Jane Simpson

RDB American Tour 2011

136 posts in this topic

Yes, I can see most of that. But

For most of us today, the idea of a miracle brought about by holy water requires a major suspension of disbelief.
No more so than fairies waving magic wands, or taking any kind of ballet fairies seriously requires suspension of disbelief. There IS no la sylphide, just as that funny Southern woman said that time of Capote's unfinished work 'There IS no Answered Prayers!' As for 'human charity and dance grace' producing 'ballet miracles', the latter is always definitely required even during the mundane, dry periods, the former not always (there's a lot of diva fighting throughout the ballet eras, I believe; competition may be healthy, but it's not exactly charitable.) :helpsmilie:

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For most of us today, the idea of a miracle brought about by holy water requires a major suspension of disbelief.

The context of 'A Folk Tale' is already fantastic. I don't believe in miracles, period. If you want to construct a secular framework for miraculous occurrences that's fine, but how does that justify messing with Bournonville's? We accept all kinds of magical occurrences as part of ballet stories.

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So am I the only Washington-area member of Ballet Alert! to have ventured into the Kennedy Center to see the Danes this past week? Amazing. Either the economy has shot everyone's pocketbooks and/or we are all too busy to post impressions (or regular posters are all in NYC seeing Bright Stream). I appreciate the philosophical turn of this discussion but it would also be really cool to read reports & reviews on the actual performances. :)

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I appreciate the philosophical turn of this discussion but it would also be really cool to read reports & reviews on the actual performances. :)
I agree entirely and apologize for my digression. Please, all of you who were actually in the theater: what did you think of the performance?

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I just love this new version, specially the scenografi and cant get enough of it:) I have seen the ballet four times now and just love this version!

I must say, that I aggre with the reviewers, on something - the pas de sept should not have a dancing Birthe - that is a shame,

but everything else is in my opinion, just greate.

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I saw both ballets. Don't have time to write about them now, but the short version of my opinion is this:

1. A Folk Tale didn't bother me too much, probably because I'd never seen it before, but I did have some serious problems with it. Liked some of the designs, especially Act 1.

2. Napoli Act 1 - interesting idea, works pretty well for the most part. Act 2 - utterly outrageous--trendy, trashy, and tasteless. I nearly walked out when I heard the cheesy movie soundtrack music, and when I saw the Martins-esque choreography, I wished I had. Act 3 - mostly very nice, but why not stick with the Fellini concept from Act 1? It goes from 1960's funeral (which the music doesn't support) to happy 1840's costumes/dancing in the space of two seconds, then we're in the 1840's through to the end until Gennaro and Teresina, still in breeches and tulle, show up on a motorcycle. Put the 3 acts together, and this must be one of the most bizarre, ill-conceived productions of any ballet, ever.

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I wrote two long pieces for danceviewtimes :)

I will say that I believe both "A Folk Tale" and "Napoli" are great works of art. I think very few people really look at the works below the surface. There is a great deal there. Or was.

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I'd like to thank Jane for linking to the old 'new Napoli' thread, which I'd forgotten about. I also wanted to pluck out this quote from Alexandra from the old thread, because it expresses in a much more elegant and well-informed way what I was trying to get at earlier and it's worth including here for its own sake IMO. (Sorry, Natalia. Just close your eyes and pretend this post isn't here. :))

Some also seem to have trouble distinguishing between themselves and their beliefs, Bournonville and his beliefs, and the beliefs of the characters in the ballets. All of the people in "La Sylphide" would have believed in sylphs. Doesn't matter whether the dancer does, or the audience does. We know THEY do. And all of the people in "Napoli" are Catholics. That was part of the point, of the local color of the piece.

Which brings me to a final point, that some do not seem to understand that there are two strands in Romantic ballet: the supernatural and the "local color." There can be elements of both in a ballet, but each had its own character.

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Thanks for telling us about those here, Alexandra (not that we have any business not thinking to look, of course). I just read both of them, and now feel more overprepared for Sat. than almost any performance I will ever have gone to (possibly even more than the Ashton 'boosterism' which sold me tickets). Although I do have to re-read the plot messes of 'Napoli' again--great paragraph that, I thought, and just taxing enough to enforce mastering it. Not that I wouldn't rather just go and let it wash over me by nature, so thanks for pressing the point (and the program notes).

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... (Sorry, Natalia. Just close your eyes and pretend this post isn't here. :))....

Why??? :dunno:

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I intended a jocular reference to your earlier request to revert to the topic of actual reviews of the performances. Sorry for the confusion. :)

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Sorry it's too much, Patrick :) But I don't think they're showing either full-length ballet in New York, just Act III, so just let it wash.

Did anyone go to the opening? I'm curious how the New Choreography program went over up there. (We didn't get it down here.)

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Did anyone go to the opening? I'm curious how the New Choreography program went over up there. (We didn't get it down here.)

By new choreography do you mean the Elo ballet? I saw the program on the second night (15th). After sitting through ABT's recent new works program, the Elo work was a revelation. It is a ballet for three women and three men, fast paced to a Vivaldi score. I liked the use of the women in short classical tutus---it softened some of the sharp angles of the choreography. A work I would enjoy seeing again. I still have a wide smile on my face when I think of those magnificent men in the Bournonville Variations. What epaulement--what batterie, what grace of form :flowers: Ah! The Act III Napoli was a bit of a mish-mash...what was someone thinking when they combined two costume styles? If anything, The Lesson was riveting---the student was impressively danced by an apprentice, Ida Praetorius--she reminded me of Janet Reed. I am looking forward to La Sylphide this weekend (Susanne Grinder and Marcin Kupinski) and another look at Napoli (Amy Watson, Alban Lendorf)

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Thanks, atm. Yes, the Elo. They brought two new Kobborg ballets to the West Coast -- I haven't had time to check the NY rep lately, I regret to say. I hope you'll write about the weekend performance as well.

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ATM711 - We are seeing the same shows. I was there last night too. I was less enthusiastic.

The Lesson: Okay this probably was a very dramatic and interesting ballet in the 1960's - it is quite unbelievable now. I had a major problem with Thomas Lund as the Ballet Master. He was quite convincingly off the deep end from his very first entrance leaving him with nowhere to go and making the Student look like a cretin for not taking one look and running out the door. Most psychopaths and serial killers have a chameleon-like ability to present a convincing, attractive facade (Ted Bundy). He really should be an elegant old school ballet master initially. Lund suggested wonderfully a psychosexual compulsion but it should emerge subtly and gradually with a dramatic change after the toe shoes come out. Ida Praetorius was remarkable as the student - coltish, naive and wildly enthusiastic. She was just very real and unaffected which made her even more heartbreaking. The part of the pianist - here danced by Gudrun Bojesen - is perplexing - is she his mistress or his wife or his sister that she works as his accomplice? Is she really trying to save these girls? What is she after? What does she get out of this? Why hasn't the police tracked these two down and put them away after so many girls don't come home from their dance lesson? This is more pantomime drama with ballet steps mixed in than a real ballet using classical steps and patterns to tell a story.

Bournonville Variations: Nice choreography but very derivative of Konservatoriet and Etudes. Starts out with the boys (all boys) in practice clothes and then they go into costumes including kilts. All taken from Bournonville's daily class variations. Frankly the men here were not all impressive and didn't function well as a unit - poor ensemble abounded. There was a feeling of sloppiness and exhaustion here - something tired and unfinished. Alban Lendorf as one of the kilted men doing entrechats was an impressive exception - beautiful clear batterie.

Lost on Slow: Jorma Elo is school of William Forsythe with lots of angular twisted physicality applied to hard driving classical ballet technique. Lots of off-kilter turns set to a lovely Vivaldi score. However, here the dancers looked fully engaged and in top form. I must say I also loved the oblique lighting with the stage smoke (very similar to Twyla Tharp's "In The Upper Room") and the stylized silk costumes with appliquéed bodices. Again Alban Lendorf stood out in his pas de deux.

Napoli Act III: Sets look old-fashioned like they came from the earlier production as do most of the dancer's costumes. The character dancers however look like refugees from "Roma Città Aperta". Teresina and Gennaro show up on a vespa at the end. It can be ignored in the face of the dancing and Bournonville's brilliant virtuosity. A truly joyous vision of dance. Again I noticed poor ensemble in the pas de six with legs at different heights, arms all doing different positions and landing at different times. Then in solos the same dancers would look quite good. Ulrik Birkkjaer the Gennaro looks like a well-trained dancer having an off night. He would start combinations well but they would fall apart before the end with the feet landing out of position or turns veering off. You could see the good intentions but the technique would fail. Susanne Grinder as Teresina was pretty but bland, a good soloist. Again Alban Lendorf in the first male solo with all the batterie was the best thing out there.

All my friends were saying that the quality of the choreography (except for the Bournonville) and the dancing were way below the level displayed in the past. Even the Napoli Act III had more elan and pep in previous years. They were wondering if the company would be touring again anytime soon. Seen in audience: Nikolaj Hubbe, Anna Kisselgoff, Gia Kourlas, Alastair Macaulay, Allegra Kent and the other usual suspects.

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I was there Tues. for the first performance. I agree with some but not all that has been posted.

The Lesson - Macaulay, in his review said the Lesson "is a tawdry little absurdist melodrama about a sadistic-murderous-psychopathic ballet teacher." Other posters to this site seemed to agree. I don't. I think it's a good piece that presents the idea of an abusive relationship in a theatrical way. It's not about ballet or about a ballet teacher. You have a trusting young woman who is eager to please, the seemingly shy instructor who as time goes on becomes more and more demanding, and his enabler who cooperates and helps clean up his messes. By the time the young woman wants out of the situation it is too late. I think the piece is well choreographed and Kobborg amazing as the teacher. His evolution from mildly shy to instructive to demanding to OK this is a totally crazy person was very convincing.

Bournonville Variations - Great stuff. The lighting effects were unnecessary. It was like the material wasn't trusted so some Los Vegas effects were tossed in, but what a great idea and the effects didn't ruin it`. What a treasure these steps and variations are - fast footwork, unexpected directions, beautiful torso work, musical - you expect the turn to go one way, but it goes the other - the foot is in back of the knee instead of the front sometimes. The musical phrasing is delightful. Every ballet and dance fan should see this stuff.

Lost on Slow - Interesting enough. It showed the dancers off well in a more contemporary style of movement. I wouldn't mind seeing it again!

Napoli Act lll - I loved it. I danced it many, many years ago many times -- no one does it like the Danes. The variations were delightful, and again the choreography - lovely & musical in between steps, beautifully shaped jumps, grand plies when you don't expect them. a turn into a jump that makes you gasp and smile because it is both lovely and unpredicted. One more thing I have to add. The RDB has Character Dancers in their roster. One of these women (I don't know who) won my heart. She did a little section with a child, but she enriched the act through out. When the corps was doing their predictable stuff, my eye wondered over to her. She'd be on the side interacting, hitting the tamborine, swaying to the music and being alive on stage. She was not the only one, but she was exemplary. This kind of stage craft can really make a difference.

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Vipa, the woman in the tarantella was likely either Lis Jeppesen (shorter) or Mette Bodtcher (taller). Jeppesen was one of their great ballerinas, the Sylph of the 70s, 80s, and 90s (and many roles as well. She's on the DVD of La Sylphide. Bodtcher wasn't a star, but gave star performances in dozens of roles and was always a vivid performer.

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Vipa, the woman in the tarantella was likely either Lis Jeppesen (shorter) or Mette Bodtcher (taller). Jeppesen was one of their great ballerinas, the Sylph of the 70s, 80s, and 90s (and many roles as well. She's on the DVD of La Sylphide. Bodtcher wasn't a star, but gave star performances in dozens of roles and was always a vivid performer.

Thanks for the response. I don't know which it was, but it was a light lavender costume on Tuesday - she danced with the boy - and she was wonderful.

It makes total sense that it is was a great performer in dance roles. How wonderful that the RDB uses them so well.

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I was there Tues. for the first performance. I agree with some but not all that has been posted.

The Lesson - Macaulay, in his review said the Lesson "is a tawdry little absurdist melodrama about a sadistic-murderous-psychopathic ballet teacher." Other posters to this site seemed to agree. I don't. I think it's a good piece that presents the idea of an abusive relationship in a theatrical way. It's not about ballet or about a ballet teacher. You have a trusting young woman who is eager to please, the seemingly shy instructor who as time goes on becomes more and more demanding, and his enabler who cooperates and helps clean up his messes. By the time the young woman wants out of the situation it is too late. I think the piece is well choreographed and Kobborg amazing as the teacher. His evolution from mildly shy to instructive to demanding to OK this is a totally crazy person was very convincing.

Bournonville Variations - Great stuff. The lighting effects were unnecessary. It was like the material wasn't trusted so some Los Vegas effects were tossed in, but what a great idea and the effects didn't ruin it`. What a treasure these steps and variations are - fast footwork, unexpected directions, beautiful torso work, musical - you expect the turn to go one way, but it goes the other - the foot is in back of the knee instead of the front sometimes. The musical phrasing is delightful. Every ballet and dance fan should see this stuff.

Lost on Slow - Interesting enough. It showed the dancers off well in a more contemporary style of movement. I wouldn't mind seeing it again!

Napoli Act lll - I loved it. I danced it many, many years ago many times -- no one does it like the Danes. The variations were delightful, and again the choreography - lovely & musical in between steps, beautifully shaped jumps, grand plies when you don't expect them. a turn into a jump that makes you gasp and smile because it is both lovely and unpredicted. One more thing I have to add. The RDB has Character Dancers in their roster. One of these women (I don't know who) won my heart. She did a little section with a child, but she enriched the act through out. When the corps was doing their predictable stuff, my eye wondered over to her. She'd be on the side interacting, hitting the tamborine, swaying to the music and being alive on stage. She was not the only one, but she was exemplary. This kind of stage craft can really make a difference.

Vipa: I tend to agree with what you saw on Tuesday. I rather enjoyed "The Lesson" (maybe not the best opener), and found it an interesting piece of dance theater. Kobborg was menacingly scary,and until he was just announced as dancing with Cojacaru in "Sleeping Beauty", I thought it would be the only time I'd see him. So, now I'll get another chance! The work is dated, I guess, but still riveting in many ways. (BTW, I once had a chair thrown at me in class by a well known teacher who will remain anonymous)

"Bourneville Variations" needed more rehearsal, in my mind, but still an interesting work. "Lost on Slow" showed the Danes in a whole new light. I liked their edgy attack and with most of Elo's work, one either likes him or not. I happen to think he's a different voice in the newer choreographic field.

"Napoli" was sheer joy! Such energy and life. Loved the dance with the little boy! And I had no problem with the "differences " in costuming. Having traveled in Italy extensively and seen many local dance and folk troupes performing out of doors, the costumes were entirely in keeping with my experience. These groups are trying to preserve the older dance forms of the culture and one frequently will see the musicians, singers, and other members of the group in modern attire with perhaps a pair of suspenders on the men, or flowers in a ladies hair. But mostly the dancers, both men and women, all wear peasant attire from an entirely different era. So, it all made sense to me and gave the stage a real "human"look. I welcome the Danes and look forward to seeing "La Sylphide" on Sunday.

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Some nice pictures from company class and the dress rehearsal in NY in the Danish newspaper Berlingske.

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I saw The Lesson 4 times when the "Kings of Dance" program was here a few years ago and hated it each time. Nor am I a fan of Elo - so I skipped the mixed bill in favor of The Bright Stream across the plaza.

Last night I timed my arrival just perfectly - with 10 minutes left in the long intermission between The Lesson & La Sylphide.

The Danes' staging of La Sylphide was as beautiful as I remember. The sets are gorgeous, the mime and action is clear and the dancing is wonderful. The company dances this ballet with a gentle, generous spirit that is just enchanting. Gudren Bojeson is a childlike Sylphide, completely innocent. Her dancing is graceful and buoyant - utterly charming.

I enjoyed Ulrik Birkkjaer's James and Nicolai Hansen's Gurn immensely. Their acting was convincing and they both put on a textbook exhibit of batterie & leaps, all in that wonderful Bournonville style. And, of course, Sorella Englund's Madge nearly stole every scene she was in. What a force of nature - her Madge was chillingly vindictive.

For anyone who's interested in some additional casting info, according to the playbill Mette Bodtcher is Madge at the Sat & Sun matinees and Lis Jeppeson takes the role tonight (Sat). Amy Watson dances Naopli with Alban Lendorf at the Sat matinee and with Alexander Staeger on Sat night (Lendorf also does a solo at the evening performance).

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Some nice pictures from company class and the dress rehearsal in NY in the Danish newspaper Berlingske.

Great photos. Thank you, Jane. :clapping:

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I went to this afternoon's performance of La Sylphide + Napoli, Act Three. Suffice to say it was absolutely worth seeing. It was such a great overall performance that I could probably write about it forever, and still miss details of why it was so great.

First of all, it was my first time seeing the Royal Danish Ballet live, and I don't know what I really expected of them, but they shattered every pre-conceived notion I had of them as a quaint, charming little company. It is true that the Bournonville style can look old-fashioned, but the dancing itself was not for a minute stilted or fossilized. It was wonderfully alive, and this was true from the mime characters to the corps de ballet to the lead dancers. I've heard the Danish style called "modest" so many times it's become a cliche, but when you see them in Napoli you realize they're thankfully not as modest as you expected. For instance, in the middle of the most frenetic dances, I often saw the male soloists hang in the air, as time stopped still and one wondered how they defied gravity.

La Sylphide opened the program. The RDB production is absolutely beautiful to look at, very realistic in its depiction of a Scottish home in Act One and a forest for Act Two. Very often I think the State Theater stage looks shallow and prosaic, but the Danes figured out a way to give it depth and grandeur. The beautiful lighting helped, as did the proportioned sets that weren't simply one layer after another of curtain drops. Act Two's forest was particularly beautiful.

But one doesn't really go to the ballet to look at the sets. It was the dancing that made this very old ballet come alive. Marcin Kupinski was the James, and he doesn't really have the ballon that I saw in some of the other men, but his James was still sympathetic, stylish, and he had a strong but not flashy technique. This production telegraphed the ennui that James felt in ways I've never seen in other productions. For instance, when Effy (Louise Ostergaard) first sees her fiance, she mimes "What's wrong with you?" and then touches him on the forehead and heart. She knows that James' mind and heart are elsewhere. When James is thinking of the Sylph, he soars in the air in a series of cabrioles, first with arms held at the hips in first position, then opening up in second position, and finally snapping them triumphantly in fifth. But when he's with Effy, he joins her in a hard, earthbound Scottish folk dance and looks glum and unhappy the whole time. The implication is clear -- ballet is an expression of the soul, of what can't exist in mundane life.

When I first saw Susanne Grinder I thought she looked too tall, too elongated, too modern, to be the Sylph. I imagine most Sylphs to be tiny, just as most Giselles to this day remain petite. But then she started dancing, and the doubts melted away. She too has that great jump and ballon, and also an innocent but aloof stage presence that really gets to the heart of this ballet. Grinder's mime was clear and well-articulated, especially the final sequence where she sadly told James how he had killed her with the scarf. The only thing I wish was that her leg was a little more secure in arabesque -- in Act Two there were a couple wobbles that detracted from the ethereal image of the leg floating upwards effortlessly.

Madge is a great mime role, the grandmother of Carabosse and Mette Bodcher was a wonderful old hag. She wasn't over the top or hammy, which made her that much more frightening. When the girls lined up for their fortunes she took evident delight in miming their fates. Alexander Staeger as Gurn looked like he was auditioning for James. He, unlike Kupinski, does have that unique ability to hang in the air before landing. The corps de ballet was stunning in the Act One folk dance and in Act Two as the band of sylphs.

Act Three of Napoli

I thought nothing could top La Sylphide, but after a rather lengthy intermission the curtain came up on Act Three of Napoli, which until now I'd only seen on video. Video though is nothing compared to the real thing, where the vitality of the Neapolitan spirit seems perfectly captured in time by the severe and moralistic Danish ballet master. Nikolaj Hubbe's new production has been updated to the 1950s, but except for some 1950's clothes on the spectators and the final image being of Teresina and Gennaro on a scooter, this is basically the same "everybody let's dance" Napoli that people know and love. What a fun, exhilarating pure-dance spectacle it is! The three main set pieces are the pas de six, the tarantella, and the finale, in which the whole stage (including the old and the young) seems to explode together in a whirlwind of dancing. Amy Watson was the Teresina and Alban Lendorf the Gennaro, and both were absolutely delightful. Lendorf had the most ballon of anyone in the cast, and that's saying a lot. The whole cast was, really, but the real star was Bournonville's choreography. The finale practically makes you want to bang a tambourine and jump onstage and dance.

It's a shame the Royal Danish Ballet hardly ever tours in the United States. This one experience left me feeling like Oliver Twist. Please sir, I want some more.

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I imagine most Sylphs to be tiny, just as most Giselles to this day remain petite.

I remember Silja Schandorf and Gudrun Bojesen dancing it the last time RDB was over here, in 2004. Neither are tiny, but I found both convincing.

I'm glad you could see the company!

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I could write about Bournonville jumps all day. I love the way his dancers will do the same jump but alternate their arm positions -- they stereotypical Bournonville jump has the dancers with their arms firmly at their hips in first position. But then the dancers will open their arms to second position, and then in the third jump, snap them triumphantly in fifth, as if to say, "I did it!" The other Bournonville jump I love is the way the dancers grande jete. Most dancers around the world nowadays do it the "Russian" way, with the forward leg shooting out like an arrow, and the backward leg pulled straight. The impression is of a dancer pushing himself upwards and forward in the air. The Danes have the trailing leg bent in a low attitude. It gives the impression of a dancer not pushing himself into the air, but rather effortlessly sailing through space. The dancer's body in motion makes a beautiful arc. The best dancers will hang in the air, mid-jump, to demonstrate their ballon. Their arms will rise, to make sure the audience sees the amazing feat. And the dancers will somehow always land on the downbeat of the music, to finish the musical phrase. Enchanting.

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