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  1. I'm afraid Erik Bruhn was never honored with a stamp. Actually, ballet related stamps are rather seldom. The latest examples are the beautiful "double stamp" celebrating the Bournonville Festival and Bournonville's 200 years birthday in 2005: http://frimaerker.ptt-museum.dk/frimaerke/1417/dk-1434 And before that we had the 200 anniversary of Galeotti's ballet "Amor og Balletmesterens Luner" (Cupid and Ballet Master's Whim) in 1986: http://frimaerker.ptt-museum.dk/frimaerke/881/dk-0873 Before that, Bournonville was celebrated in 1979 (the 100 anniversary of his death): http://frimaerker.ptt-museum.dk/frimaerke/690/dk-0691
  2. The national Danish postal service has launched a series of stamps celebrating the Golden Age (appr. 1800-1850 - a blossoming period of Danish culture, science and arts). One of the five motives is Bournonville's La Sylphide, showing the sylphide in her iconic listening posture, as a representative of the performing arts. I love the idea and I am proud on Bournonville's behalf, though I am not particularly fond of the drawing itself. Among the other motives are the steam locomotive "Odin" representing the industrial revolution and Thorvaldsens Museum representing the visual arts. See for yourself: https://www.postnord.dk/siteassets/pdf/filateli/dk1_2021_frimaerken_januar_dk.pdf
  3. The Royal Dansih Theatre has just opened to the public a highly interesting database with pictures of costumes used for ballets, operas and dramas performed at the theatre during the last three centuries: Costume database. The pictures are of an astonishing high quality. You can almost see every stitch in the costume, some of them made with an exquisite craftmanship and with lots of details, which you might not be able to see from a distance but which adds to the depth of the visual texture. The tailors of the Royal Theatre are famous for their craftmanship and creative power. Because of the many modern stagings the demand for handtailored costumes is rapidly declining as ready-to-wear clothes are taking over, and the tailors department has therefor been through some severe cut backs recently. The ballet, however, is still highly dependent on the specialized knowledge of the tailors, who know exactly which needs a ballet costume must cover. I browsed through the database and had many lovely rendez-vous's with costumes I remember from various stagings. A lovely detail is that many of the costums is made for a certain dancer, and you can see the label of the dancer sewn into the costume. There are costumes worn by dancers like Erik Bruhn, Kirsten Simone, Frank Schaufuss and Henning Kronstam, but I was particularly fond of seeing a costume from La Ventana worn by my childhood ballet teacher Ruth Andersen: La Ventana Spanish dance Happy browsing!
  4. It certainly looked more radiant and the colours were more shimmering when you sat in the theatre. But after having seen the ballet on KGL Xtra in its full length, I'm afraid I am no longer so sure of the deeper meaning of the lighting. The shafts of white light are coming down in a kind of geometrical pattern, which I couldn't see from my place in the theatre, and they might as well just be part of the décor and not necessarily serve any dramatic purpose of the kind I suggested. The timing also speaks a bit against it: Why should it start just before the finale of the divertissements, where James is still completely ravished by the sylphs (though admittedly also already a bit annoyed and confused by the sheer quantity of sylphs - probably he had no idea that there would be more than one...).
  5. The choreography is actually very well preserved, mainly due to the fact, that it has never left the repertoire since it was created. It has been performed in the RDB more than 800 times, and the roles were handed over from one dancer to the next. Moreover, until the 1960's a dancer almost literally "owned" a role until his or her retirement, which means that actually relatively few dancers have made their personal mark on the choreography since Bournonville died in 1875. But the style, when not the actual steps, has changed a lot since Bournonville's days: the dancers are taller and stronger (and slimmer) today, and the technique has developed hughely, especially the point shoe technique, which allows the dancers to do much more on pointe than Bournonville's dancers could. But there are a lot of expert people working with the conservation and preservation of the Bournonville style both at the theatre and outside. And yes, there exists a notation of the ballets, not all from Bournonville's own hand but from some of the dancers who still performed when he was ballet master. But I'll leave this last question to lthers who might know more.
  6. Nikolaj Hübbe’s new production of Bournonville’s La Sylphide (actually his third with the Royal Danish Ballet) was premiered a month ago. It has been treated fairly well in the reviews, very much indebted, I believe, to the feeling of relief that we finally got rid of his lifeless black and white production from 2014. Three stagings of the same ballet in a relatively short span of only 17 years, is clearly a luxury only a residing ballet master can bestow on himself. And it is indeed a luxury in times where the repertory due to cutbacks only allows very few new productions each year. Nevertheless, I was very excited about going to see a new Sylphide, which in Denmark's small ballet world is always a special occasion. The performance I saw was on the 21st November, with Caroline Baldwin, Jonathan Chmelensky and Esther Lee Wilkinson in the leading parts. Meanwhile the premiere performance has since yesterday been laid out for streaming on KGL Xtra: La Sylphide on KGL Xtra. The premiere cast was Ida Praetorius, Jón Axel Fransson and Kizzy Matiakis (by the way her last role before retiring 😥). On the homepage and in the printed programme it says that the choreography is by Nikolaj Hübbe after August Bournonville. Modesty has never been part of Hübbe's leadership of the RDB, but this I wouldn't have thought of him: I may not be able to detect minor changes from the original, but the choreography was definitely Bournonville's. Hübbe might have made smaller changes or put his own mark on the execution of the steps, but that doesn't entitle him to call the choreography his own. The staging According to Nikolaj Hübbe and his set designer Mia Stensgaard, the overall intention of this production was to make a very romantic one, maybe as an antidote to the former one. The staging itself is indeed pretty, sometimes breathtakingly so, especially in the forest act. The lighting effect when the Sylphide summons her sylph-friends in the forest is like a Watteau painting coming to life. The first act is more subdued and held in decent blue and grey colours, the only loud colour being the bright blue of James’ family tartan. The set design consists of multiple layers of printed draperies, which can be opaque or transparent, depending on the lighting, a technique also used to great effect in the 2nd act of Hübbe's staging of Giselle, where you, like in this Sylph’s forest, never really know, whether you are in a real space or in a soulscape. To indicate that the forest ist probably not for real and more likely represents a dream world, some of the big portières from the first act remain in the second act, the only difference being, that they are now rosy instead of blue. Golden and shimmering colours of rose dominate the forest scene, and until it dawns on James that his dream might be escaping him (as the Sylph lovingly but firmly denies him any bodily intimacy), the scene is bathed in a soft, golden light. As his frustration grows and eventually makes him an easy prey to the scheming Madge, the golden light is penetrated by cold, white arrays of light from above, like reality seeping in. When eventually both he and the Sylph are dead as a result of their uncompromising pursuit of an impossible dream, a flat and greyish white light also engulfs Madge: She also had a dream that didn’t come true, on the contrary: Her love-hate for James has, despite her clever scheming to get him for herself, finally destroyed him, and in the end she stands equally bereaved. An interesting and convincing way of portraying Madge that was originally introduced by Sorella Englund, who is co-director on this production. I deliberately chose the word “pretty” instead of beautiful to describe the staging, as to indicate a certain lack of depth. It is pretty in the way also a fashion show or a life style magazine can be pretty whilst playfully transgressing the boundaries into kitsch. I’m not sure whether this is intended, but to mine eyes it does tend to kitsch occasionally. The staging is simply too much décor instead of being an integral part of the drama. The style takes over and suffocates the story to a certain amount. The effect is somehow too calculated. Normally I can’t help shedding a tear at the end of both act one and two, finding Effy’s and James’ tragedy equally unbearable, but this time I kept aloof all the time, just watching and analysing what I saw. The dancers According to interviews available on YouTube and KGL Xtra, the dancers have been allowed an individual take on their roles. It is a fine tradition at the RDB, and for the audience it makes every cast a new way of exploring into the ballets multifaceted universe. Caroline Baldwin’s interpretation was a surprise to me. Her Sylphide was a calculating little creature who uses all tricks at hand to get what she wants. No big-eyed innocence à la Lis Jeppesen here! She is besotted with James, just as she is besotted with the fatal scarf, and she reaches greedily out for both. Baldwin has acquired a fleeting, featherlight way of dancing for the role, which gives you the impression that she barely makes any imprint on the ground, an impression underlined by her beautiful arms and hands fluttering equally weightless around her. What fascinated me most was her lovely way of slowing down midways during a pirouette or a turning arabesque, using it consciously as a way of bewitching James, casting flirtatious eyes in his direction by every turn. Her shock, however, when she is suddenly trapped in the veil, is genuine and without affectation. She, too, is having her own brutal encounter with the sometimes deadly forces of reality. Jonathan Chmelensky was a sympathetic and non-sophisticated James, a nice guy, who treats his fiancée well, and who had no idea what hit him before it was too late. He stood no chance with two women like Baldwin’s Sylph and Esther Lee Wilkinson’s Madge. Chmelensky still has a beautiful, catlike powerfulness when he soars through the air, and his dancing is always well-proportiened and balanced. But he brings nothing new to the role. Esther Lee Wilkinson was a very young Madge, an ageing beauty, oozing with desire for James. The costume, though, didn't do much for her and it looked more like an outworn hippie-costume from the seventies than a witch's outfit. When you see Kizzy Matiakis in the same dress it looks like it grows on her or even out of her, making her a nature's creature like the sylph. Camilla Rueløkke Holst was an endearing Effy who never really warms up to Benjamin Buza's energetic Gurn. Buza is developing a lot these years, steadily gaining more stage presence, and he had an impressive solo in the first act, making fine – and dramatically intended – competition to James' later solo. Eleonora Morris was 1st Sylph. She was somehow miscasted and made the choreography look unnatural and artificial. The cast list in the printed programmes of the RDB arrogantly ignore dancers in smaller parts, like the two others solo sylphs, who must dance in complete anonymity. Only by scrutinizing the pictures of the corps dancers on the homepage you may be able to guess who you have seen. I think the dancers deserve better.
  7. Like so many other companies the RDB has chosen to present a long row of their ballet production on video during the Corona-period. That means that a lot of goodies are now available online, some of which you would otherwise never have come near. You find them all here: https://kglteater.dk/xtra/forestillinger/?section=31873. They are not all meant for public display, and are therefore not perfectly filmed, but this way you get to see performances which would else have been kept an inhouse secret. Recommendable is above all a splendid "Romeo and Juliet" with Andreas Kaas and Ida Praetorius, and a charming rarity like "Ballo della Regina" by Balanchine, performed with dazzling esprit. The latter you find under the title "Dronning Margrethes 80-års fødselsdagsgave". Beside many ballet performances you'll find some fine opera perforamnces as well. Enjoy!
  8. Yes, you could translate it that way, only I'm not sure whether "mixed-up" includes the slightly chaotic note of "durcheinander".
  9. Yesterdays performance of John Neumeier's Nutcracker was full of wonderful surprises - and of a completely unexpected nature! Not until we got the printed programme did we get a hint of something unusual coming up: For every main roles, 3 or 4 dancers were listed, and among the names for the Marie's role was that of Alina Cojocaru, who is a favorite of mine. First I thought it was a mistake but the programmeselling lady said (with a slightly mischievious smile) that it was not and that we should wait and see. Before the performance started John Neumeier himself appeared and addressed the audience with a little speech: Not only was it New Year's Eve, it was also the 300th performance of his Nutcracker, and therefore he had decided to make it a bit special: All the main roles were danced by 3 or 4 dancers at the same time, so that everybodies' favorite dancer would be on stage that night - so he said. It sounds impossible but it actually worked well and was absolutely hilarious to watch. Sometimes the dancers made the steps completely synchronized, sometimes individualized, and sometimes they shared a solo by dancing in turn. Like Neumeier, with a smile, said in German, playing with the words (and therfore impossible to translate): "Sie werden nebeneinander, nacheinander und manchmal vielleicht durcheinander tanzen..." The stage was a bit crowded sometimes and it must have been quite a big job to coordinate it. But it worked marvelously and made the story even more fun or, maybe one shoud say, fun in an other way than the ordinary way. A perfect New year's Eve treat!
  10. Yes, the reviews were indeed very good, and of course it is some kind of event, when a wellknown choreographer creates a full-length ballet especially for our company. I saw it and was impressed but never moved by it. I liked the inventiveness of Liam Scarlett's choreography, though he couldn't keep up the steem all the time, especially the last scene where Hermann goes mad seemed to go on endlessly. I was surprised, that Scarlett in many ways was so conventional, especially in his pas de deux's: Very much of "man lifting and supporting woman". Most convincing actually was his ensembles and corps dances, for some choreographers, like Ashton and MacMillan, often the weakest parts. But Scarlett has an eye for creating surprising and "edgy" movements and patterns for a large group of dancers, and they are not only visually interesting but also creating meaning and telling stories. The decor was perhaps what made the experience such a cold one. A huge steel and glass construction lit up by harsh white or greyish light was moved up and down and around the stage to etablish different locations, but without ever looking like anything but a large steel and glass construcion. Andreas Kaas had the leading role as Hermann. He is a very able dancer but his acting still remains, to me at least, somewhat external. He is often pairing Ida Praetorius, and I hope her naturalness and expressiveness will rob off onto him with time. She was an endearing and very touching Liza. Kitty Mathiakis was an impressive Queen of Spades, but the role and the heavy mask-like make-up didn't give her much opportunity to act, neither did the costume leave her much space to dance. The music was by Tschaikovsky, or so the programme said... Well, in a way it was, it just didn't sound like him. Martin Yates has made a patchwork of mostly lesser known music by Tshcaikovsky, and he has orchestrated, recomposed and chained it together it in his own way, rather heavy handed and very far from the original. Being very familiar with Tschaikovkys music, I had sometimes problems recognizing his music. But as theatrical music it worked out fine. Like Lanchbery's adaptions of Massenet's music works well in MacMillan's Manon without ever sounding much like Massenet. Sometimes adaptions of this brutal kind work better on the stage, than more true- to the-original scores where the length of the individual sections of the music is often at odds with the dramatic flow.
  11. I have followed this thread from the sideline, not sure whether I could add anything new after having read the interviews with and the articles by Alexander Meinertz. I think his views are absolutely to the point regarding the state of the RDB under Hübbe's reign, and especially Hübbe's handling of the Bournonville heritage. Meinertz' statement at the end of his article "Hübbe's Company" could have been mine, only better worded: I went to only one performance during the festival and I had chosen the "Bornonvilleana" which was the second night of the festival. The festival programme as a whole was extremely thin, embarrassing so. Unfortunately the Bournonvilleana was a rather tame affair, too, reducing Bournonville to a series of solos and ensembles taken out of their context, with only the finale of Napoli in a staged version. The rest was danced on a bare stage with an oldfashioned onesided theatre curtain as the only backdrop. After the overture from La Sylphide the curtain rose to reveal the corps clad in the plain gray costumes from Hübbe's version of the very same ballet, dancing the reel. In Hübbe's version the happy scotsmen are replaced by unhappy scotsmen, afraid of both love and life. The contrast between the festive music and the gloomy visual impression was even more shocking and absurd here, seen as it was out of context. The story was left out and the reel thus turned into pure dance. This turned out to be symptomatic of the evening: An hommage to Bournonville, the step-maker. After "Pas de Vestale", an extremely difficult pas de deux preserved in one of the Bournonville Schools, a series of male variations from famous pas de deux's took place, probably in order to demonstrate the versatility of male dance in Bournonville's oeuvre. But you couldn't help feeling fobbed off when offered only a single male variation from "The Flowerfest of Genzano" at a Bournonville Gala! The programme went on in this manner for a long time, a lot of steps without a story, until suddenly, before the second and last intermission, we had the finale of La Sylphide, with witch, assisting sylphs and everything, but still no props. These finally came on for the last act of Napoli. The pas de six and the following solos were danced with much youthful temperament and charm but not with much individuality. I miss the changing tempi and free phrasing which characterized the generation of dancers from the last festival 13 years ago. Now it is all very quick and efficient, no sophistications, like dragging time by lying behind the beat or otherwise play with our expectations. The tarantella was initiated by a couple of young dancers with an almost aggressive energy, and that laid the style for rest, the ballet ending in total hip-swaying abandon. Never has Act III looked more like rock'n roll. It was on purpose when above I said "step-maker" and not choreographer, because that is what Hübbe reduced Bournonville to on that occasion. And unfortunately not only on this occasion. Alexander Meinertz brings it to the point, what is wrong with the way the Bournonville legacy is handled today. I highly recommend reading the interview and the article in their full length. I totally agree with his point of view, and it actually makes me very sad to admit it, because, like others, I had great hopes when Hübbe took over the company a decade ago. Especially after having seen his production of La Sylphide in 2003, where he really brought life from within to this classic, without killing it first, like he did in his second and disastrous production in 2015 which I have written about earlier on this site. Hübbe's productions are more Hübbe than they are Bournonville. He keeps saying that he shows Bournonville respect by challenging him and "wrestling" with him, but when asked what exactly it is he values so highly, it always boils down to the steps. Hübbe adores the musicality of Bournonvilles choreography, and I believe him, when he says so, but the romantic and dramatic spirit in which the ballets - and the steps - are conceived seems to be indigestable to him. And in stead of leaving the job of directing them to someone else, who doesn't have these reservations, he just peals off the layers he doesn't like and adds some he personally thinks is more interesting. The problem is that what he removes is not the outer layers but actually the very core of the ballets. Meinertz puts it this way:
  12. Eva Kistrup has some more news on this appointment in on her blog: "Breaking News! Andreas Kaas made principal dancer". And earlier this spring Kistrup had an interesting interview with Andreas Kaas, just after he returned from a guest stay with the Marinsky ballet : Interview "In all, Andreas Kaas is having a fabulous season. He is practically dancing all the male leads in the RDB season. Following a Kylian programme, he has the leading male role in “Raymonda” + the role of Beranger, “The Nutcracker”, ”Swan Lake” and “Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux”. He is currently learning the leading male role for Liam Scarlett’s creation for RDB, a ballet based on Pushkin’s “Queen of Spades”.
  13. After his performance as Hermann in Liam Scarletts Queen of Spades last night Andreas Kaas was promoted to solo dancer, the highest rank in the RDB. The announcement was made on stage by Nikolaj Hubbe to standing ovations from a cheering audience. Congratulations, Andreas!
  14. New York Times had an obituary yesterday: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/21/obituaries/nini-theilade-dancer-in-reinhardts-dream-dies-at-102.html?emc=edit_th_180222&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=60038520
  15. In the Danish newspaper "Jyllands-Posten" an obituary was brought today. Unfortunately you cannot read the obituary if you are not a subscriber, but i link to it anyway, as you can see an absolutely lovely picture of the grand old lady with one of her colleagues at the school "Oure Sport & Performing Art", where she taught till she was 98: Obituary of Nini Theilade
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