Fearful Symmetries" - lots of quick crossing of the stage to minimalist music, although unlike the Adams piece, this music had an annoying and repetitive voiceover. I actually considered taking my iPod out of my purse so I could enjoy the dancing with a decent soundtrack. The boys all had large letters on their shirts - "K", "T", "H", etc., and when taking bows at the encore, they spelled out "I think." There was some real talent on display here, but I didn't feel the piece added up to much.

I hope Christopher Wheeldon someday takes the good bits of "The Wanderers" and re-uses them in a good ballet. What was presented in Copenhagen was a half-assed pastiche with monotone music and no coherent theme - plus a few lovely moments. Wheeldon either chose or was forced to use Royal Ballet perenniel Kenneth Greve in the lead. As usual, Greve makes no emotional connection with his partner (Silja Schandorff), but now he's also fortyish and unashamedly pudgy. They had him in a net shirt here with goth eye make-up, which did nobody any favors. Greve is leaving the company to become AD of the Finnish National Ballet, and he won't be missed, at least by me.

In the intermission before Ohad Naharin's piece, what the Danish called a "pauseklovn" ,or "intermission clown" took the stage - a single pantomime artist charged with entertaining the audience members who stayed in their seats. This one was a man in business suit dancing passionately by himself to a rhumba. He was funny and very popular.

After the intermission, however, it became clear that the lonely businessman was actually a part of the Naharin piece. Another businessman took the stage and began dancing wildly, and then another, and then a young woman dressed up as a businessman, and ultimately 20 or so "businessmen", all going nuts with their ballet steps. It was humorous without being cheap. The businessmen/women then gathered a circle of chairs to sing a Hebrew lament (Naharin is from Israel), shed their clothes down to dance underwear, put them all on again, and invited audience members onstage for a rousing finale.

Although billed as new, "Minus 7" was actually a pastiche of two earlier pieces, one of which played in Copenhagen a few years ago and was great. I'm not Jewish and have no connection to Israel, but Naharin can't help but remind you of all that's positive about Jewish culture - the passion, the intelligence, the energy, the wit. I loved this piece, and so did the audience, which was mostly made up of elderly Danes. They called for so many encores that the dancers eventually came out with a sign that said "The End" - another Naharin touch.


The good news: Nikolaj Hubbe, who takes over the Royal Danish Ballet on July 1, has some real young talent to work with. The bad news: He's going to have to put a lot of effort into building an audience. The (small) house was sold out here, but surveying the lobby at intermission, I found perhaps 10 other people who weren't receiving pension payments.

#2 Jane Simpson

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Posted 15 May 2008 - 01:19 PM

I have to disagree about the Wheeldon - I just saw it this evening and thought it was beautiful and also extremely moving!

#3 Arizona Native

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Posted 17 May 2008 - 08:49 AM

The "businessman" business sounds very Cirque-de-Soleil. How did the audience receive it? Did many go onstage? Did those who did not seem nonetheless enthusiastic?

#4 bart

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Posted 17 May 2008 - 12:56 PM

Jane, what was it that you especially liked about the Wheeldon?

In the intermission before Ohad Naharin's piece, what the Danish called a "pauseklovn" ,or "intermission clown" took the stage - a single pantomime artist charged with entertaining the audience members who stayed in their seats. This one was a man in business suit dancing passionately by himself to a rhumba. He was funny and very popular.

After the intermission, however, it became clear that the lonely businessman was actually a part of the Naharin piece. Another businessman took the stage and began dancing wildly, and then another, and then a young woman dressed up as a businessman, and ultimately 20 or so "businessmen", all going nuts with their ballet steps. It was humorous without being cheap. The businessmen/women then gathered a circle of chairs to sing a Hebrew lament (Naharin is from Israel), shed their clothes down to dance underwear, put them all on again, and invited audience members onstage for a rousing finale.


I love this. It sure beats much of the lobby chit-chat in my neck of the woods -- or staying in your seat and rereading dancer biographies for the umpteenth time. :blush: I've never heard of the tradition of "pausseklovn" (what a great name). Can you tell us more about it, Kay?

#5 KayDenmark

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Posted 18 May 2008 - 09:58 AM

Bart, I don't know much about the "pauseklovn" or intermission clowns, except that they appear to be more common in the Danish circus, which may be why the audience was to thrilled to find them in a high-art context.

Arizona Native, the "businessmen" went out into the audience to specifically invite selected audience members onstage. Everyone I saw said yes: there was one 60ish man with a pot belly who seemed especially charmed to be invited by a comely young female dancer in a business suit. Naharin managed to choreograph the piece so the professional dancers were able to form patterns and create themes while simultaneously keeping their amateur partners busy.

After five minutes or so, the amateurs were very gracefully dismissed to the wings, although one young male dancer with a fedora made a great show of clinging to his partner, a middle-aged lady with a fanny pack.

#6 Jane Simpson

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Posted 22 May 2008 - 09:30 AM

Bart - (sorry about the delay in replying) - I was pleased that Wheeldon had really used the talents of the dancers he'd chosen; I liked the music he used; and on the night I was there the whole thing was coloured by the fact that Silja Schandorff and Kenneth Greve, who had two big pas de deux, were dancing together for the last time - I'd guess it's a rather sad piece anyway but that evening it was really extra touching.

The 'clown' piece goes with the Naharin show and is apparently different with different companies - I've seen/heard references to a man playing the bagpipes or a man showing off ballet positions. I think Copenhagen was lucky to get Morton Eggert and his Latin American rhythms - he's a wonderful entertainer and performer, one of the few I can think of who could hold an audience solo for 20 minutes like this. And he'd already been spectacular in the Duato piece that opened the programme!


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