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Hubbe interview


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#1 Alexandra

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Posted 26 December 2009 - 07:37 AM

Jane Simpson has a very nice interview with Nikolaj Hubbe on the ballet.co.uk magazine:

http://www.ballet.co...kolaj-hubbe.htm

#2 miliosr

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Posted 27 December 2009 - 04:42 PM

Alright, I'll bite . . .

The thing I love about him is that he doesn't have any fake modesty (see the second sentence in the last paragraph.)

As for his plans for the RDB . . . I don't know. If it ends up as Dances at a Gathering and Giselle and In the Upper Room and Jewels and Serenade and Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake (+ the obligatory pieces by Ratmansky and Wheeldon), then what separates the RDB from every other member of the international herd?

#3 Alexandra

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Posted 27 December 2009 - 06:46 PM

Good points! (I liked the very last sentence. And I agree with him on what he says about the Festivals. The first one was supposed to be a one-off, partly because it was the 100th anniversary of Bournonville's death, and partly because the company was not in good classical dancing shape, the Bournonville repertory was in decline, and it seemed a good opportunity to rebuild both. It was intended to be an every 13-year EVENT (and I think it has made both the dancers and the audience want to be as far away from Bournonville as possible.)

The point about repertory is a good one -- but they can't invent a choreographer. They can just provide a climiate in which one can grow. And Ratmansky does have Danish roots, so they have a claim to him.

#4 miliosr

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Posted 28 December 2009 - 06:06 AM

The point about repertory is a good one -- but they can't invent a choreographer. They can just provide a climiate in which one can grow. And Ratmansky does have Danish roots, so they have a claim to him.


Oh, I know. Ideally, the Danes could find someone who could find a creative present (brand new works) utilizing the Bournonville tradition. But, in the glaring absence of such a person, NH is right to try his approach. (Even if he had someone who could extend the Bournonville tradition into the 21st century, he would still be right to get the RDB to branch out from its roots.)

I guess my fear is that he will wind up in the position Baryshnikov found himself in with ABT in the 80s with his bid to transform ABT into a Kirov/City Ballet/downtown New York dance hybrid. Whatever the creative merits of his approach may have been, I don't think it resulted in a brand new audience for ABT and it managed to alienate a significant portion of the old audience that loved the gaudy old thing from the 70s. If NH is successful in his approach, he will have revived the RDB as a company of international stature. If he fails, he will have achieved "negative crossover" -- no new audience and an alienated old audience.

Ah, the joy of being an artistic director!

#5 Alexandra

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Posted 28 December 2009 - 09:03 AM

I love "negative crossover"! Brilliant term -- I hope all marketing directors as well as ADs read it.

#6 miliosr

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Posted 28 December 2009 - 04:42 PM

I love "negative crossover"! Brilliant term -- I hope all marketing directors as well as ADs read it.


I would love to claim credit for the term but I read it years ago in relation to Miles Davis and his electric phase in the 70s (hence the quotation marks.)

I've been thinking a lot about what NH said in regard to changing the RDB's repertory in order to force a comparison between his company and the other major international companies. I'm reminded of an interview I read many years ago (1987 to be exact) with the members of the rock band R.E.M. that appeared in Musician magazine. At the time of the interview, R.E.M. was making a bid to move out of their niche as the kings of the college rock circuit and to join the ranks of the pop-rock superstars of the era -- Michael Jackson, Madonna, George Michael, Prince and Bruce Springsteen. The interviewer asked them (not unsensibly) if they were worried that, in making such a move, they would exchange their secure status as first among college radio stars for a perennial last among global superstars.

The members of R.E.M. thought it was right to try then; just as I think NH is right to try now. Still, I can't help wondering if expending a lot of energy to bring the repertory at RDB into line with the major international heavyweights (ABT, Bolshoi, City Ballet, Mariinski, POB) will result in something lost (the Bournonville rep) in exchange for perennially being considered "last among superstars." Maybe the Danes can do it under NH's leadership . . . but it will be a real tightrope walk.

I'm wandering far afield at this point so I had better stop!

#7 Hans

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Posted 28 December 2009 - 08:50 PM

I agree with you, miliosr, and I think that if anything, the other major companies might try performing more Bournonville rather than the RDB dragging out the Petipa classics. I love those ballets, but the last thing we need to see is yet another watered-down, "updated" version of them with yet another AD's irritating choreographic tweaks.

#8 JMcN

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Posted 29 December 2009 - 02:17 AM

I agree with you, miliosr, and I think that if anything, the other major companies might try performing more Bournonville rather than the RDB dragging out the Petipa classics. I love those ballets, but the last thing we need to see is yet another watered-down, "updated" version of them with yet another AD's irritating choreographic tweaks.



I agree with Hans about other companies introducing more Bournonville. I don't go to see RB much these days but one of my happiest of recent performances was a performance of Kobborg's production of La Sylphide.

Does the Bournonville style meld with the Russian classics. In 2008 a friend and I saw a performance of Don Q with Anette Delgado and Joel Carreno guest starring and it was a wonderful evening but the difference in style was very obvious. On the same trip we saw Onegin and the RDB looked more comfortable in that.

The ideal for me would be for the RDB to continue as keepers of the style while forging ahead with a newer identity. I can't even begin to work out if this would be feasible.

#9 Jane Simpson

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Posted 29 December 2009 - 10:49 AM

One thing that worries me about the idea of other companies doing more Bournonville is that there's so little of it: already we're well on the way to La Sylphide being a standard repertory piece, but after that, what? Napoli would suit some companies, and the dancing lesson from Conservatoire, perhaps (though it's so difficult) - but A Folk Tale, Kermessen in Bruges? Would audiences round the world see them as anything other than quaint novelties? And how long till someone started adding bits, and ornamenting them? (A couple of nice solos for Junker Ove would make A Folk Tale much more accessible, don't you think?)

But would it really help the RDB, anyway, to have their 'crown jewels' danced by everyone else in the world?

On the other hand I'm very happy for them to limit their Petipa repertoire to Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty (which they've danced on and off since they first acquired the RB's Sergeyev version more than 50 years ago) - I didn't think Don Quixote suited them and would not be at all sorry to see it quietly dropped.

#10 Anne

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Posted 10 April 2010 - 09:43 AM

A belated comment to this interview which I'm sorry I didn’t come across until a few days ago:
It’s a really interesting interview with all the right questions asked – thank you for that, Jane!

Hübbe has some very good points about establishing a repertoire, and I think he has an acute awareness of the problems lurking in every corner of the existence of a big balletcompany nowadays, with both a strong tradition, a dwindling and ageing audience and a big corps hungry for challenges to cope with. When he made his new and updated version of Napoli I think he had hoped for a younger audience to show up, but as far as I could see the audience looked exactly the same as they did to any traditional Bournonville performance. It just isn't easy to get hold of new audiences!

I was a bit sorry, though, when I read that he considers the Bournonville Festival extremely commercial. I understand if he is not fond of the idea of a festival returning rigidly every 13th year, because that kind of tradition can easily become a straitjacket. It’s much better if you make a festival when it is convenient or when you have a special occasion, like in 2005, where they celebrated the 200th birthday of Bournonville. I attended most of that festival and I must say I didn’t think for one moment that it was too commercial. There is a big difference between commercialism and good marketing, and I think the latter was the case in 2005. What was presented on the stage was high quality and presented with high spirit, and Copenhagen was simply brimming with interesting activities and exhibitions related to Bournonville and his time, all on a higly professional level.

Good marketing is necessary today, but as long as you don’t compromise with quality there is nothing to be ashamed of. I don’t quite understand Nikolaj Hübbe’s reserve as he himself has shown no special reluctance in this area, taking part in a lot of highly commercial activities when he had just started as ballet master in Copenhagen. But I thought it was OK because you sometimes really need to do odd things to get the media’s attention. In New York he must have met with much more commercialism in the art’s world, and therefore I really don’t understand his attitude towards that aspect of the Bournonville Festivals.

Hübbe thinks the Bournonville Festivals will cement the impression that the RDB can only dance Bournonville. I don’t think, things work that simple. Many companies have to struggle to establish their own identity because they have a very short history. and the RDB got one as a birth present, which can of course at times be a burden too, I'm fully aware of that- But no other country can legitimately present a Bournonville Festival, that’s a Danish privilege. Like Wagner in Germany and Shakespeare in England. You always have to fight against just being a custodian, but that’s a challenge that one must face. And being ”the owner” of the tradition can surprisingly enough give some liberty, though one should have thought opposite: When Hübbe made his new version of Napoli. the attitude of the Danish press and the Danish audience were generally open and interested, the resistance came much more adamant from abroad!

#11 Alexandra

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Posted 11 April 2010 - 06:38 AM

Thank you for that, Anne. I habve a question. You wrote: "When Hübbe made his new version of Napoli. the attitude of the Danish press and the Danish audience were generally open and interested, the resistance came much more adamant from abroad!." What was the resistance from abroad? The only two reviews in the British press I read were very positive, and I didn't see any from Americans. I've read a lot about Hubbe standing up to the resistance from abroad, but I haven't seen the resistance. Was there something in the Danish press about this, I wonder?

#12 Anne

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Posted 25 April 2010 - 05:06 AM

Sorry about being so late in answering! I have browsed through interviews, articles and reviews on the subject in the Danish papers to see, if I could find something upon which I might have built my impression, but I could only find Hübbe's own vague references to people from abroad being "very protective of Bournonville - possessive, almost", to quote from Jane Simpsons latest interview. I'm sorry I haven't been able to find anything more substantial - maybe I shouldn't have been so quick in bringing on a statement like that. That happens when you write from memory!

#13 Alexandra

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Posted 25 April 2010 - 07:58 AM

Thalnks, Anne. I've read several places about "the naysayers" and pressure -- but I haven't read any article that questioned it, or review that Perhaps they expected to be criticized for changing a work. I think the Danish press would have been disappointed if he had NOT changed it. Then he wouldn't have been "creative." (But that's just an impression.) I think that American and Danish (European?) critics look at old ballets, and perhaps we are overprotective. Many American critics view the ballet as a work with a specific theme, characters and choreography and expect to see that when they see a ballet with a certain title. In Denmark, from reading the critics, especially those who began writing in the 1960s, it seems they expect a director to be "creative" and "put his onw stamp" on a ballet. I know when I was researching my biography of Kronstam that I reads so many negative reviews of his "Giselle" (which I thought was beautiful) that complained that he was just doing a traditioanl proeuction, that there was no creativity, that he even used the sets and costumes from the last production, etc.

#14 Jane Simpson

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Posted 25 April 2010 - 08:48 AM

Just to clarify: without re-checking the recording, my memory is that it was me who said the bit about some people abroad being '"very protective of Bournonville - possessive, almost", and reacting as if it was... and Hubbe broke in with "sacrilege". I don't know if this came from his own personal experience or if he was conjecturing. My own remark came from what I'd heard from some other people - some of them on this board! - but I was not intending to imply that it was a universal reaction, rather trying to discover how he would defend what he was doing against such criticism.

#15 Anne

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Posted 25 April 2010 - 09:31 AM

I just re-read your interview, Jane, and I can see that I haven't read it accurately enough - I'm sorry about that! Your own statement sort of glides into the direct quote and that was what led me "astray".

About the Danish press expecting a new and inventive approach to the classics I'm not so sure that is still the case. Hübbe's staging of Giselle a couple of years ago was highly praised even though it was a completely traditional staging, and the same was the case with his Sylphide 7 years ago, where I only read some sour comments from a Swedish critic about it being too traditional and bringing nothing new. I think Hübbe would have got away with a traditional Napoli as well, as long as he had been able to breath life into the characters and the drama.


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