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Everything posted by Anne

  1. I have seen Amy Watson in many major roles over the last decade, but I didn't really warm up to her until I saw her as Anita in Robbins' West Side Story Suite back in 2011, where she revealed a gorgeous temperament. She danced with a hot fury, which you, or at least I, wouldn't have thought her in possession of. She did it again, though in a more subdued and subtle manner, as the glamorous Babe in Come Fly Away, where she was a worthy partner to Lendorf's Sid. Shortly after that she danced the Señorita in Gudrun Bojensen's staging of "La Ventana", where I marvelled at her playful and seemingly effortless rendering of the Bournonville style. It was not the first time I saw her doing Bournonville but she never until then appeared to me to be more than just pleasant and charming but nothing special. She is not actually a favorit of mine but I have come to like her very much, and after her performance last Friday I thought it would be very interesting to see her Sylph in a full perfomance. Some dancers get more interesting with increasing years, and this can, in the end, be a very frustrating experience: You suddenly discover a quality in a dancer you didn't see in him or her before, and gradually you learn to appreciate what makes this dancer special, then trying to get to see as many perfomances as possible, and whoops, next thing you do is buying a ticket for his or hers farewell performance. And you keep asking yourself: Was I blind before, or is this dancer one of those precious "late bloomers", where all the qualities suddenly melt together and hint at the sublime? I know it is banal, but I'm always surprised how fresh the pain is every tíme you say goodbye to a dancer. You never get used to it!
  2. Thank you for directing our attention towards this interview. You are right, she sounds lovely - and very sympathetic and modest, with a charming "smile in her voice".
  3. I was there too, and I agree with you, Syrene, that the common thread allegedly running through the programme was a bit thin. But like you I enjoyed what I saw and heard (or most of it...), only was I very disappointed about the set-up as such: The event had been sold as a "Hübberiet", a concept which Hübbe has run for many years in Copenhagen. The idea of the concept is to invite people from different areas of cultural life to discuss all kinds of themes, ranging from "prejudice, racism, vanity to sexuality" – these were examples presented in the advance publicity. I have never been to a "Hübberi" in Copenhagen and looked very much forward to experiencing it. But this had nothing to do with a "Hübberi", it was just a colourful mix of entertainment with Hübbe as a compére reading aloud from a manuscripte between the numbers. But these grumblings of mine are of very little interest to people outside Aarhus, and I will therefore turn to the actual programme instead, concentrating on the ballet excerpts: Like you Syrene I liked the ballet by Gregory Dean "On the feeling of light" very much and would be happy to see it again some day. It had an appealing freshness, and the 8 soloists brought a crisp and springy quality to the steps. Dean used Max Richter's recomposition of Vivaldi's Four Seasons, which is really interesting to listen to. The Swan Lake pdd was not so much to my taste, mostly because I'm not so fond of Holly Dean Dorger. To me she has too much the air of a healthy and enthusiastic college girl to really fit the elegiac and enigmatic character of Odette/Odile. She is a technically very secure dancer, but still this pdd calls for all her concentration (for most young dancers it would), leaving a vacant expression on her face for much of the time. I saw Jaime Crandall in the live cinema transmission this spring, and though I don't think she is the ideal Odette/Odile either, she had more to give to the role, partly because she is a more experienced dancer. It is a matter of taste, really, what you like best, but with 6 dancers cast for the role, and most of them new to the role, none of them get a chance to develope in the role, neither technically nor characterwise, as they typically get only a few performances each (Hübbe's casting strategies stay a mystery to me). As Syrene wrote, Jonathan Chmelensky had sprung in to replace Alban Lendorf, who had been announced as one of the stars of the show. No-one bothered to communicate this, though, neither from the stage or by any written announcement. Well, I like Chmelensky very much and was thrilled to see him, so I didn't mind the change so much. He is a very elegant dancer with beautiful, harmonious lines and an amazing abilty to get straight into the air without preparation, and with the softest of landings – you don't hear a sound, I love that! But he didn't fit well into Twyla Tharp's solo "September of my years" from Come Fly Away, which should have been preformed by Lendorf, who also did it when they ran Come Fly Away last year. Chmelensky's style looked too clean and ballet-like, but like Syrene points out, he has probably not done this solo before and has sprung in with short notice. He was also a bit of an alien to James in the short rehearsal-like interlude with La Sylphide together with Amy Watson. I don't know if Hübbe plans to cast him as James when the ballet comes up later this season (– maybe we are going to see another 3 new James'es this season ...). I wasn't aware that Watson has been injured - I'm sorry to hear that. I didn't notice her being any different, however. Lightness was never one of her main virtues, but she has the "light-footed-ness", or speediness, called for in the Bournonville repertoire, which in my opinion suits her very well. I think she has adapted the Bournonville style almost to pefection. At any rate, she is a lovely dancer who has grown more interesting with every year. Her sylph was definately an interesting one and not a very pleasant one, with an almost poisonois sweetness to her red-lipped white face. Scary might be the right word and it fits well into the morbid character of Hübbe's production, which comes on tour to Aarhus in January.
  4. The front page of today's issue of "Jyllands Posten" (one of the biggest Danish newspapers) was adorned bya large portrait of Alban Lendorf, announcing an 8 pages long interview with the young dancer under the title "Worldclass Balletsteps" (my translation) inside the newspaper, The interviewer Isabella Alonso de Vera Hindkjær has followed Lendorf during a period, where he was, among other things, a guest dancer with the English National Ballet. An ultra short summary (my translations)": The portrait/interview doesn't reveal much new stuff, but to new comers to ballet I'm sure it gives a very good insight into the life and psyche of a top dancer, who has to be at his very best all the time, and who's body already at 25 starts aching and reminding him about the mercilessness of ageing - "a strange thing to worry about when I am only 25" he says, "but it is a world where one is out of business at the age of 40" and with one of his typical split second switches of mood he continues with a laughter "Then you are nothing anymore". Like other dancers at his age he is eager to make the most of it and not to miss anything. Also he talks about, how, as a dancer, confronted with his own reflection in the mirror every day, he scrutinizes himself and finds faults all the time, no matter how much praise he gets - "It is lost on you", as he says. But at the same time he admits that he, like all artists, thrives on being loved by the audience: "You want people to like you".
  5. I was actually trying to write the German title of the company (misspelling Ballett ). They are from the same country as the Frankfurter Ballett, by the way .
  6. I found this fine interview/portrait of Sebastian Haynes by Eva Kistrup on her blog "DanceViewTimes" from back in November: Interview Here you'll also find two interesting reports on the many new casts in "A Folk Tale": The Art of Longlivity A Troll Is Born In the former you also find a review of the Hamburger Ballet's production of Bournonville's "Napoli" by former RDB-dancer Lloyd Riggins.
  7. When I saw the first run of Hübbe’s new staging of A Folk Tale back in 2011, I was rather disappointed. Because of the visually spectacular scenery with its huge, ornate set pieces, sometimes looking like papercuttings sometimes like a bombeshelled ghosthouse, it was like the story had drowned in the oppulence of the setting, which also made the dancers look oddly small. Also, like many others have pointed out before me, this kind of ballet with more mime than dance is very ill suited by the large dimensions of the new opera house. This season they have been so wise as to move the production to the more intimate old theatre, thereby making some changes to make it fit into the smaller stage. But it still looked great, though not all to my taste – the trolls’ hill for example is far to small (and it looks too much like cardboard and perspex, when it opens). The production was sent on tour to Aarhus between Chritsmas and New years Eve, with three performances in all, and with three different casts. I saw two of them. My overall impression this time was that of a performance which had come to life. No matter what you think of the ideas behind the staging, no matter whether you like the scenery or not, you couldn’t help being taken in by the dancers’s highly spirited performances. Their vivaciousness and sheer joy of performing transmit to the audience with a force you can’t resist. This is a quality the RDB possesses when it is at its best: They can fill every corner of the stage with life, down to the most subordinate parts: no one is just “hanging around”, waiting for his or her turn to dance or do something. THE DANCERS Hübbe has wished to shed more light on the trolls than has been the case in former productions. As a consequence he pushes above all Birthe into the very centre of the drama, to the point that she and Hilda get an equal share of interest. She is even allowed an appearance and a (new) solo at the very end of the ballet, where she has finally found a place in life, where she can find an outlet for her wild troll’s spirit: as a dancer! The RDB has at the moment a truly gifted character dancer and mime in Kizzy Matiakis, who was the Birthe of the first cast. Her “troll-ness” is coming towards us as a sheer force of nature, which she by no means can control herself. We believe her, when her body and mind involuntarily and up to the point of senseless rage revolt against the nice manners of the noble society around her. She leads a terror regime, a hated but also a very lonely person, to whom only the old nurse has emotional access (played with much delicacy by one of the senior members of the corps, Charlotte Khader). You actually feel a bit sorry for her – it is no fun being a troll among humans… When she finally meets the other trolls, it slowly dawns on her, that she belongs among these odd creatures, at first only intuitively feeling a kinship but moments later realising with a mixture of horror and relief that they are like herself. You could read all this in Matiakis’ face, a truly masterful display of mime! Alba Nadal was a very different Birthe, focusing more on the character’s wild temperament and rebelliousness. She hasn’t the same wide range of expressions at her disposal as Matiakis, but if I hadn’t seen Matiakis first, I think I would have loved Alba Nadal’s less sophisticated and less mad troll unreservedly. It is a matter of taste whether Birthe and the trolls in general take up too much space in this version of a Folk Tale – most of the first scene is dominated totally by Birthe, even during the peasants dance divertissements. Like in Hübbe’s new Sylphide the peasants dance stiff and joyless because they do it on the command of Birthe and under the control of two armed gendarms (one of Hübbe’s inventions). Probably in order not to spoil all the dance interludes of the scene by converting it into purely mechanical dancing, the solo dances are performed by members of a professional dance troup engaged by Mr. Mogens, Birthe’s suitor and husband-to-be. These dancers will later reappear in the pas de sept in the finale of the ballet. Alexander Stæger has created his very own concotion of slyness and slimy charm, as Mr. Mogens which made him a perfect macth for Matiakis’ Birthe. Jonathan Chmelensky made a more elegant but less significant of Mr. Mogens in the second cast. The other trolls of the first cast were performed by Morten Eggert as Muri, Sebastian Kloborg as her elder son Diderik (in both casts) and Elisabeth Dam as her younger son Viderik. In the second cast Cedric Lambrette took over Muri and Tobias Praetorius was Viderik. I’m happy to see that Kloborg has developed into such a fine mime. To express the troll’s nature he had furthermore invented an almost acrobatically distorted body language which was hilarious to watch. Kloborg’s only weakness is that he tends to overdo things. It makes no difference who is performing Muri, as the costume is so enormous that it nearly stands between the audience and the character, only the brutality of the character comes over. But who is doing Viderik makes a big difference. Elisabeth Dam, who has created many lovely minor characters in the Bournonville repertoire over the years, is very much in line with Lis Jeppesen’s cute and softhearted Viderik. The young Tobias Praetorius has a more straightforward approach to the character, which was quite refreshing. Hilary Gusweiler and Gregory Dean were Hilda and Junker Ove of the first cast. They match each other nicely, both tall and lean dancers with a natural air and with beautiful long lines, though Gusweiler technique is less fluent than Dean’s. Dean has a natural gift for the danseur noble roles, adding to them an endearing boyish charm, which makes them more human and emotionally accessible for the audience. In the second cast he danced in the pas de sept and did so brilliantly (only did the conductor nearly spoiled one of his solos by establishing a much too fast tempo which made it nearly impossible for him to execute the steps – maybe that was the reason why he looked so unhappy at the curtain calls afterwards). The Hilda of the second cast was Caroline Baldwin. She has the sweetness of “the girl next door” and is a more lively and warmer stage personality than Gusweiler, who still has to work at varying her expressions. Gusweiler on the other hand is more believable as a nobleman’s daughter, her hight and beautiful long neck giving her a more “aristicratic” look. Baldwin’s Junker Ove was the young Sebastian Haynes, whom Hübbe has given a lot of chances lately, among other things the role of Madge in the latest production of La Sylpide. A recruit of the Royal Danish Ballet School he entered the corps less than 2 years ago. That he is a dancer of extraordinary potential is without a doubt. A longlimbed dancer, who at the age of 20 has already acquired the technique of a mature dancer, powerful yet elegant and with a soaring quality to his jumps. As an actor, though, he still has some developement to go through before his acting equals the maturity of his dancing. He made a sympathetic character of his Junker Ove but still lacks the ability to establish a three-dimensional stage character. But it is, admitted, much harder to play these princely types than to do a character role. Unfortunately I didn’t see his Madge – but according to Eva Kistrup (DanceViewtimes) he actually made an interesting figure. It will certainly be interesting to follow him over the next couple of years. NEW MUSIC Some new music has been added (taken from other works by the ballets two composers Gade and Hartmann). Some of the additions are quite harmless and fits well into the context, but one of them are a bad mistake: They have needed some more music for the scene, where Hilda calls Junker Ove back to life. For this use they have taken some of Hartmann’s music to Bournonville’s ballet “The Valkyrie”: An orchestral piece with solo harpe, solo flute and solo violin which originally accompanied a tableau of 12 maids coming out of greek temple.The sound of this music is so different from the rest of the music, that it almost hurts the ear. Many ballet scores from this time was a patchwork of music from many different sources and different composers, sometimes taken form already existing works – popular opera tunes, dance tunes etc. In a ballet like that it wouldn’t do so much harm, but A Folk Tale is, in spite of being the work of two composers, a very homogenous work, and the two composers and Bournonville collaborated closely in order to establish coherence and to aggree on musical themes that should go through the whole ballet. Therefore one should be more careful with additions than in any other of his ballets. NEW CHOREOGRAPHY The choreography for this pas de deux is of course new, too. Adding choreography has been a well known practice all days, and many dancers of the company are so familiar with Bournonville that they can create steps in his style. In this case Hübbe has apparently wanted to make something more free of Bournonville, with many lifts, which you never see in a Bournonville ballet (he thought of man and woman as equals, and therefore theyshould also dance “on the same level”, so to speak). Worse, though, is the new choreography for Junker Ove’s solo just before the troll’s hill opens. It developes slowly,showing him brooding over his future, but it ends in an almost russian manner with a show off of big jumps and a series of grand jetés round the stage, as if we were in the middle of the Corsaire. Hrmpf! THE IDEAS BEHIND THE STAGING In the printed programme the musicologist and art historian Ole Nørlyng, who has been Nikolaj Hübbe ’s dramaturge and artistic advisor on the production, sets out the ideas behind transfering the story of the ballet from the early sixteenth to the late nineteenth century. According to Nørlyng, the starting point was Hübbe’s association to the paintings of Vilhelm Hammershøi when listening to the music of Hartmann and Gade: ”There is such a beautiful light in that music. It is like the light in Hammershøi’s paintings – the dance of the dust motes...” (my translation). He is refering to a very famous painting by Hammershøi with the title ” Dust Motes Dancing in the Sunbeams” [Danish title: Støvkornenes dans i solstrålerne]: Hammershøi's painting The inspiration is clearly seen in this stage photo from the 3rd act: RDB picture gallery: A Folk Tale It is no farfetched association, and I can easily relate from the music to the myriad of fine colours shimmering in the dust motes of the painting. It is the same light you find in Mendelssohn’s music, by whom Gade was highly influenced. But is that enough? If you transform a piece in such a radical way, you need some very good arguments, or else it is just a whim. The arguments brought out by Ole Nørlyng are not convincing and full of incongruities: He and Hübbe have settled for the 1880’es, and many of the costumes are with precise hints to this exact period and its tense political situation. An example are the soldiers in act 1, who wear the blue uniforms of the much feared government police guard which existed from 1885-1894. Hammershøi’s interior paintings, on the contrary, date from 1900 and onwards. The same problem occurs with another source of inspiration: The paintings of the Danish painter J. F. Willumsen (1863-1958): ”A Physicist” [En Fysiker] and ”The female mountaineer” [En Bjergbestigerske], which according to Hübbe and Nørlyng should be the new Junker Ove and Hilda. The paintings are from 1904/1912 and can be seen here: Willumsen's paintings I simply can’t relate these two modern and very 20th-century-ish people to the dreamy Junker Ove and the Hilda we see on stage. Neither do their costumes indicate anything of that kind - and I’m glad they don’t! Why then bother to write it in the programme? It is just noise. Two other sources of inspiration mentioned by Ole Nørlyng are more clearly present in the production: 1. Freud’s theory of hysteria (and the discovery of the unconscious) (1902) and 2. Nietzsches proclamation of the death of God (1882): The first one you see clearly visualized in the world of trolls and elfs in act 2, who display a wide scope of sexual and mental abnormities belonging to the psyciatric ward, and in Birthe’s wild fury against being forced into “normality”. The hip long slit in Birthe’s dress and her obscene display of legs tells the same story – or, more correctly, tells us what problems the society has with its own supressed sexuality. This is made further clear by the parallels drawn between the nobility and the trolls: The dress of Muri for example is a distorted version of Lady Kirstine’s dress. It is fine that they have tried to make the troll’s world more dangerous than the former production from the 1990’es, but they shouldn’t have brought it so far away from the sphere of the music and the spirit of Bournonville as they do in the party of act 2 (Hübbe calls it a rave-party): It is more like a freak show, and their cruel tormenting of three elf maids in the end (maybe they even kill them) goes far beyond anything expressed in the music. The second one, the Nietzsche element is marked by the absence of anything religious. Like in Napoli Hübbe has replaced religion with love. To Bournonville I’m sure those two elements were not mutually exclusive. Hübbe might be right about his observations about the hammerhøisian light in the soft and colourful music of Gade and Hartmann, but it is hard to hear Nietzsche and Freud in it – really! And if the music was the main inspiration to Hübbe, or as Nørlyng puts it “the starting signal to a flood of pictures”, maybe he should have kept listening to the music and not exceed the aesthetic and emotional limits of it. It is a strange characteristic of modern staging, that the stagers feel a need to eliminate what they don’t like themselves or what they cannot relate to personally. If the core values of Bournonville are so much against Hübbe’s own perception of the world, maybe he should leave the interpretation of his Bournonville’s ballets to somebody else, as the Danish critic Henrik Lyding put it lately..
  8. If the book cannot be found in an ordinary bookstore, I know the webshop of the RDB does overseas orders: Link The book is beautifully made, as pointed out by kbarber. I was especially fond of the documentation of the RDB's frequent presence at Jacob's Pillow. The book has been made on the initiative of Nikolaj Hübbe, who himself is an example of the Danish-American cultural exchange. If one should criticize the book for something it would be, that Aschengreen has chosen to paint the picture in too rosy colours. No mentioning for example of the difficulties of making Bournonville's ballet with their 3/4 mime and 1/4 dance accessible to an American audience, who has grown up with Balanchine's abstract ballets, modern dance and the bravura dance of ballet classics like Don Quixote. Furthermore one could have wished for more informations (of which I'm absolutely sure Aschengreen is capable, as his knowledge in this field is almost borderless): You get the feeling that the author has restrained himself and tried not to make the book too heavy on informations. This sometimes make the balance between pictures and text tilt (many nearly empty pages with only a picture and a short comment). But the book is certainly worth having. The angle is new, and you find informations in it, which, to my knowledge, hasn't been published before.
  9. Ib Andersen celebrates his 60th birthday today. Congratulations! Ib Andersen was a cherished dancer in Copenhagen before he left Denmark to be a principal dancer with the NYVB at the beginning of the 1980'ies. I was so lucky to see him, before he left, as Albrecht in Giselle, and I still remember the way he almost floated through the air. The season before last season he made a charming staging of Bournonville's Kermesse of Bruges with the RDB, which i hope will soon be revived.
  10. It is great to have Meinertz' own translation - thank you!
  11. Alexander Meinertz hits the bull's eye in many aspects of his review. It is a harsh but also a very refreshing view on Hübbe's take on La Sylphide. As he rightly points out it dimineshes the ballet's rich and open scope of interpretations. Unfortunately the google translation is bad, close to incomprehensible. If I get the time maybe I will try and translate bits of it myself - it might not be flawless but probably more understandable.
  12. Bournonville's La Sylphide was coupled with Lander's Etudes, a revival of Thomas Lund's staging from last year. Coming from the sinister, claustrophibic world of La Sylphide where the walls are closing in on the protagonists, it was like entering a completely different world, full of life, brilliance and open space. The corps did a brilliant job all way through, but especially the opening sequenses with all the exercises at the barre were performed with an impressive amount of precision, The soloists where J'aime Crandall as the ballerina, partnered nobly by Gregory Dean in the romantic, 19th century pas de deux, and by Jon Axel Fransson and Alban Lendorf as the cavalliers in the bravoura parts. I was deeply impressed by Crandall. She mastered fully the romantic style as well as the glittering classical style, and she had all the radiance required to be the natural center of it all. She has the most beautiful arms and makes perfect use of her pliant upper body. Her two cavalliers were a fine match to her, though I think they should cast two dancers of more different stature and style. Fransson and Lendorf are too much alike, which makes it hard for Fransson to stand comparition with Lendorf, and that is not fair. A tall lean dancer would have been more able to "combat" on his own premisses - or a short quick one, but that wouldn't do with a tall ballerina like Crandall. Everybody danced with a sunny playfulness, which is so important to this ballet if it shall not be just a showcase of virtuoso steps. I couldn't help smiling all the time and I felt refreshed afterwards like after a champagne shower (I haven't tried it, I must admit, but I imagine the feeling must be somewhat like it...). Last time I saw Etudes I held my breath all the time, but this time it was a more relaxed experience, not for the dancers I am sure, but for the audience, and this approach towards a more smiling and human attitude must be a credit to Thomas Lund's direction. All in all a performance that made one very confident, that the RDB is a ressourceful and technically well trimmed company.
  13. I agree with you, Sandik, and your words are exactly the ones I have told myself during the last couple of years, every time I got frustrated about missing dancers in the rep. But a ballet master has to realize, that there is a limit to how much talenthe is able to nurture. The RDB is brimming with talent at the moment, and I fully understand Hübbe's dilemma, but if you try and feed them all, no one is getting satisfied in the end. I don't argue that older dancers should automatically have priority - that would block a natural "transition over time", as you put it. But on the other hand, if a company is dominated too strongly by its young talent, you risk that the "transition over time" breaks from within. I think a ballet master has to acknowledge when he has dancers in the company who are a class above all the others, not just technically but in this over all "mix" that defines a star, like Bojesen, like Lund, like Schandorff, to mention some of the recent ones. The ballet master has an obligation towards their extraordinary talent and also towards the audience, who, I think, has a right to see them. Especially in an art form like dance where the live performance can never be matched by any electronic reproduction (apart from that, the RDB don't produce dvd's so you don't even have that opportunty).
  14. I think it is a great strength of a staging that each cast is allowed to have its own take at the roles. I would love to see some of the other casts, as it sounds like they are all adding new nuances t the story. I'm especially happy to hear from Jane that Gregory Dean made a fine James. I think he is going to be a fine asset to the group of soloist/principals, not only because he is a fine dancer but because he fills out a gap. He has a natural gift for lyricism, that is one of his most obvious qualities, but he can do more than that and has already shown his versatilty: he can do the princely, noble type, the young and boyish type (Romeo/Lysander) and the macho type as last seen in Come Fly Away. And now comes his James who requires a bit of it all. Gregory Dean has not had much to do since he was promoted a principal last December, but who has? With only 20-25 ordinary performances during the whole spring season this year, many dancers didn't set foot on stage at all. One of the rarely seen dancers is Gudrun Bojesen, who has almost disappeared during last season. The same seems to happen this season (apart from her appearances in The Lady of the Camellias), unless Hübbe plans to cast her as Odette/Odile, which I doubt. It can almost make me cry (if it didn't at the same time make me so absolutely furious!), as she is now 38 and hasn't many years left as an active dancer (they leave by 40 in the RDB). The same happened to another star dancer of the company, Thomas Lund, who were equally seldom seen during the last precious years of his career as a dancer. Dancers who have passed the age of 35 don't seem to have many chances with Hübbe. It is fantastic to see young, talented dancers, no doubt about that, but a company is also characterized by its mature artists, who bring something unique to a performance and to a company as such. Just think of former star dancers like Silja Schandorff, Heidi Ryom and Kenneth Greve – and Hübbe himself – who were allowed to bloom until the very end of their career. For the younger dancers, too, it is an inspiration to be able to work with these experienced dancers, and furthermore it is a way of securing continuity and character of the company – but maybe that is exactly what Hübbe doesn't want! But back to La Sylphide and its dancers: It sounds interesting with the three very different Madges. I saw Hübbe, and though it was great to see him on stage again (I missed out on his Germont Père in The Lady of the Camellias) and once more feel his immense stage presence, he didn't really convince me. In the interview in the programme he says, that when he gives James the death kiss, it is also his own private farewell to James, with whom he has lived and fought ever since his early youth. He admits that by doing so he gives way to a kind of personal egomania. The question is whether this is interesting to anybody but himself, and hopefully there has been more to his interpretation than this very private aspect. Ulrik Birkkjær was the great surprise that night, at least to me. He danced with an unbelievable elegance and an airborne quality which I haven't seen to that extent in his dancing before. His movements were precise and with a clear direction without being restricted. Only in the last variation in act 2 he couldn't add that extra volume and power needed to make it a culmination of the former two, but that doesn't diminish the exquisiteness of his performance as a whole. Also his acting has grown more subtle and natural, since I saw him last in "The Lady of the Camellias" two years ago. His rendering of James' initial fear when finding himself in the strange white world of act 2, was genuine and really moving. A pity they have left out his "invisible" gesture towards the end. Susanne Grinder has also grown as the Sylph, since I saw her back in 2010, and her Sylph is more a character now than it was then (she is one of the few lucky dancers whom Hübbe gives more than a couple of performances and more than one season to develope a role on stage). She has also worked succesfully on the expression of weightlessness, especially in the way she floats across the floor like a piece of fluff, though I think she takes it a bit too far in the way she carries her arms – at times they look more limp than weightless. When she dies, though, she makes an amazing transformation from airborn sylph to a completely limp and graceless creature, freak-like almost. Grinder has an intelligent approach to the role, and in general to everything she does, but still it is difficult for me to see what exactly it is that distinguishes her from many other talented dancers in the company. When you see her close up, her acting can actually be quite convincing and full of charm and well worked out details (one could see that in the live stream of a public rehearsal session a month ago), but from afar she somehow fades into insignificance, and so does much of her dancing, too. Kizzy Matiakis was a fine Effy, despairing at James at a rather early stage. I was happy that she wasn't made into a monster like the rest of the family, because that would have made the over all interpretation of the story even more black and white than it already is. Apart from being a very strong technician, Matiakis is one of the best character dancers in the RDB at the moment. She can be a great comedienne, too, as we saw in her Birthe in A Folk Tale. Also Alexander Stæger made a fine impression as Gurn. He is a very reliable dancer who is always able to establish a convincing character. He can be "the boy next door" without being boring. As Gurn he was able to communicate the ambiguity of the character, which is highlighted more in this staging.
  15. Nikolaj Hübbe’s long anticipated new staging of Bournonville’s La Sylphide had it’s opening night yesterday. There has been a lot of talk and guesswork about this production (also on this site), as Hübbe has laid down a smokescreen, cleverly letting a few things leak out and being very secretive about oher things, partly, I think, to stir up interest and curiosity (read: to sell tickets), partly because the work and the ideas were still in progress. Right from the beginning he has been very clear about, that this version of La Sylphide would be a very different one compared to any of the previous versions. Well, it was indeed very different, especially if you look at the visual side of the production. The steps are the same, and so are most of the designs of groupings and formations, and of how the dancers enter the stage or move around it. The big changes lie in the scenery and to some extent in the costumes, and in the overall atmosphere: Gone is all the happiness and gaiety of the wedding preparations of act 1: When the curtain raises a big and sparely lit, gloomy room with charcoal grey walls is revealed. My first association was a that of a prison with bare concrete walls. There are a few pieces of furniture (a pair of uncomfortable chairs, stools more like) and no windows except a high, narrow one in the background which opens to a non-definable white room, letting in a cold, greyish white light. Whether it is a door or a window is not to say, but as far as I remember, only the Sylph and James go through it, which makes sense in the end, as the room behind this door proves to be the room of act 2: the world of the sylphs. There has been much talk about the forest being replaced by “an other room”. The Danish set designer Bente Lykke Møller, who, according to Hübbe, has been very influential and co-creative in the staging, has been very clear about her hating forests on stage and about her being unable to create one. This “other room” she has created is a wide but claustrophobic room consisting of two high, moveable white walls at both sides, a white backcloth and a white floor. Again, the light is cold, like neon light. Into the grey world of act 1 enter a lot of people, likewise clad in different shades of grey. The men still wear kilts but the tartans are gone: it is grey in grey. The women wear black or grey dresses buttoned up to the neck and small grey bonnets covering their hair. Hübbe has created a world of austerity and asceticisme, a society of people banning the joys of life, like in the strictly religious societies of fishermen at the beginning of the 20th century, living at the western cost of Denmark, where nature plays a rough part in people’s life. This is a slight update of time and place which doesn’t do any harm to the story.What does harm to the story is the joy being absent: all the dances of act 1 are performed without a smile, as if they were an ordeal one has to go through at an event like a wedding, dance probably being banned the rest of the year. The only people looking happy are Effy, her friend Nancy and, at least sometimes, James. Gone, too, are most of the children who normally add to the festivity midways through the party (and mostly to the audible delight of the audience – if you can’t get through to the audience, just send in the children, and you are sure to get all the ahs! and ohs!): except the compulsory one at the fortune telling scene, there are only 6 children present in the reel. To Bournonville, dance was reserved the expression of joy: in his ballets you never see people dance to express unhappiness. They mime when they express unhappiness. An example is the Sylph’s second appearance in James’ room: When she conveys her sorrows to him, her unhappiness at his soon-to-be-wedding, she performs one of the most gripping mime scenes Bounonville has ever created, but as soon as she changes her tactics and starts tempting him instead by telling him how wonderful life in the forest is, at that very moment she starts dancing. It is really strange to see the reel performed like this: I can’t combine the gaiety and the happy energy of the music/the steps with what I see. Why are these people dancing if they think it is wrong? It is like watching the steps just being executed. (Hübbe did this once before, in “A Folk Tale”: the peasants in the first scene dance on command and therefore perform their steps mechanically and without any kind of facial expression.) Into this world of life- and selfdenial enter two figures, both representing “an other world”: The Sylph and Madge. Maybe they are from the same world, or maybe even the first is just conjured up by the latter to stir up James. An argument for the latter interpretation could be that the dead Sylph is carried away by Madge’s 4 male helpers at the very end of the ballet. The Sylph is looking like she has always done, wings an everything. Madge however is a man, and not a man looking like a woman, no, he is a man-man, and a very well dressed one, a dandy more like. He and James apparently know each other, and here comes the gender problematic or gender switch into the picture, which has been heavily hinted at in the advance publicity. Is this a ballet about gender or sexual identity? Does James have some secret or unconscious longings towards persons of his own sex? And is the Sylph just a substitute or a way of escaping the world he is caught in without realizing fully what he is actually longing for? That, anyway, is the explanation Hübbe gives us in the programme note. What you see on stage, though, is more open, and James’ longing for the Sylph comes forward as a very physical one. At the end Madge kisses life out of James, and that lays at least the nature of Madge’s relation to James open to us. This death-kiss we did seesome years ago in Sorella Englund’s interpretation of Madge, by which Hübbe is very influenced and openly so: Madge is in love with James, and when she can’t get him, she destroys him, to her own despair. In that way Hübbe’s interpretation is a mere copy just with opposite gender. I had feared a male Sylph and was therefore relieved that this was the only change. Only it doesn’t really work: A man dressed in frock- and waistcoat doesn’t tell fortunes – and girls in the kind of society depicted here would never be allowed to let anyone read their palm. And the scene at the beginning of the 2nd act where Madge, still in frock and waistcoat, produces the magic scarf doesn’t work either, no matter how much green light is shed on the scene, it even comes over as a bit comical, so too did the four helpers in footlong black skirts and bare from the waist upwards. As mentioned before the 2nd act takes place in a completely white room. The sylphs who inhabit this room, as does also Madge, are looking and behaving like sylphs have always done. They are all alike, or I at least couldn’t tell the difference between the Sylph and her sisters, but it wasn’t any problem as you were never in any doubt whether it was her or not. Their dresses are pretty, but look insignificant on the white background and odd in their romantic attire in this clinical room. Even the floor is white which made me miss the moment when she looses her wings: they were invisible in all the white. It also looks odd when the Sylph is busy catching birds and finding water for James in these strange surroundings. This white room with its clinical light is apparently a room of death. James is already dead when he enters it, or he has this pre-death experience, where people tell they have seen a white light. The question is then, what does Gurn, Effy, James’ mother and other from the search party do in this room? Gurn meets Madge, and maybe only he sees him, but still: Gurn isn’t dead, he is very much alive and very much in love with Effy in an absolutely non-neurotic and earthly manner. Later when Effy marrys Gurn, with the grudging accept of James’ mother, we see the only really moving gesture in this frosty version of La Sylphide: James is leaning his head on the shoulder of his mother, mourning his loss and in deep sorrow. His mother of course can neither see nor feel him as he is dead. That hit me deeply. The question is, if this version sheds new light upon “La Sylphide”? It does shed a different light on the story, but also a more narrow one. By making James’ milieu such a narrow and lifedenying one, it makes it very obvious why he wants to run away. Everybody would, no matter whether it was sexuality or something else that singled them out from the majority. Effy is as much a victim as he is. She is being pictured as a loving and a bit repressed girl, who is completely under the thumb of James’ mother, who is described as a domestic tyrant who reveals no feelings if she can help it. But by making it so obvious that this is a society that robs you of any kind of joy or freedom, it somehow narrows in the scope of interpretations, because it is so understandable, that James want to escape it: It moves the perspective away from James and over to the surroundings. The “diagnosis” lies in a society to which you feel no affinty and you can therefore free yourself of any guilt. It is not one of us that makes life unbearable for James, it is those religious fanatics. Apart from that, I can’t understand why it has to be so drab and ugly to look at! To my ears it goes completely against the music, that evokes so much romanticism in the 2nd act and so much gaiety in the 1st act. And the music is still an important part of a ballet, especially in this, where the music is tailormade on the libretto. I will come back later with a review of the dancers in La sylphide and of the fabulous performance of Lander's Etudes which followed La Sylphide. Now its bedtime!
  16. Yesterday an audience in Aarhus had a little sneak-preview of the two young dancers performing a pas de deux from the ballet. They had chosen the first one, where Armand declares his love for Marguerite. I had been a bit sceptic how two so young dancers would cope with such a challenge, but especially Praetorius made a statement of herself as a rapidly maturing artist, who masters a wide range of expressions – from cynical and disillusioned coquetry over bewilderment to awakening passion – and who also has the technique and athletic power needed for this part with its many complicated lifts. Andreas Kaas is a less obvious choice. He is still very young, and looks very young, though he seems to have an intelligent approach to what he is doing and he also seems to have the readiness to express himself and give himself up to the role. All in all it was a highly promising "peep" into the future, in more than one way. In a fortnight those two have their first night as Armand and Marguerite, and I wish them good luck!
  17. These seats are for the orchestra and will never be on sale. A seat on row 7 will thus be the first row.
  18. The afficionados will be able to find the original photo here (if you click on it twice you get the full size).
  19. There is another interview with a picture gallery consisting of 36 pictures from a rehearsal with Nikolaj Hübbe at the RDB here: interveiw and pictures (It is all in Danish, but the pictures are for everybody...). Just click on the photo or press the small blue icon saying "billedserie", "and you'll get to the pictures!
  20. She had an amazing range - from pure lyricism to strong character roles. Unfortunately I have never seen her, when she was still young and danced the big roles like the Julie you mention, Juliet, Sylphide, Giselle etc., but I have seen her in plenty of character roles late in her career, and she was one of those seldom dancers who can "fill the stage" by doing almost nothing.
  21. The grand old lady of Danish ballet, Kirsten Simone, celebrates her 80th brithday today. A loving portrait was brought in Jyllands Posten on Sunday. You can read it here
  22. A belated thank you for directing our attention to this fine interview!
  23. It was an absolutely horrible show, really! It degrades the prestige of the Award when they deliver it in such a foolish "packing". Why it was called My Life as a Tree (your translation was right, Jane), I have no clue, just another silly idea among many I suppose.
  24. Yesterday the Danish theatrical Award "Reumert", named after the late, famous Danish actor Poul Reumert, were given, and Alban Lendorf received once again the prestigious award "Dancer of the Year" (he also won it in 2012). He was given the award for three different performances at the RDB: Come Fly Away (Hank), Grand Pas Classique and Manon (Des Grieux). Benita Bünger, a "home grown" talent from the RDB's own school, got one of the 10 talent prizes. She is new in the company, but had a very convincing start as Betty in Come Fly Away where she made a charming couple with Charles Andersen. Benita Bünger joined the corps in 2012 after two years apprenticeship. Congratulations to both of them!
  25. Thank you so much for your help, Helene!
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