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The RDB situation

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HEY :(

Just a comment:

Living in Copenhagen and following the RDB through some years, I feel that the companys position is viewed differently abroad compared to how i see it... :wink: my view:

The companys base is Bournonville - its the most important style and identity of the RDB - BUT since we only have about 5 or so bournonville ballets its not enough to make a rep season after season - therefore the company have to and should do other stuff.... also the people in copenhagen have seen bournonville already - and as a government funded institution the rdb role is to be the dance/ballet center in Copenhagen - not just satisfying the 3 old ladies that see Napoli every night but also the new generation wich ofcourse can see la sylphide and get something out of that - but have to see modern ballet and other ways of expression in motion. I mean when La sylphide was made it was not about the past or a fairy tale - it was a new piece educating the audience and telling them something about the life that they live! we should do that today aswell....

SO I think its OK how bournonville is treated now - ballet should not be a museum or a retelling of the past.. ballet is motion and the fascination of control and bodys showing emotions or even saying stuff...

but ofcourse as long as la sylphide still "tuch" people it should be alive... and perfectly danced true to the tradition...

Another thing is the dancers.... :party:

The RDB have a great line of famed male dancers - both due to the many male bournonville parts but also that when the RDB "qonquered" the world it was the "only" company with dancers that were really fit and challenged as dancers.. so ofcourse they hit instant fame because they were on a new high level - but today the same can be said about the hole south american group of dancers - they are reaching new levels of control and bravour that are new to people.... soo the danish dancers are not getting worse and worse they are just somewhat left behind on some issues in ballet (technic) :thumbsup:

So i think that its always gonna be a problem because we have a audience at home thinking differently of the company then the internatinal dance world - its a balance act thats very hard to keep - even harder then any balance in Don Q :P

Uhh that was kinda long - whats your view???


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Nikolai, I doubt that you could have found a more RDB-friendly site on the web!

Many of us are great fans and followers of the company, and of dancers who come from it. One of the most frequent-encountered concerns is in regard to the ability of the company responsibly to continue to dance in the time-honored Bournonville tradition, and produce the ballets faithfully, while reaching out to the International style to dance other ballets. I don't know if Bournonville himself ever had an absolute monopoly on choreography for the RDB, but the way of handling other choreographers' works was always distinctive.

I don't think that there's ever a danger that the company will become dipped in amber and fossilize. There's the better metaphor for a company which merely freezes productions rather than a "museum company". There's nothing wrong with being a "museum company", in fact I wish somebody would form one and say, "We ARE a museum company, ya wanna make somethin' of it? :angry: " But fossils are another story. Just the remains of something, while a specialized interest of some, are not more than a curiosity to most. I don't think that the Danes, any more than any other audience, would let that happen to their company. :thumbsup:

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More comments? This is a big issue in Denmark, and it's been a big issue since 1951.

One thing I'll say is that no one says they should dance ONLY Bournonville, at least no one I know. Somehow that's how the American-British interest in Bournonville is often heard by people there, both in and outside the Theatre. I thought Edvard Brandes put it very well -- a very long time ago now. He's like a huge stone monument that, because of the growth fo the city, is now in the middle of the road. It can't be moved. It could be destroyed, but you can't do that, becuase it's so damned good. (I realize that's a paraphrase.)

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Mel -

im very well aware that this forum is extremely RDB friendly - and im not saying that you cant critisice (you should) but I think that the role of the RDB is broader then many people see it....

And yes the standard of bournonville hasnt been top noch B) the last couple of years - its a way of doing things that needs to be changest but its very hard to change things overnight "there" (rdb) - it take ages aswell as a good boss that have the power [small snip] and a good way of doing things!

Alexandra -

i know that extremely few people would want bournonville to be the only context of the rep - ... just trying to make a point about the difference in the way that people see the rdb... :P

Nikolai B)

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It takes more than power. It takes artistry. The last time I saw the Bournonville stagings, they were Not Good and it wasn't just that there was a problem with the level of dancing. There are some changes scheduled for the 2005 festival -- I'm interested to see what Riggins will do with Kermesse.

Nikolai, I edited your post slightly for its language. We stick to words that can be used on American network TV :P

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Nikolai, I'm certainly in agreement with you that the RDB is more than just any ballet company. It's a national treasure of Denmark! :) Many Americans don't get the idea of Royal Charter. In the US, we don't have the concept of a separate state and government. The President is, by law, the head of both state and of the government. A US company with a "Presidential Charter" (no such thing exists, by the way) would be a ridiculous idea to the great majority of Americans. But a Royal Ballet is a matter of a sovereign declaring: This is the very finest that my country puts before my people and the people of good will of all the world. It's a more involved way of thinking than most of us Americans are used to. For many reasons, the RDB has been the only company to speak of in Denmark. Now, Hans Christian Smörrebrød might form a pickup company, and that might last for several years, and do good work, but it's not like it would be the instrument of state that the Royal is. I agree, changing anything so much a part of the fabric of the state will take place at nearly glacial speed, and even the most aggressive balletmaster will need in equal balance with power, expertise, and an effective work plan, a major measure of perseverance.

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The problemwith RDB is that it is still to good to stop caring. When you feel you have reached a low point,. they will suddenly of of nowhere make a star performance, a fantastic Sylph a great Manon and you stay hooked. The root of the problem is that RDB is not a strong company because of the tradition but the strenghs is really down to a group of very good dancers and a few good directors. It is not the company who created Kronstam, Villumsen, Hubbe, Ib Andersen etc. It was in fact them that created the company. At present we have, as has been the case for a number of years a company consisting of a few but very good leading dancers, a unexperienced corps the ballet and a growing import of foreign dancers. When you see the line of home grown talents, there is no solo dancer under the age of 27. I do not worry about the 2005 festival I vorry about the years ahead. We have been in the situation before and each time we have been saved by a sudden burst of talents and a few good enclaves of dancers It my fail to happen.

Thre strenght of the company is primarily in dramatic works even though the current crop may be better in Martins ballets than in Bournonville. At present Frank Andersen is building a repetoire of trying to repeat proven succes formulas. We have had succesfull Neumeier ballets before. Lets try a few? We had a hit with Martins, Lets bring him on, and so forth

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The problem with RDB is that it is still to good to stop caring. When you feel you have reached a low point,. they will suddenly out of nowhere make a star performance, a fantastic Sylph a great Manon and you stay hooked.

Yes. I would say that, too. And one of the things I learned from studying the history of the company is that -- things can get better! Sticking to a tried and true formula for choosing repertory may not be the most exciting thing in the world, I agree, but it may not do as much harm as trying anything new, just for the sake of trying it. The dancers gain from working with Neumeier and Martins and they'll feed off that in the future. I'm saddened that some of the living great Danish artists -- Ib Andersen and Arne Villumsen -- aren't there to work with the dancers.

I agree, too, that the worry is for 2005+ With the international focus off of Bourononville, he'll be dumped (as happened in 1993-94) and 2079 is a long time to wait for another resurgence of interest. NOT that the rep should be all-Bournonville, but if you want to keep the company's identity, the dancers have to speak his language, and I think Kronstam's solution of having 3 Bournonville ballets in the rep each season-- but rotating -- was a good one. That way the dancers were in touch with them without over-dancing them.

As for new rep -- join the waiting line! :)

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It is not the company who created Kronstam, Villumsen, Hubbe, Ib Andersen etc. It was in fact them that created the company.

I think you undervalue the institution a bit here. I know I'm not over there to watch, but it really does seem to me that the institution created those dancers. They didn't spring from the head of Zeus.

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Off caurse they did not came from the head of Zeus, but was created not by the institution but by excellent teachers, Vera Volkova, Henning Kronstam, Stanley Williams. Where the institution played in was the fact that it was a respected part of the Danish cultural establishment. It really was something to be a solo dancer at RDB - almost like making the national football team. If the institution itself could create great dancers, we would have seen a constant ongoing supply, like in Paris og Kirov. In Denmark the situation has alway been that we exist on good yearligs. I think it was in 51 that five male dancers was made solo dancers, that group plus especially Henning Kronstam who came a few years later was the foundation for the succes of great male dancers in the 50ties. Another group exploded in the mid70ties with Arne Villumsen, Ib Andersen, Frank Andersen, Annemarie Dybdahl, Mette-Ida Kirk, Lis Jeppesen, Linda Hindberg and Heidi Ryom who are all born between 1950 -56. And then there was a waste talent gab untill the arrival of Hubbe, Kølpin, Greve, Aage Thordahl, Peter Bo Bendixen, Schandorff, Olsson, Gad. The group also included dancers like Niels Balle, who got injured at a crucial time, Michael Weidinger, who also was injured out of a promising career, Nilas Martins and caracter dancers Petruska Broholm, Henriette Muus and Mette Bødcher. Since then wehave only managed to produce 4 solo dancers out of the school, Mads Blangstrup, Thomas Lund, Gitte Lindstrøm and Gudrun Bojesen, plus soloists Morten Eggert, Tina Højlund and Diana Cuni. And they are al in their late 20ties. After them it looks pretty empty. We should see at least two generations approching (we see dancers from the age of 16 on the stage). It may have to do with the recruting activities, which I know is supported by varous activities. But at the moment it lookes like the are focusing on the recruitement, but is oblivious to the quality of the teaching. I can only join Alexandra in her view that it is sad that the major stars like Arne Villumsen and Ib Andersen is not part of the process. I know that youlearn more from someone who has gone all the way than from someone who was just looking on. For an insight view I can recommend Anne Flindt-Christensens book of interviews with dancers from last year and may I qoute the late great critic Henrik Lundgreen who during Frank Andersens last tenune said: Frank Andersen is not the course of the RDBS problems - but he is not the solution either. Frank has returned an older, and wiser ballet master, but at best he can reproduce old success formulas. he has so far been unable to define new ones or to do the necessary changes to the management of the ballet school. Any other institution which has performed so poorly over so long a period would be subjected to a change in management.

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Probably not. What I would like to see is more money for the ballet department, better marketing, employment of an inhouse corographer, as they have lost the services of both Tim Rushton and presumebly Alexey Ratmansky, better teacher, directors and deeper undestanding of casting as the sucess parameter. At the moment RDB is suffering at the box office. There is little or no buz around the company. There is only a small group of constant attenders. When I started out at ballet fan, the ballet was king with the opera as the poor cousin. Now the roles are reversed. It probably makes sense to spend the most money on the most popular art form. But we all hope that the new Opera and (ballet) house will allure more people to attending performances. What the company need is another Romeo & Juliet, A Midsummer nights dream or Onegin to pull in the crowds. Neither a very fine Manon nor a less than stellar Odysseen have managed to do that recently. I must also ask, as a professional marketeer, why the thetre understand so little of audience behavour, that the constanly put the potentil bestseller by the endd of the season. Instead the should put the big new productions early in the season and milk them for the whole period. Instead it is like they cannot understrand why a premiere in May do not sell in October. They should also use the stars better as the drawing factor. At the moment it is almost impossible to find out who will be dancing when and the dancers are not used as a marketing pull.

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The Royal teatre is speciel holding four artistics units. Much could be said for spliting into totally separate units, but it will also be a break with tradition and probably not wise for the ballet as the majority of the spectator are teatre goers who do not mind an odd ballet or so. Each artistic division is then led by a chief. I would say the greatest problem with the current system has been that neither the chief of the theatre, the minister for culture, nor several of the ballet masters were top notch artistic leaders. There has been a large difference compared with the opera, who for several years have been lead by an artistic capability and a dynamo and pr -oriented figure. There is nothing he will not do to to spread gospel. i can see Frank Andersen taking one or several conceps from Kaspar Bech Holten. The difference remains that Kasper is on top of his artistic game, where as Frank Andresen is a Try- and error man. When the chief of the teatre do not really knows the difference either it is difficult to move forward. When Michael Christiansen appointed Frank Andersen, after nobbing him previously, it was considered a cautious move, after four (five if you includes Frank Andersens first tenure) appointment mistakes, the known quantity became a desirable solution. Backing up with lloyd Riggins as crown prince was a wise move, as those who could not support Frank, would likely support lloyd riggins, who enjoyed large popularity internely and externally. no Lloyd sems to have decided to continue his dancing career and the running much be considered open.

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I'll go out on a limb on this one. In my absolutely unhumble opinion, I think the current Theater Chief is at the root of many of the problems, and this goes beyond his 0 for 4-and-a-half record of appointing ballet masters. He came from the Ministry of Defense with no experience in managing a theater. Whether the persistent rumors that he had never set foot in the theater nor seen a ballet are true, I don't know. He was brought in, it was said at the time, to unknot the really awful union contracts, which he did in short order, and very well (whether the unions would agree with that, I don't know). But there's so much more to the job than that.

It should be said in the interests of fairness that, according to my sources, the opera and drama departments are doing very well. I think this is because of the different nature of the art forms. For both opera and drama, the chief (artistic director) sets the repertory and brings in directors to direct the plays and conductors and opera producers to stage productions. It is perfectly understandable that someone who is not trained in theater management would ask, "why the hell doesn't this work in ballet?" But it doesn't. Add to that, that I think there are many who have power over the ballet world who think that ballets are plays with steps in them -- that it's the story that matters, and anyone can come in and stage a ballet and have a ballet master, considered by some to be a failed artist too unimaginative to be a choreographer, "just do the dancing parts" as one critic put it to me.

Would it help if he were removed? I wonder if there is a realistic hope that anyone selected to succeed him would be any better.

The root of this goes beyond the Theater Chief (and his staff, each hand picked to fulfill the Theater Chief's mission) though, to the Minister of Culture. When I was researching my book, I was told consistently that everything began to go seriously wrong with the death of Niels Matthiasen, the last Minister of Culture who was, well, cultured. He loved ballet, and was very involved in nurturing it. In a postiive way, that is :) Fertilizer, weed killer.....what's the difference? They both have a picture of a flower on them.

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Some things to consider--

*The "marketing department" at the RDB consists of, as far as the website suggests, one person, who is also in charge of all of the education and outreach events that they produce. I cannot think of a single other major international company where this is the case.

*Programming a season, and I am sure that I am preaching to the choir here, involves more than just the marketing--but also the schedules of the people who are setting ballets, the time it takes to actually construct the work from the tutus to the lights etc. Add to this the Opera schedule with the same limitations. More than half of the works open in the first portion of the season, which is pretty impressive. I am not yet decided if I am in favor of their half-rep method, where occasionally there are dedicated periods to a single ballet and occasionally you can see three things in one week. I can't imagine what sort of trauma this must be for the technicians who are constantly changing from ballet to opera and back again. We should consider ourselves lucky that the ballet exists from September to May and not just for six weeks at a time. (maybe someone wants to pick up the debate and tell me the virtue of a 'ballet' or 'opera' season--i know you're out there

*The Minister of Culture visited the ballet last week. Maybe he was confused, but I was told that he was there! :)

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Oh, yes, there is a Minister of Culture -- good to know he was at the theater. It's just that the people who have been appointed to this position since Mathiasen have different backgrounds and different priorities!

I don't think anyone would doubt the current artistic director's marketing skills, so you're probably all right there :)

On the programming, I'd vote for mixed repertory -- having two weeks of one program is a relatively recent idea and I think it's a horrible one. Too bad about the technicians. They used to be able to handle three or four ballets a night with complicated sets and a different rep program the next night.

In the '50s and '60s there were many more ballets in a season than now, fewer casts (2) and a mixed repertory. Part of the glory of repertory theater is seeing how ballets appear different when on the bill with other ballets -- shuffling the ballets, as it were. All of this is a matter of choices, and standing up to a theater administration. The ballet and the opera have always fought for space, and the ballet usually loses. But one can say, "If I don't have four weeks of rehearsal, the ballet does not go on," for example. And one doesn't need to have five casts. (I don't mean to suggest that any of these are specifically RDB problems; it's happening all over.)

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With Niels Mathiasen as Minister for Culture, the RT was the top priority. Since there has been little or no government support, no matter what party where in government. The post as cultural minister is usully handed to the weakest, less experienced minister, who is not able to obtain more funding. Re Michael Christiansen. He used to be the head of the defense ministry and is a stong figure in public government. Siding his artistic abilities, which are very limited. His political strengh may indeed have saved RT for more budget cuts. Denmarks riches man have donated a new opera house and this will force the government to spend more money, even thoughthey at the moment think that two opera houses can be be run by the resources of one.

Current management will sit untill 2008, where Michael Christiansen probably will retire. But it is a far way yet. And I see very little growth in the artictic abilities of either him or in the Ballet master currently. At best they have stopped experimenting big style and stick to proven succes formulas. But when those are not working there is a big void.

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Regarding repetoire. Giving the current resources RDB has almost constant problems fullfiling the repetoire as planned. The reasons are few dancers, injuries and the fact that the corps include many foreign and young dancers, who would not like the old days know a lrge number of ballet by heart. It is therefore difficult to change. Also the subcriptions system limits the possibilities, as the audience is promised certain ballets at certain dates. A reason for the growing number of injury is that there is little precautinary measures in the form of ongoing fysioterapy and when certain dancers are injured, other dancers is over worked to compensate. As the talent pool is limited, there is no significant number of bursting young ballets to draw from.

When you compare to earlier times, yes the repetoire was bigger, but there were fewer new productions and a steady corps, who knew the repetoire in details. It was easier to change. Also most ballets depended more on solo dancers and less on ensemble, which made last minuts changes easier. Today most ballets are cast with 3 -4 teams of dancers, but due to injuries and lack of rehersal time, it is seldom than more than 2 teams actually gets on stage. Dancers have danced major roles like Aurora and Bluebird without having one stage rehersal. To cure the problem RDB needs more dancers on all levels. Currently Solo dancers like Thomas Lund is doing corps duty in Odysseen as well as dancing James in La Sylphide. In Manon he has the small role as head beggar, where he could have been an interesting Lescaut. In short he spends too much time doings roles, he has outgrown and risks unneccesary injuries while doing them. But untill more corps dancers are hired and more soloists developed, he cannot be a full time star.

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