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Royal Danish dancers in Tomasson's Sleeping Beauty


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#1 Helena

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Posted 30 March 2002 - 12:48 AM

Next week I'm going to Copenhagen for a short holiday, and while I'm there will see Helgi Tomasson's Sleeping Beauty. The advertised dancers are: as Aurora, Gudrun Bojeson, Caroline Cavallo or Silja Schandorff (I don't know which) and Desire will be Jean-Lucien Masset, Mads Blangstrop or Andrew Bowman. I know nothing about this production or any of these dancers - I've rarely felt so ignorant! Any opinions of any aspect, and especially of the dancers, would be very welcome.

#2 Alexandra

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Posted 30 March 2002 - 07:32 AM

I'll be interested to see what you think of it, Helena.

Gudrun Bojesen is the newest young Danish ballerina, mid-20s. She's a lyrical dancer and was lovely in both "Kermesse" and "Folk Tale" in the Bournonville week. If I were going, I'd try to see her, because I'd be curious to see how she does.

I'm a great admirer of Schandorff, although I think she's more suited to the Lilac than Aurora. I've seen the Danish TV broadcast of this ballet with her Aurora and I've never seen as steady a Rose Adagio.

Caroline Cavallo to me is one of those earnest, hardworking dancers with a nice smile. She's an American trained at Atlanta Ballet and has been the favorite of every director there (except, I think, Gielgud) since the early '90s and I have never understood why. (can do anything, quick learner)

Of the men, I think Mads Blankstrup is very interesting. He has good instincts although -- well, there's a coaching problem over there.

Masset is one of the Schaufuss imports -- I've never seen him. Andrew Bowman is from Australia and, from what I've been told, one of the few foreign dancers to really try to understand the Danish way of dancing and doing things and is Schandorff's regular partner now.

I don't know that any of the men are really princes! I'll be interested to hear how they do.

If you can see Thomas Lund as the Bluebird, he's their finest classicist at the moment, I think.

#3 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 30 March 2002 - 10:28 AM

I second Alexandra's comments about the women. My guess about Schandorff is that even if the role isn't a perfect fit for her, she will find a way to make a case for herself in it. I also find Bojesen to have promise, particularly in lyric and sweet tempered roles. Cavallo might actually acquit herself better in Aurora than in the Bournonville roles I've seen her in, particularly since Tomasson's choreography tends to be "leggy" and probably more in an American mold. She is a strong dancer with good legs and feet and Aurora is a technical role as well as a lyrical one. In Bournonville, she looked out of place.

Massot (I think that is the correct spelling) was in the Bournonville Festival - playing Gurn in the second cast. He's not bad at all, but I don't see him as a Prince. I feel the same way about Blangstrup as Alexandra does. As I wrote at the time about his James, he looked like he'd been forced to navigate it without a map, but he still managed to be moving in the role.

Is Kenneth Greve still with the company? If so, why isn't he doing Desire? In my mind, he'd be the natural choice.

#4 Paul Parish

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Posted 30 March 2002 - 06:36 PM

Thank you so much for starting htis thread --

San Franciscans know Tomasson's Sleeping Beauty well, and will be eager to hear what the dancers make of it and how the production as a whole goes over....

I'd LOVE to know; I'd love to see the Danes do it.... I'm sure they'll make the Bishops and Lords and Ladies and Baby Aurora seem to have real lives and real consequence (as our performers never do)....

#5 Helena

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Posted 31 March 2002 - 01:37 AM

Mange tak - that's Danish for thank you very much! - for all these helpful comments. I will certainly report back when I get the chance.

#6 Alexandra

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Posted 31 March 2002 - 08:11 AM

Look forward to reading you, Helena :)

Paul, I saw the production when it was new in 1993, when the company was poised at the edge of the cliff but hadn't quite thrown itself over the edge :) They got this production for the designs -- the late Jens Jakob Worsaae, very popular in Copenhagen -- and thought it was "a very undramatic production." I think they thought that was deliberate, and that's the way they danced it, religiously copying the video. The second act -- well, they couldn't help themselves. It's so like "Folk Tale" first act they had to bring humanity to it, and Mette Bodtcher's Countess stole the show. Most critics didn't like it -- they only liked "cats," the only "number" their leading critic found sufficiently sexy.

I haven't seen it since. The last time I saw the company in non-Bournonville works, it surprised me. They brought Peter Martins' "Swan Lake" to life -- curiously, their phrasing seemed to suit it more than City Ballet's, and the designs are at home in Copenhagen. But in "The Merry Widow," which should be a sleepwalk for them, they were sloppy and forgot to tell the story.

Leigh, I think Kenneth Greve has been injured, recovering from an injury, or poised on the bring of an injury for the past five years :)

#7 Helena

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Posted 13 April 2002 - 11:28 PM

I enjoyed the performance very much on the whole. I found the production quite acceptable, but not remarkable in any way - perhaps a little lacking in grandeur, but good sets, with a Russian icon-ish feel. Craig Miller's costumes (I hope I've got this right, but the programme is naturally in Danish) are pleasingly traditional, with the usual problem that the fairies are not sufficiently different from one another. The worst mistake in the costumes, to me, was the wearing of wigs by the prince and Aurora in Act 3 - wigs take so much from the dancers' line and individuality, and I always feel cheated if they are worn.

As Aurora, Gudrun Bojeson impressed me very much. Technically she was first rate - very good Rose Adagio, and absolutely beautiful last act solo, but what really struck me was that she never let the characterisation slip. She was Aurora, a young, charming, sunny girl gradually growing up. and every step was part of that. I have no doubt that she is all these things in real life, but communicating them is not so easy, and for me she succeeded completely. My only slight criticism is that she seemed to tire a little in the vision scene.

The Prince was the Australian Andrew Bowman, and he too was impressive - tall and elegant, with a truly regal presence (talking of regal presence, Queen Margrethe was in the audience, which was quite surprising considering she was at the English Queen Mother's funeral in London the same day). Bowman danced and partnered with great assurance - pity about the wig.

Carabosse was Jette Buchwald - my ignorance of Danish dancers is such that until I looked for her photo in the programme I did not know whether she was male or female. A very strongly projected performance, with powerful mime and theatening presence. Only three attendants, though, and no chariot.

I have to admit that nearly a week after the performance I can't remember one prologue fairy from another. They were all quite adequate, but no-one stood out for me. My primitive Danish told me that the fairy names were the ones I grew up with - Golden Vine, Crystal Fountain and so on. Sarah van Patten, who is mentioned on another thread, was Woodland Glades, and Songbirds, here called Nightingale, was an American girl, Amy Watson, who also danced the Sapphire Fairy. Her grandparents were sitting near us, and hearing us speaking English, came and told us about her, which was very nice, They said she is going to represent the company in some competition - I'm not clear about the details.

The Lilac Fairy was a tall blonde girl called Haley Henderson - I was thinking how Danish she looked, but the name doesn't sound very Danish. She gave a reasonably good performance. Why are Lilac Fairies always tall? When I was doing ballet as a child and growing far too fast, people always said "You'll just have to be the Lilac Fairy." I suppose it's the expansive music.

In the last act, I was interested in Thomas Lund, who was one of the fairies' cavaliers. I had heard many complimentary things about him, but from this performance I really do not think I'd have noticed him. His line was very much obscured by the costume and wig, especially his neck and shoulders, so his epaulement, which I had heard was good, was not noticeable or even really visible. He has very bulging thighs, like Nijinsky.

I felt somewhat cheated out of the fairy tale characters in Act 3 - only Blue Birds and the Cats. Harlequin and Columbine, and Beauty and the Beast, appear but do little. There really should be a grand parade here. The Blue Birds (called that, no mention of Princess Florine) were Diana Cuni, who I did not take to, and Andrei Batalov, who was very good. I'd like to have seen Thomas Lund do it.

It was wonderful to be in the Royal Theatre again - what a beautiful place it is, and so full of atmosphere and history.

#8 Paul Parish

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Posted 14 April 2002 - 03:06 PM

Dear Helena -- THanks so much -- but more , more, more!!

In SAn Francisco, I think, we've begun to feel that the big waltz is really way too small... did that bother you?

ANd how WAS Sarah van Patten? Which dance did she do? HTe toe-hops one with the pizzicato music? Did it suit her? What is her quality like as a dancer?

My favorite thing Tomasson't choreographed is in it -- the Act III Sapphire pas de deux, with hte 5-count phrases and its clever timing... each dancer hits a pose -- on pointe or in hte air, she goes, he goes -- that takes you by surprise, it's like a magic-act, where they conceal the preparartions so cleverly you don't see it coming until it's there -- did it have that effect in Copenhagen?

THanks........

#9 Helena

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Posted 14 April 2002 - 11:02 PM

Paul, I was aware when I was writing this that it wasn't detailed enough - the problem is that the performance was a while ago, and there were so many other things crowding through my mind - Danish castles, Hans Andersen's house, trains over incredibly long bridges between Danish islands...so by the time I arrived home some details had entirely left my overcrowded brain!

I really cannot remember Sarah van Patten - I didn't know her name before I went, so wasn't particularly looking for her. There were some nice performances from the fairies, but nothing that made me sit up and think "She's amazing."

I do remember that the Garland Dance (waltz) struck me as rather uninspired choreography, with some awkward things to do with the garlands. I'm afraid I didn't notice the Sapphire pas de deux - I was probably too busy trying to work out which was Sapphire (Amy Watson), so that I could comment to her grandparents, who as I said were sitting near - and her costume was almost indistinguishable from Silver.

There was just so much to take in, with a production and dancers entirely new to me, not to mention trying to read a programme in Danish! I wish I could see it all over again now, to take in all the things I missed the first time. However, I did think that Aurora, Desire and Carabosse gave superb performances, and certainly brought real characterisation to their roles.

#10 Paul Parish

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Posted 15 April 2002 - 06:10 PM

Sorry Helena, I was kind of greedy there.... thank you so much for ransacking your memory for me....

I DO know how hard it can be to provide details about aspects of a perfomance that made no impression on me... I mean, really, it can't be DONE -- that's one of hte fascinating things about performances, they're NOTHING if they don't stimulate your imagination, and if they DID stimulate your imagination and you get really involved, sometimes what you remember -- or what I remember -- came from MY imagination, not theirs....

Anyway, thanks again....

#11 Viviane

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Posted 16 April 2002 - 09:13 AM

So, Helen...I've found you :cool:
It's great to hear something about the Royal Danish Ballet.
Maybe I can add here Thomas Lund's interesting website...
http://www.dancer.dk/
there are even some pictures of Sleeping Beauty :
http://www.dancer.dk/reviews/tsb.html

#12 Helena

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Posted 16 April 2002 - 11:10 PM

Viviane - thank you for the Thomas Lund site - beautiful photos. I hadn't seen them.

#13 Alexandra

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Posted 18 April 2002 - 04:36 AM

Helena, a belated thank you for this -- I've been on a deadline and hadn't had much time to read and respond to posts, so I'm sorry I didn't respond sooner.

The costumes may have been executed, as they say, by Craig Wright, but the designer of both sets and costumes was Jens Jacob Worsaae.

I saw this production (by both RDB and SFB) so long ago that I don't remember the fairies' cavaliers in the last act, so I can't place how Lund might be there. I haven't seen him in a few years -- and there has been no first rank classical coaching in that house for a decade now, so.... and I'm glad to hear that Boesen was impressive. (I'm pretty sure Haley Henderson is not Danish. It was interesting, though sad, that so few of the names you mentioned were Danish.)

The Theatre, by the way, is about to be replaced by a nice big new big modern -- did I say big? -- theater so that the company can do the big big big classics that the rest of the world does and become really important. So I'm glad you enjoyed sitting in the Old Theatre :) (They'll keep the building. I think the drama department will move back, which is good for them, as they've been exiled from their own theater for nearly 20 years and pushed into the ugly New Stage across the street.)

#14 Helena

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Posted 18 April 2002 - 06:37 AM

"It was interesting, though sad, that so few of the names you mentioned were Danish."

Yes, I thought that. It's the same everywhere. I knew they were building a new theatre - have you any idea where? I am very sad that Denmark is throwing away its heritage, if that is really the case. It's bad enough that Britain is, but Denmark's heritage is so much older. Overall, I thought the standard was much the same as the English Royal Ballet. They do seem to programme more Bournonville than we do Ashton, though.

Gudrun Bojeson's dancing made me think that someone must be doing something right, somewhere!

#15 Helena

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Posted 18 April 2002 - 06:53 AM

I thought after I had posted this that "It's the same everywhere" is a wild exaggeration. It's not the same in Paris - yet - and no doubt there are other examples of companies where all or most dancers are trained in their own school.


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