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Everything posted by Anne

  1. I would especially have loved to see Tim Matiakis as Hank and Nicolai Hansen and Alba Nadal as Chanos and Slim. And out of sheer curiosity it would have been interesting for me to see Camilla Ruelykke Holst as Babe, as I have never seen her in a major role. Her name keeps popping up and I suppose she is one of the new talents to keep an eye on. No, I didn't see the children's ballet. Was it worthwhile seeing? I saw a million children milling out from the theatre in the afternoon - but I didn't realize they had been to a children's ballet!
  2. Yes, I went there on Tuesday! I would have loved to see the second cast on Friday also, but maybe you did? I could imagine they are rather different from the first cast. It is going to be really interesting to read your review, especially as it is of the very same night in the theatre!
  3. The RDB’s production of Twyla Tharp’s "Come Fly Away" has in general been rather badly received by the critics: the dancers don’t look right – they look too much like ballet dancers; the choreography is thin and repeats itself; the ballet’s lack of substans choreographically and dramatically goes badly with the lengthiness of the performance (45 + 30 minutes); until the end of October "Come Fly Away" is the only ballet in the programme, which leaves more than half of the company unoccupied for nearly two months etc. etc. Well, much of this might be true or partly true, but I must admit that I left the theatre mighty uplifted after a performance of "Come Fly Away" earlier this week! It is true, that the ballet is not one with many depths, and it is also true that some of the dancers haven’t got the style completely under their skin, but many of them actually have or they have come so far that the rest is a matter of time. And what is very important: they dance with a joy and commitment which transmit to the audience. They were rewarded by an unusual roar of enthusiasme, both during and after the performance, some of it, I’m sure, also as a respons to the brilliant musicians who perform on stage, directly behind the dancers. Of course it might have looked different if it had been performed by dancers more used to modern dance or show dance, but much of Tharp’s choreographic vocabulary is actually very classical, so it is not as if it is another planet. Compared with the company’s toothless production of Robbins’ "West Side Story Suite" a couple of years ago, the dancers have improved pronouncedly in this field since then. Some of the dancers seem to adapt the style effortlessly: Charles Andersen danced the popular role of the shy bartender Marty, and everything simply looks right when he and his sweetheart Betsy, danced by a very young and very promising Benita Bünger, who despite her foreign name is a “homegrown” product of the Royal Danish Ballet School, take over. He is able to give even the most classical looking steps the right twist or boost to make them look less “neat”. Andersen, an American import, who has been with the RDB since he was 19, and who is now 26, is one of the most versatile dancers of the company at the moment: He is equally good whether it is in the peasant pas de deux of "Giselle", which he renders with a delicacy of a Meissen porcelain figurine, or in Balanchine’s clean cut choreography in "Symphony in 3 Movements" or in the earthbound primitivistic style of José Limon’s barefoot ballet "Unsung". Here, in "Come Fly Away", he gets the chance to show off his acrobatic skills and his comic talent. I know I have said this before, but I can’t help saying it again: He must be one of the obvious choices when the time comes to appoint new soloists, but of course the competition is hard: the corps is brimming with talent at the moment! Amy Watson, another American in the company, also looks like she has the style in her blood. Her “Babe”, dressed in dramatic laquer red, simply looked gorgeous, and one could understand why her suitor, Sid, danced by a chunky Alban Lendorf, couldn’t take his eyes from her! It comes to my mind that she was also a fabulous – and surprisingly temperamental – Anita in Robbins’s otherwise terrible "West Side Story Suite". This kind of choreography seems to set something free in her. Among the women Femke Mølbach Slot also stood out as the hotheaded and unpredictable Kate, who in the end can’t help seeking the comfort of her lover, whose possessive manners she has rebelled against all night. She is a longlimbed, willowy ballerina with a bambi-like air, which makes her flirtatitious and defiant manners even more bewildering. Femke Mølbach Slot has not been given so many chances in Hübbe’s era and it is great to see her in a big role again – and so succesfull. Maybe her hight compromises her swiftness which seems to be one of Hübbe’s prefered qualities in a female dancer. Femke Mølbach’s partner, Hank, was danced by Gregory Dean. He seems to develope with giant steps with every new part he is given. I would have thought him among the dancers who would have most difficulties with leaving the purity of the classical style behind, but I had to think again! I have never seen him dance with so much edge and daggerlike precision. All softness, which is both his hallmark and sometimes his weakness, had vanished. He created a very unpleasant character, dark and possessive – very far indeed from his boyish, sunny Romeo a season ago. Alban Lendorf was – of course! – great as Amy Watson’s partner. He has the right weight to put behind his giant jumps when he soars into the air like a rubber ball or turns like he was the very epicentre of a hurricane. It is not his fault that the choreography of his solos is a bit repetitive: his turning will take no end and becomes a kind of gimmick in the end. Neither is it his fault that the costume makes him look shorter and more chunky than he really is. The costumes are created by the New York based fashion designer Norma Kamali. They look good on most of the women, while the men’s costumes in various shades of silver or shimmering black are less flattering and don’t seem to follow the body but crease and stretch in ungainly patterns. The last solo couple were Marcin Kupinski and Maria Bernholdt as Chanos and Slim, and none of them looked like they felt comfortable with what they were doing. Bernholdt was costumed in a way that made her look distractingly like Barbara Streisand, and she appeared strangely stiff, like she wasn’t comfortable in her stilettos. But she can act! Slim is the real bitch in the ballet, making passes at everybody else’s boyfriends and poisoning the mind of the naïve bartender so that for a time he forgets about his Betsy. But in the end also Slim has to give in and stick to the man she came with and whom she has tried to escape all evening: Marcin Kupinski’s Chanos. Kupinski is a total miscast in this ballet. I actually felt rather sorry for him. He is a dancer with a very pure classical style , and he should have been spared from going through this. To fill up the stage and make athmosphere three nameless couples are involved, mostly in the background, but at times taking part in small ensembles or being at hand when a woman needs a crowd of admirer or a man needs a second object of his desire, when his first priority is not obtainable. It looked like nobody had cared much about them, and especially the men looked lost, with no idea of style and direction. It seems that most of the coaching has been spent on the four solo couples. There are lots of great photos from the production by Costin Radu on the theatre's homepage here. The music The double bass player Chris Minh Doky was in charge of the bigband, and it sounded great! Only the string section was cut away, probably for economical reasons, and the strings were reproduced by a synthesizer. But else it was “the real thing” except for Sinatra’s voice, which was added to the live music on a separate sound track. It worked out fine, and probably it is the right thing to do, as no one can reproduce Sinatra – furthermore I suppose Tharp wouldn’t allow a performance without the use of this voice track. But does the music have to be so loud? Before the break it was tolerable, if only just, but after the break, as it often happens, the volume had increased to a level where it causes pain. I don’t see the point, but maybe I’m just old fashioned.
  4. What a lovely idea for a thread - I had a splendid afternoon following all these fanastic links! But old Bournonville necessarily has to be represented when talking about happy or speedy feet! Conservatory
  5. Yes, he is actually something very special! He looks like no other dancer, at least that I know of. When you first see him, his sturdy built makes you think he will be kind of a powerhouse dancer, and in a way, of course, he is, but it is camouflaged by an extreme smoothness and the softest of landings. And on top of that he has a fine stage presence as well. I liked the word Alastair Macaulay used to describe him: "endearing", because that's exactly what he is. I think it is great for him to get these opportunities abroad. My only worry is, that some day one of those starlit companies will make him an offer he can't resist, and off he goes, as did another talented young Danish male dancer some 20 years ago...
  6. Just back from a long holiday I discovered with great joy and pride that our homely star Alban Lendorf has had a very succesful debut as Prince Desiré in Sleeping Beauty with the American Ballet Theatre earlier this month. Here is what New York Times' Alastair Macaulay wrote about him: "Even at the end of a long season that featured a number of remarkable men, it was at once evident that this is one of the world’s most exceptional dancers and a subtle, intelligent and endearing artist." The full article (with more praise!) can be read here. (I know this has been a topic in other forums but I can't help bringing it up here as well, as I think it relevant for readers following the forum of the RDB.)
  7. Jane Simpson wrote a review on the production in DanceTabs some weeks ago: La Ventana, Kermesse in Bruges - Copemhagen Also she has made a fine interview with Gudrun Bojesen back in December 2012, where she - among other things - tells about her ideas about staging La Ventana: Gudrun Bojesen - Royal Danish Ballet - Principal
  8. On the 21st of May the RDB had their last performance of their new Bornonville double-bill: the short ”La Ventana” and the lovely comedy ”The Kermesse in Bruges”. ”La ventana” is an elegant little genre picture where Bournonville tries to capture the exotic spirit of a Spain he has never seen and only knew from the many Spanish dance troups guesting all over Europe at the mid 19th century. He himself called the piece a ”bagatelle”, and the thin love story between a Señor and a Señorita is just an excuse for a lot of dance. The choreography is exquisite and also very demanding, a kind ofshowcase for the good dancers of the company. Gudrun Bojesen, who danced the lead, when the ballet was staged last time in 2005, has been given free hands to stage and direct this little jewell. Let me start with the dancers: It looks to me as if Bojesen has been able to pass on some of her own finest qualities to her fellow dancers: musical phrasing and beautifully shaped movements in an artless flow. It was most visible in the technically difficult pas de trois, danced with both charm and elegance by Nicolai Hansen, Lena-Maria Gruber and Sascha Haugland: Especially Gruber stood out. Also Amy Watson as the Señorita was absolutely lovely. Everything she did looked just right, as if the choreography was tailored on her. She and Josephine Berggreen did a perfect mirror-dance, the original scoop of the ballet. Her Señor was Marcin Kupinski, who, apart from not looking very Spanish, had some (for him) unusually hard landings in the many and probably difficult jumps, where the dancer lands in an open attitude. Normally he is light as a feather. In some of the minor parts you could see some of the new talent: Sebastian Haynes, still an apprentice, and Luke Schaufuss, only recently risen to membership of the corps de ballet, were cast as 2 gentlemen. Both of them are full of zest and youthful spirit, but it looked like nobody had had the time to rehearse them toghether and secure just a minimum of homogeneity in style and direction. But in general the dancing standard was high. The staging: Unfortunately the staging was less successful. Gudrun Bojesen has literally drowned this little gem in an abundancy of details: In order to breath some life into the thin story, she has invented an endless prologue, complete with new music for solo guitar played by a guitar player on stage and a flamenco singer in a Spanish Carmen-ish costume: A café with a servant tidying up the chairs and tables, an ageing tourist (apparently H.C.Andersen, but I would never have guessed, had I not read the programme note...) visiting the café etc. Into this setting the Señor eventually enters, brooding, seemingly depressed about something. His friends, who will later do the Pas de trois, try in vain to cheer him up. After some more singing the flamenco-singer seems to get through to him, and finally it looks like he remembers what he was depressed about: the Señorita. He throws a flower through her window, and finally the ballet can begin!The orchestra in the pit takes over from the guitar player, and the curtain raises. I thought that from now on all would be good and the ballet could go on undisturbed. But no, there was more to come! During one of the more sensual solos (as sensual as it gets in a Bournonville ballet...) the flamenco singer suddenly starts singing her wordless tunes again, this time with the orchestra. But most unforgiveable of it all was, when the dancers started clapping their hands like in Napoli to the absolute hit of the ballet, the bolero, killing the springiness and flow of the music completely. At least, all the changes and additions are made out of a deep love for the piece. It is Bojesen’s first attempt at staging, and that of course excuses for many of the mistakes. Maybe the dramaturgue of the theatre, Ole Nørlyng, who has been deeply involved in the production and who writes the pladoyer for the staging in the printed programme, should have known to advice her better. ”The Kermesse in Bruges” was a more homogenous succes. The production, which is staged by Ib Andersen, former principal with the RDB and later NYCB, and now artistic director of Ballet Arizona, had its premiere a month ago. The settings by Jerome Kaplan were beautifull, both the outdoor sceneries, especially the town square in scene 1 and 4. where you have all the significant profiles of Bruges in the background and solid looking housefronts lining the wings, and the only indoor scenery inside Mirewelt’s house. Also Kaplan’s costumes were sheer delight, made of what looked like luxurious fabrics, traditional and fresh at the same time. Only the costumes of the two entertaining ballet dancers in scene 3 (in the garden of the rich widow Frau van Everdingen) were shrill in all their whiteness. They looked like they were taken out of a Petipa ballet. Young Andreas Kaas, aged only 20, who entered the corps de ballet last year, was Carelis, the lover and admirer of Mirewelt’s daughter Eleonore. This role was danced by a very young but already stunningly secure Ib Andersen back in the 70’es. Some of the rehearsal work with him and Mette-Ida Kirk as Eleonore and substantial clips from the performance are saved for eterníty in Jørgen Leth’s documentary ”Dancing Bournonville” (it is worthwhile seeing!). Andreas Kaas did a fine job also, but he is still a bit insignificant on stage, and his dancing hasn’t the refinement of Ib Andersen or of his colleague Alban Lendorf, who alternates with him in this production. His Eleonore was Stephanie Chen Gundorph, also a very young dancer of only 20 years. She is technically very mature and has the Bournonville style very much under her skin, but I think that at least for this role she lacks some warmth and lyricism. Her Eleonore is a very strongminded character, which makes sense in many ways, as she is the daughter of an alchymist and probably has been brought up in rather unconventional circumstances. Carelis’ two comic brothers, Adrian and Geert, were danced by Benjamin Buza and Nicolai Hansen, and they both revealed a remarkable talent for comedy. Nicolai Hansen’s Geert was irresistibel in his naive love for Marchen and in his helpless attitude towards her many fits of rage. That he was maybe a bit too foolish in the long run, is a minor flaw. Buza’s Adrian, the soldier brother, balanced cleverly between being a fool and a rather attractive piece of man. Their two girlfriends, the temperamental Marchen and her more subdued sister Johanna, were charmnigly portrayed by Alexandra Lo Sardo and Elisabeth Dam. Dam has always been a talented comedienne, her speciality being sweet-tempered but not especially clever girls. Lo Sardo surprised me be showing a dramatic talent, which I would never have expected from her. Her fits of rage and rapide changes of mood were both funny and very convincing. The castlist is a very long one, but I’d like to mention just one more dancer, who had a very good night: Gregory Dean. He was the male ballet dancer in scene 3. Apart from the costume which made his appearance much to ”ballett’ish”, he did a wonderful job. I couldn’t help thinking that he could have done a beautiful Carelis: His youthfulness and fluid dancestyle, which is not very far from Ib Andersen’s, would have suited the choreography beautifully. The comedy is a charming one and Ib Andersen has released all the comical potential in the story. One could sometimes have wished for more subtlety. Especially the scene with Geert and the rich widow Frau van Everdingen (Gitte Lindstrøm) were too heavy handed and so were many of the street scenes. In the first scene a jester (Luke Schaufuss) dominated the street life in a way that I felt very un-Bournonvill-ish. In many Swan Lakes you have a jester filling out all the gaps in the flow of the story, and there it works because everything is so stylized, but in Bournonville’s more naturalistic universe it just felt odd and disturbing. Maybe somebody can remember how the role of the jester was handled in earlier productions? But all in all it was a really pleasant experience, and like all productions it needs time to develope and ripe, and it certainly has potential. Just a pity that it will not appear next year. Hopefully it will not disappear like the last production of Kermessen by Lloyd Riggins did in 2005 after only a month in the programme. I at least would love to see it again, and by the next time I will hopefully be able to catch more details.
  9. Gudrun Bojesen received the prestigeous Reumert Award 2013 for her role as Marguerite in RDB's production of Neumeier's balletThe Lady of the Camellias. The Reumert Award is a Danish theatrical award given by the Bikuben Foundation to the performing arts. Congratulations to Gudrun Bojesen! I'm sure every ballet-goer who saw her in this role will agree with me, that the award couldn't have been given to anybody more deserving. Another nominee was her young colleague Ida Praetorius for her recent debut as Juliet (you can see a glimpse of her sitting among the audience in the clip below). You can see her speech of thanks here: link to Reumert's homepage My translation: "A friend said to me "you gotta believe" and I try to do so, and I do so, and I believe that faith can actually move mountains. But I would like to thank the Reumert Committee and the Bikuben Foundation for moving these mountains physically. Thank you!"
  10. I'm on my way - but unfortunatley not until the last day it plays!
  11. The season 2013-14 of the Royal Danish Ballet has just been launched: Interregnum (new) By Corpus, the RDB's new "exploratorium" formed by the dancers themselves 18-21/9 Come fly away (new) Choreography: Twyla Tharp Music: Frank Sinatra 28/9 - 28/11 Fabelmageren (new) (I have no idea what the English title will be: something like ”Fairytale-maker”, I suppose) A fairytale ballet for children, performed by students of the Royal Danish Ballet School Choreography: Esther Lee Wilkinson Idea: Shane Brox (from "Shane's world", a childrens' program on television) 12-16/10 Dans2go (mixed bill): Symphony in 3 movements Choreography: Blanchine Music: Stravinsky Grand pas classique (new) Choreography: Victor Gsovsky Music: Auber Minus 7 (new) Choreography: Ohad Naharin Music: Vivaldi, Chopin, Dean Martin and others 26/10 - 15/2 242 years in tights - Character dance galore (new) A performance made especially for the 5 character dancers of the company. Choreography: Anne Marie Vessel and Corpus (se above) Music: Kim Helweg 7-9/11 Nutcracker Choreography: Balanchine Music: Tchaikovsky 5-22/12 Napoli Choreography: Bournonville (and Hübbe/Englund: 2nd act) Music: Helsted, Paulli, Lumbye (and Alenius: 2nd act) 31/1 - 18/3 Manon Choreography: MacMillan Music: Massenet (arr. by Leighton Lucas and Hilda Gaunt) 22/2 - 12/3 La Bayadère Choreography: Petipa, Hübbe and Eva Draw Music: Minkus 4/4 - 14/5 Twelfth Night (new) A celebration of Shakespeare’s 450 anniversary. Made especially for and with the apprentices and young dancers of the company Choreography: Nikolaj Hübbe Music: ? 10-15/5 Same Same But Different (new) Idea/Choreography: Corpus (see above) 22/5 - 3/6
  12. Thank you for posting this! It was great to see both this and some of the other clips you had collected with this very special ballerina. You are right about the beauty of her arms. She seems to be able to express everything with them.
  13. A belated comment to that: It does surprise me, that they cut the orchestra even in their own house, but at least these programmes are sold as "Dance2Go", which is the name of a series of shorter programmes at a substantially lower prize. Maybe I will have to give "Unsung" a second chance some day. Like Eva Kistrup points out in her review, some of the dancers, trained as they are in defeating gravity, are simply not the right type for this kind of ballet, where gravity is a fundamental parameter. It might be that a different cast could have shed another light on the choreography. Funny enough, in the cast I saw I was most surprised by Charles Andersen, whom I would have considered a too classical dancer for this kind of chorerography: Normally he has a very clean cut style and a very pure air around him, but here he was pure "rubber" and could bend his body and roll around the floor like he had no bones, and with an almost animalistic air to his presence. It actually took me some time to recognize him! He and James Clark, who did what I suppose must be the Red Eagle-solo (why don't they tell us this kind of things in the printed programme?) because of the many balances with the arms spread out like huge wings (one of the most impressive single "pictures" in the ballet by the way) were in my opinion the most convincing of the soloists and most in accordance with the intensions of the ballet. Originally there were 8 solos. I can't remember if they did 4 or 5 here. But I think it wise to cut down on the numbers, when they don't have more dancers with the right charisma for it. It was ertainly long enough as it was!
  14. I don't think there are other R&J ballets with this heavy emphasis on the relationship between Tybalt (oops, you are right about the spelling of Tybalt - no h!) and lady Capulet, but I can't say for sure if it is not an issue in any other versions. I'm rather sure, that Nureyev hasn't included it in his Paris version, and I don't think either does Cranko in his. But it wouldn't be alien to MacMillan's universe to include this kind of extra drama, but his I have only seen on video. Maybe somebody else can help out here?
  15. Neumeier staged his version of Romeo and Juliet with the RDB back in 1974, and last Wednesday this still immensely popular production had its 306th performance, as always with a full house. Two debutants as Romeo and Juilet I felt happy to be in the theatre to see a new Juliet fold out her wings and fly: Ida Praetorius, 19, has only recently made the step from apprentice to corps de ballet dancer, but she has already been trusted with various solo parts, most recently and most prominently as the pupil in Flindt’s The Lesson opposite Thomas Lund at his farewell perfomance last September. And she rises to the challenges with bravura, still a girlish figure but in full control of her long and slender limbs. This evening was her second performance as Juliet, and I must say that it was much more than just promising. She is absolutely convincing in her portrayal of Juliet’s development from playful and spontaneous teenager to prematurely grown-up woman, who in the end sees no way out but to kill herself.Happyness, curiosity, incredulity, grief, rage, desperation, everything she communicates with her large eyes, set in a fresh and charming little face. I’m sure we will see more of her in the years to come. She was trained at the Royal Danish Ballet School, and it is great to see, how many good dancers they have produced lately. Her Romeo was Gregory Dean, 29, equally new to his role. Since he was appointed soloist in 2011 he has danced many important parts, mostly in the abstract ballets or in the princely line of the story ballets, the latter probably due to his hight, noble bearings and handsome looks. He is a dancer of great flexibility and long, natural lines, only slightly marred by a certain looseness in arms and hands. The only real acting part he has had so far was to my knowledge in Neumeier’s Midsummer Nights Dream a couple of years ago, where he was a naïve and wonderfully youthful and buoyant Lysander. His Romeo was somewhat in the same line, and in that respect he was a fine match to Praetorius’ Juliet: None of them are sophisticated, neither in their way of dancing nor in their way of acting. Their approach has a freshness and simplicity which suits this version perfectly. Neumeier’s two protagonists are actually very young, especially Juliet is clearly characterized as being on the border between child and woman, and this version has therefore been a perfect vehicle for talented young dancers during time (the first couple in 1974 were 19 year old Mette-Ida Kirk and 20 year old Ib Andersen!). Also he has freed his R&J of the traditional heavy renaissance look by transferring the story 100 years back to the 15th century, where both clothes and architecture were less oppulent. The rest of the cast The cast was in general a strong one. I had been looking forward very much to seeing Alban Lendorf as Mercutio. Every time I have seen him, he has surpassed himself, a case of permanent growth towards stardom. This was the first time I was slightly disappointed. Not that he was dancing badly, not at all, the choreography just didn’t seem to suit him. I think it calls for a more slender, less compact type of dancer. But he was the sexiest Mercutio I have ever seen – maybe that was what he tried to obtain by being more “chunky” and less elegant than he normally is. And his stare, as he realises that he has been deadly wounded, this stare which he shares only with us, the audience, was a shattering one. Mads Blangstrup was a really mean Thybalt, oozing menace wherever he went and very, very drunk in the crucial fencing scene, and Gitte Lindstrøm a beautiful but icy Lady Capulet. But also some of the minor parts were cast very luxurious: Juliet’s cousins were danced by Caroline Baldwin (still a corps de ballet dancer but she made her debut as Aurora last autumn, so maybe we haven’t seen the last of her), J’aime Crandall (principal) and Alexandra Lo Sardo (soloist). The first two were utterly charming and did their best to create real, living characters, the latter just danced the steps. Lo Sardo might be a good and very capable dancer, but mentally she never seems to be a part of what is going on. In that way she has, in my opinion, chosen the wrong sort of company. As a contrast I would like to mention two dancers of the corps de ballet who never fail to fill out their roles, may they be big or small: Alba Nadal and Maria Bernholdt. Corps de ballet dancers like those two are the true gold of the company. In this performance Alba Nadal was a member of the group of street entertainers. She is able to transmit joy to the farest corner of theater, and her despair later, when Mercutio dies, has an equally emotional impact. It is not that she upstages herself or steals the scene from the leading roles, it’s just that dancers like her make the ambience of the protagonists a living one. Neumeier is very conscious of detail and takes care to give all the smaller parts a stagepersonality (hence many of them have names in the programme), but he can only succeed when he has the right material. And that is, and hopefully will always be, the strength of the RDB. Kizzy Matiakis and Lena-Maria Gruber, both soloists, were the other two female street entertainers and made equally fine portraits - apart from dancing extremely well. Maria Bernholdt was the prostitute in Mantua, a role which I have often seen Sorella Englund do back in the eighties and early nineties. She is alone on the stage when the curtain raises and in the beginning she actually hardly moves, just sways a little, but the look in her eyes conveys all the abysmal misery of an ageing alcoholic prostitute, whom nobody wants anymore – a realistic comment to the cheerfulness of the prostitutes in the earlier scenes and a sinister foreboding of what is to come. She simply kept the whole theatre with that look in her eyes. Her appearance in the beginning of this scene is close to be the most unforgettable moment of the entire evening. A shame that her name isn’t mentioned in the printed programme! My general impression It is great to see the company in such a fine shape. It is a little miracle that a production after close to 40 years can still have that freshness. It seems to bring back the joy of dancing and performing to the company, which is sometimes missing, especially in the Bournonville repertoire. R&J is a true ensemble piece with meaty parts for a lot of dancers, but also the minor parts are extremely important if the performance shall be brought to life. In that respect Neumeier's R&J reminds me of Napoli, where you have thousand stories going on at the same time, and you have to see it a hundred times before you can say you have seen them all – and then they improvise something new for you, scoundrels! Some minor things have changed during time, and not all for the best. I think they shall be carefull not to overdo things: There has for example been put extra emphasis on Juliet’s youthfulness und lack of experience by making her more clumsy than necessary. When she enters the ball, she falls down the stairs in stead of just dropping her flowers as she used to do. I also think the love affair between Thybalt and Lady Capulet is more out in the open now than it has been before. They are constantly eyeing each other, and at a point she calls him up to her on the balcony by waving a finger, discreetly but nevertheless... I really can’t remember having seen that before! (But as I said before, it is impossible to get hold of all the details in this ballet, so I might be wrong). I think it takes some of the air out of the shock effect of her sudden explosion of rage and despair, when she discovers Thybalt’s dead body later. But the main impression was of an evening where the company showed all its best qualities!
  16. The RDB’s guest performance in Aarhus last week with The Lesson, Limon's Unsung, Balanchine's Tchaikovski Pas de Deux and excerpts from La Bayadère didn't do much to make up for the disappointments of their Sleeping Beuaty on tour two weeks earlier. With no orchestra and no backdrops or seet pieces, except for The Lesson, it felt like discount but at full price. The only real highlight was The Lesson: Ida Praetorius and Maria Bernholdt were excellent, Praetorius a longlimbed, naive and slightly impertinent pupil, hungry for life to begin. Maria Bernholdt was terrific, too: simply the best pianist I have ever seen. She was the real terror in that room, all tight fury and possessiv but powerless control, and underneath it all, a burning jealousy. The bond between her and Mads Blangstrup's teacher was a scary one! Blangstrup was, to my taste, like most other dancers in that role, too obvious in his madness, but still very convincing. Flindt himself (he danced in the very first television-version from 1963 with Josette Amiel as the pupil and again 10 years later in a the Danish television-production with Anne Marie Vessel) had a more ambiguous approach to the role, which made it more terrifying. When the teacher is too obviously creepy right from the start, like Blangstrup, and Thomas Lund too, it is difficult to understand the behaviour of the pupil: Why on earth does she try and impress a creap like him? José Limon’s ”Unsung”, a tribute to the native american culture and history is a ballet without music for 8 male dancers, the only accompanyment is the sound of the their feet and breath. The ballet is from 1971 and it felt oddly outdated, and extremely longdrawn. Alban Lendorf and J’aime Crandall danced the Tchaikovski Pas de Deux with all the charm and bravura they could put into this show-off piece, but it was difficult to digest the sudden shift in style, coming from the rough and primitivistic barefoot dance of ”Unsung” just one minute earlier. They could at least have made a decent break between the two ballets instead of delivering them with barely time to take a look at the programme sheet. The rest of the programme – excerpts from La Bayadère – was delivered with the same haste. Presented on a completely empty stage, the costumes of La Bayadère looked a bit harsh in their fluorescent colour quality. Among the dancers especially the four men and two women in pink stood out, amongst them the newly appointed soloist Chemelensky, but also Alexander Bozinoff (another young dancer with a good bounce) and Charles Andersen were brilliant. I wonder if Charles Andersen is the next soloist to be appointed? The two pink ladies, Christina Michanek and Caroline Baldwin, had some very exquisite solos with lots of finely chiselled choreography, which they delivered with grace and great care of detail. The two soloists Ulrik Birkkjær and Amy Watson were not quite up to their normal standard, though Watson impressed with a very secure deliverance of a series of immaculate fouettés. I hope, the next time the RDB tours the provinces they will not do it without an orchestra. They shouldn’t lower their standard in that way, though I know they have great financial cut backs to struggle with.But people were disappointed and had clearly expected an orchestra in the pit, especially because the prices were the same as when they toured with Sleeping Beauty.
  17. What great news! I am really glad to hear this. Many congratulations to Chmelensky! I was very impressed by his Blue Bird in December last year and thought he had just the right kind of bravura for the RDB: a smooth and flexible technique (completely silent in his landings!) and not overdoing or overselling the virtuoso parts. I don't know how he is in character roles, but I'm looking forward to seeing more of him and to discover other sides of his talent in the future.
  18. The Royal Danish Ballet toured to Aarhus between Christmas and new year’s Eve with their production of Sleeping Beauty by Christopher Wheeldon. Christopher Wheeldon’s Beauty from 2010 replaced Helgi Tomasson’s lavish but not especially dramatic production from 1993. Like Thomasson , Wheeldon has kept some of Petipas’s most iconographic pieces, like the Rose Adagio, but mostly he creates his own choregraphy, very classical in style and often with a notable reference to the original choreography like in the famous variations for the fairies in the Prologue. The result as a whole is very pleasant but not especially significant. Or maybe it was the execution that wasn’t very significant. Or maybe it was the costumes which tend to be either too oppulent or too floppy. Or maybe it was a bit of all three. Susanne Grinder was Aurora and Marcin Kupinsky was her Prince. I was looking forward to seeing Grinder again, having seen her a couple of years ago as a very promising young Sylphide. In the meantime she has been announced principal. I have to admit that I was very disappointed by her Aurora. She is indeed very good in passages where acting is involved, she’s a fine mime and her acting comes across the stage, but when it comes to pure dance she gets strangely anonymous. Her dancing lacks the contrasts of light-and-shadow, it is all light. The climax of the Rose Adagio was a struggle to her, with unpretty jerks inthe upper body every time she reached for the difficult balances between her four suitors. She might have had a bad night, which can happen to everyone, but to me it looked more like she hasn’t got the physical strength for Aurora in general. She hasn’t got the necessary radiance and technical brilliance for it. Marcin Kupinsky wasn’t any help to her, his acting as ”airy” and insignificant as his dancing. The dance became more colour when we reached the last act: American Holly Jean Dorger was a very efficient and extrovert Princess Florine who showered her broad smiles generously on both the audience and her cavalier, the Blue Bird, danced by cuban Jonathan Chemelensky. Chemelensky was the great surprise that night, with an enormous elasticity and strength in his jumps. Someone to look out for! The two cats (Charles Andersen and Caroline Baldwin) were charming, too. In most productions I tend to think this pdd is too long and not really funny, but here it was witty and very sexy. And for once the costumes wasn’t too heavy and enabled the dancers to actually dance in them and express themselves. The aim of the scenographer and costumedesigner Jerome Kaplan has been to create a baroque scenario, with monochrome setpieces, like in an engraving, and the costumes as the only source of colour. I liked most of the set pieces, especially the sinister clouds which pressed in from the wings and the ceiling and blocked out the light, when Carabosse entered the stage. But in my opinion he didn’t succeed with the costumes, which are a strange mixture of baroque-ish attires and more moderne, timeless dresses. Except a few very beautiful costumes, like Aurora’s tutus, which are fresh and colourful and underlines her dancing perfectly, most of the costumes are terribly unflattering, making the dancers look broad-waisted and shortlegged. Some of the costumes for the male dancers are outright ridiculous: for the cavaliers in the prologue it must be a recurring self-conquest to put on their flowing miniskirts and silvery, cheap looking coat of mail – they looked like they were taken directly out of Asterix! It got even worse in the last act where two male dancers, completely covered in golden bodypaint, had to stand motionless for half an hour on the staircase acting candelabras. The dresses for the Lilac Fairy’s group of ”assisting fairies” (the Lilac Fairy is not dancing herself – a strange choise, and an enormous waste of dance opportunities,as the Lilac Fairy has some of the finest music in the ballet) are pretty and wave beautifully when they move, their only error being that the dancers don’t look very much like fairies in them, just like pretty young girls. The same you could say about the six Fairies, who wear asymmetric, fluttering dresses in natural colours, very feminine but not underlining their individuality or marking their authority in any way: after all they are Fairies with considerable magical powers and not just harmless elves. All in all i prefer Thomasson's verson from 1993 to Wheeldon's new Beauty. Sleeping Beauty is not a deep ballet, and though Wheeldon has tried to add some more drama and psychology to the story, it still remains a showcase for technical brilliance and virtuosity. And in that case I prefer Thomasson’s version, or to be more precise: I miss the gorgeous and breathtakingly beautiful costumes and sets by Jens-Jacob Worsaa. The Aarhus Symphony Orchestra was in the pit and played well though not overrehearsed, and the conductor Vello Pähn, who is a wellknown conductor with the RDB, had a fresh and direct approach to the music. The music of Sleeping Beauty is among Tchaikovski’s most brilliant scores and I could go to a performance for the music alone.
  19. On Eva Kistrup's blog I just came across that Nikolaj Hübbe has been in New York on the 22nd of Octobre with some of his dancers to present the upcoming premiere of La Bayadère. It was part of Guggenheim's "Works & Process" and it is streamed here: http://www.ustream.t...corded/26350972 The dancers are: Alban Lendorf, J'aime Crandall, Jón Axel Fransson, Lena-Maria Gruber, Gitte Lindstrøm, Amy Watson and Holly Dorger. Present are also the sconographer and costume designer Richard Hudson.
  20. Many thanks to both you, Jane, and you, Eva, for your loving portraits, which, for me, put so beautifully in words what is so very special about this dancer. And you also made it clear, how impossible it is to make a single evening's programme cover the full range of an artist like Thomas Lund. I personally would have loved to see him just once more in a Balanchine or Robbins ballet, which suits him so well (or is it the other way round?), because he brings an almost spontaneous air to them, which makes the steps look fresh and new, like he is kind of inventing them on the spot. To me that is among the things which mark a great artist: that the many hours of preparation doesn't make the result look calculated or routined. And, what a wonderful photo from the celebration, where Thomas gets a "tour en l'air" by his colleagues!
  21. Yes, it was indeed a fantastic night! I was so lucky to be there too. We will miss him terribly. He has always been a very special dancer, somehow unmistakably his own in style and appearance. And it was very emotional to see him dance with Gudrun Bojesen again (to my knowledge they haven't done that very often in recent years), because they are equally subtle in frasing, style and musicality. The Danish newspaper "Politiken" reported on the occasion a couple of days later, and the article was accompanied by a really good picture from the celebration after the finale: Nearly all the ballerinas Lund has danced with during the years appeared on stage one by one and gave him a red rose. After the 24 ballerinas, "Bamse", an oversized teddybear, and his two likewise oversized friends "Chick" and "Duckling" made their entrance on the stage. "Bamse", Chick" and "Duckling" have their own extremely popular television programme, and they are also the leading characters in Lund's children's ballet "Teddy goes ballet!". It was a great surprise to both the audience and visibly also to Lund, and brought some relieving laughter to the whole occasion. The picture in Politiken has catched this moment brilliantly: article and picture (If you are curious about "Teddy goes ballet" follow this link: Teddy goes ballet: There are lots of pictures and a video if you scroll down. If you'd like an English translation you can just click on the English flag in the top right corner - but then pictures and video disappears!)
  22. The book is available at the Danish E-bookshop SAXO: You will find it if you follow this link I have checked, that they do deliver to US, but they will charge you with DDK 229,- for delivery, plus extra DKK 29,- for each item (that makes approximately 43 US dollars just for delivery.) But the book is a real treat! I got my copy yesterday, and it is really worhtwhile, if you like Johnsen's non-glamorous style with lots of naked muscles and sweat. He is also master of the moment and some of the pictures catch exactly the moment where the movement expresses everything.
  23. I just got that very same message in my mailbox today, and it immediately made me terribly sad! I had hoped to have the opportunity to see Thomas Lund on stage for another couple of years, as he is only 38. He hasn't performed that often during the last couple of years, but when you were so lucky to catch one of his rare performances, it has always been simply exquisite! It seems that he has spent a lot of his time and energy on other things than dancing lately: teaching, staging, arranging and, last not least, creating special performances for the students of the ballet school. In that way his choice seems logical enough, and I wish him good luck from my very heart! I think his great qualities both as a dancer and as a person can only be of hugh benefit to the school, and that means, in the end, benefit to the company as well. But, seen with eyes of the audience it is almost unbearable to loose him "before time".
  24. I just want to make sure, that what I wrote about Hübbe - that Apollo "seems to pop up whenever Nikolaj Hübbe is involved" - doesn't indicate, that he himself is dancing Apollo (sometimes writing in a foreign language makes one involuntarily write something which means exactly the opposite of what one intends to). He has never done so after his retirement, at least not to my knowledge, and surely not while being a balletmaster with the RDB. But Apollo seems to be a ballet he treasures very much, since he puts it on the programme whenever he sees his chance. I liked his Apollo, though. It is more the ballet itself I think is a bit overrated or at least not to my taste...
  25. A week ago the RDB launched a programme that highlights the almost lifelong artistique collaboration between Balanchine and Stravinsky: Apollon (1928), Agon (1957)and Symphony in 3 movements (1972). The first two they created together, the latter Balanchine created for the Stravinsky Festival in 1972, commemorating the death of Stravinsky the year before. Personally I could do fine without Apollon (it seems to pop up whenever Nikolaj Hübbe is involved, but I can’t really warm up to it) so I was happy when I saw that they had made this programme a vehicle for Jean-Lucien Massot’s farewell performance by skipping Apollon and replacing it with Petr Zuska’s Les Bras de Mer and the final pas de deux from Cranko’s Onegin , two ballets which have been central in Massot’s carrier. The unifying idea of the programme, though, somehow got lost by this manoeuvre, and it took some mental work to prepare one self for Tjachovskij’s music and the passionate ending of Cranko’s Onegin after having watched Symphony in 3 Movements to minutes earlier. Neither was Agon the ideal preparation for enjoying Zuska’s Les Bras de Mer. I was very impressed by Les Bras de Mer, when the RDB presented it on their summer tour a couple of years ago (with Massot and Caroline Cavallo), but seeing it immediately after Agon I couldn’t help finding the choreography a bit clumsy and ordinary, which is a pity and not fair to it. Maybe I liked it better with Caroline Cavallo, because she had more edge and brouhgt more tension to the drama than Gitte Lindstrøm, who is a more placid character. It is a pity they couldn’t offer Massot a full-lenght ballet like Onegin as a farewell performance. It would have been more fair to him instead of this patchwork, and it would have displayed his ability to build up a convincing character, which is one of his strong cards and one that will be greatly missed. Actually I can’t see anyone in the company who can replace him, not only do they not have anyone of his type, which can be described as powerful and elegant in a very masculine and straightforward way, they also soon will have no male dancer over 35 with his bravura ability. Who is the next Onegin for example? At least this programme had the advantage of demonstrating the versatility of his talent, though it might have been a difficult task to prepare himself for so many different ways of dancing at the same evening. He seemed a bit tense and not at ease in the first half of Agon, but fortunately that seemed to disappear when he reached the pas de deux in the third part, which he did brilliantly and with his wellknown intensity. His partner in the Agon pas de deux was J’aime Crandall (whom he also partners in private life), and they suited each other very well, she being an ideal Balanchine dancer with an extremely bendable back and high extensions and, it seems, an iron strength. Also her looks has the coolness you see in many Balanchine ballerinas. Massot has the same strength and is a very safe haven for a ballerina. His minimalistic way of partnering always impresses me, it is like he knows exactly when to support them and when to keep his hands off them and let them unfold on their own. In this pas de deux there is some very tough mutual partnering going on, with lots of moments where a missed hand can be crucial. It is simply an acrobatic act, only it shouldn’t look like it – and it didn’t! Their pas de deux also had the right sincere, almost austere, expression, which made it the natural center and climax of the ballet. The rest of the ballet was danced in a very light and playful manner – and even with humour – which was a huge contrast to the way I remember it performed by the NYCB on tour in Copenhagen some years ago. One aspect of Agon is a kind of combat or competition, but with the RDB it is certainly a more friendly one. If it is the right way to do it or whether Balanchine would have liked it, I don’t know, but it is interesting that the same steps can be interpreted in so many different ways. In my opinion it speaks for the quality of the steps. And talking about steps, I keep marvel at the sheer richness of invention in this ballet! The same can be said about Symphony in 3 Movements, which also bubbles with ideas, though the focus here is more on group formations and speediness. It was also the only ballet Massot didn’t paticipate in. There were some other men, though, who are worth looking out for. Especially Charles Andersen impressed me. He is a very clear dancer of fine proportions, whíth a clean technique and a focused energy, and it looks like he is developing at high speed at the moment. An other promising dancer is Alexander Bozinoff, a recent canadian import into the company, and only 22 years old. As the third male soloist it was good to see Nicolai Hansen doing great. He brought some elegance into the picture. And now we are talking about the male dancers of the company I simply have to mention Alban Lendorf, who was the male lead of the first pas de trois in Agon. I haven’t seen him for about a year, and I must say that he has developed from an extremly promising rising star to a fullblown mature star. Completely in control and with an unerringly precision but at the same time with a total smoothness, like he was made of rubber. The last scene of Onegin ended the evening, and Massot and Gudrun Bojesen gave a heartbreaking performance of these two broken characters who faces lifelong misery when the curtain falls. It was almost too sad a finale, and it took some time to collect oneself again and take part in the standing ovations for a fine dancer, who will be greatly missed and not so easily replaced. We don’t have many mature dancers left in the company who have BOTH his virtuosity AND his stage personality. We have many refined and beautiful dancers, and many with a strong technique, but none of them have this touch of slightly animalistic roughness beneath the surface, which made so many of Massot’s characters exciting. I hope we will see him back some day as a character dancer!
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