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RB dancers on mini-tour in Denmark


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#1 Anne

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Posted 23 July 2010 - 01:50 AM

Seven dancers from the RB under the artistic leadership of Johan Kobborg toured in Denmark this week, making three open air performances in northern Jutland. I saw their last performance, which took place Wednesday night in the grounds of the manor Nørre Vosborg, a very atmospheric setting in the far west.
The dancers were:

Johan Kobborg
Stephen McRae
Sergei Polunin
Thomas Whitehead
Roberta Marquez
Leanne Benjamin
Alina Cojocaru

To me, who haven't seen that many performances with the Royal Ballet except on dvd, it was a great chance to see some of their best dancers at close quarters. They had put a varied and very digestible programme toghether, appropriate for an open air occasion, my only lamentation being that it was to short:

Pas de deux from Rhapsody by Ashton (Marquez & McRae)
Pas de deux from Sensorium by Marriott (Benjamin & Whitehead)
Gopak by Zakharov (Polunin)
Black Swan pas de deux from Swan Lake (Cojocaru & Kobborg)
Something Different, a tap number created by Stephen McRae to Benny Goodman’s Sing Sing (McRae)
Pas de deux from Brandstrup's Rushes (Benjamin & Whitehead)
White Swan pas de deux from Swan Lake (Marquez & Kobborg)
Male solo from Diana and Acteon by Petipa (Polunin)
Les Lutins by Kobborg (Polunin, Cojocaru, McRae and the vioinist Charles Siem)

Roberta Marquez and Stephen McRae made a beautiful and lyrical opening with the pas de deux from Ashton’s Rhapsody, with attention paid to all the typical Ashton details, a hand fluttering there, a head tilted there, and all done with a beautiful flow. It was delightful! I especially love the moment where the ballerina turns her torso from left to right the instant she is grasped by her partner. She does it twice and it just took me with surprise each time, it happens in a flicker of a second and with such ease and grace, as if it was nothing, which I’m sure it is!

The pas de deux from Marriott’s Sensorium danced by the expressive Leanne Benjamin and the straightforward no-fuss-guy Thomas Whitehead was a more sinister and introverted piece with lots of difficult lifts and ”body climbing”, which made good use of Whitehead’s athletic powers. Later the same two dancers did the Brandstrup pas de deux from Rushes, and I think that was the only fault of the programme: these two pas de deux are simply to much alike, both in expression and in choreography. It felt like a repetition, when Whitehead once again started whirling Benjamin round in circles.

RB’s latest principal, the young Sergei Polunin, was in for two showy numbers, the Gopak and the solo of Acteon. More circus than dance, but of course it’s great fun.

Polunin also took part in the finale, Kobborg’s Les lutins, a really charming bagatelle, which Kobborg made for RB’s Cuban tour last year and which make good use of the charm and artistry of the three dancers and the vioinist (who takes an active part on the stage). The two male dancers (Polunin and McRae) strive to make the biggest impression on the girl (Cojocaru) by doing ”everything-you-do-I-can-do-better/higher/faster etc". In the end the girl choses the violinist! Both Polunin and McRae have a freshness to their charm which makes them simply irrestistible, and their style and build are so unlike that they make a fine contrast on stage. Especially McRae strikes me as an extremely versatile dancer, and to me he was the big discovery that night. He masters both the lyrical expression and fineness of Ashton's choreography and the comic relief and show-off in Kobborg’s Les Lutins, and then he can do tap as well! Maybe the tap training back in his Australian childhood has added to the extreme swiftness with which he can move.

Kobborg himself did two pas de deux from Swan Lake, the white one with Marquez, the black one with Cojocaru. Marquez is lovely to look at and with a genuine sorrowfulness to her bearing, but somehow I can’t imagine a whole Swan Lakewith her, to little temperament beneath the surface I fear. And for her dancing I miss more character, more edge. Her lightness and soft lines might suit Ashton perfectly, but Odette/Odile requires something stronger than that. As for Cojocaru’s Black Swan I was a bit confused: It was the sweetest Odile I have ever seen, maybe even sugary, and that was maybe her way of portraying the falseness of the character. Her dancing though was as always impeccable, with balances that took one’s breath away, and never in a showy manner. And I’m over and over again impressed by the way she can stretch her lines, tiny as she is. In that aspect she has really matured over the years.
I was, though, deeply disappointed that Kobborg did nothing but support the ladies the whole evening! All the solo variations were cut out, probably because the stage was to small for that. He is a brilliant partner and I find much pleasure in watching good partnering, but I would have loved to see him DANCE too, as he is one of my absolute favourites among dancers.

Well, to sum up, I will have to go to London more often in the future to see more of all these wonderful dancers! (Though the ticket prizes of Covent Garden are sheer horror :angry2: )

#2 Jane Simpson

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Posted 23 July 2010 - 03:56 AM

The only sad thing about programmes like this is that the home country never gets to see them! Thank you for the reivew, Anne - and a reader of ballet.co has found a link to some interesting photos of the performance you saw.

Also there was a review of an earlier performance in Skagen in Berlingske Tidende - Google translate does a reasonable job on it.

#3 annamicro

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Posted 23 July 2010 - 04:48 AM

I was, though, deeply disappointed that Kobborg did nothing but support the ladies the whole evening! All the solo variations were cut out, probably because the stage was to small for that. He is a brilliant partner and I find much pleasure in watching good partnering, but I would have loved to see him DANCE too, as he is one of my absolute favourites among dancers.

Well, to sum up, I will have to go to London more often in the future to see more of all these wonderful dancers! (Though the ticket prizes of Covent Garden are sheer horror :angry2: )


Thanks a lot for your comments! :tiphat:

Maybe this was Johan original program, maybe not.
At the end of June, Kobborg had to flight back from Japan to Denmark for serious family reasons. Life and work have to go on, but not always it's an easy thing. I think you can be grateful for the show and the great cast :flowers: : Cojocaru and Benjamin are fantastic and two of my three top favorite ballerinas in the Royal Ballet, McRea and Polunin are among the most interesting young dancers all around the world and I really like Whitehead, he has a very strong stage presence and good acting skill, he is maybe not that strong as a pure classical dancers, but he is definitely one of my favorite ballet-dance artists.

I don't think that Royal Opera House tickets are really expensive. Some of them yes, ok, but it's one of the most "democratic" theatre I've ever been: you can have fantastic seats, maybe not that close to the stage, but with an excellent and completely free view for quite cheap prices: there are good places for every budget and everybody can attend to a show and SEE it. In Milan La Scala, for example, there are very few seats with a clear view and they are expensive, and you can even spend 70-138 euros to see almost nothing (to not talk of the much lower quality of the performances). I spent much more when coming to Copenhagen than for a show at Covent Garden...

#4 Anne

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Posted 12 August 2010 - 09:57 AM

I don't think that Royal Opera House tickets are really expensive. Some of them yes, ok, but it's one of the most "democratic" theatre I've ever been: you can have fantastic seats, maybe not that close to the stage, but with an excellent and completely free view for quite cheap prices: there are good places for every budget and everybody can attend to a show and SEE it. In Milan La Scala, for example, there are very few seats with a clear view and they are expensive, and you can even spend 70-138 euros to see almost nothing (to not talk of the much lower quality of the performances). I spent much more when coming to Copenhagen than for a show at Covent Garden...


In many respects you are right about the ticket prices in Covent Garden. I checked out on the ticket prices in Covent Garden, and I can see, that they are not that more expensive than in Copenhagen or Paris for that sake, and itís true that you can get an affordable ticket in the amphitheatre with a perfect view to the stage. The problem is, that I always feel terribly far away from the stage, and if you take a seat in one of the rear rows of the balconies, the sound of the orchestra gets a bit dull and remote. The ticket prices in Copenhagen have risen quite a lot during the last years, especially in the new operahouse, and this has somehow narrowed the gap between prices in Copenhagen and in other larger cities.


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