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Ballerina/Danseur Programs

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Jane Simpson now has a review in Ballet.co's Magazine:

Royal Danish Ballet

The men's programme opens on a darkened stage, empty except for some bits of lighting kit and an illuminated sign in the middle which says (in Danish) "The Dance is an art because it demands a vocation, knowledge, and skill". It's the first sentence of August Bournonville's choreographic credo, the foundation stone of this company and the perfect start to an evening like this. When the dancers appear, they're in street clothes; they read the message, and nod as if in in acknowledgment of its truth: then in a few seconds they've stripped off their glamorous trench coats and boots and are revealed as Bournonville dancers, and we're away into Bournonville Variations, a newly devised compilation of extracts from the daily Bournonville Schools, shaped by Thomas Lund and Nikolaj Hübbe into an entertaining and often exciting little ballet. Lund - who chose the extracts - doesn't make life easy for his cast, starting and ending with parts of the Pas de la Vestale, a pas de deux once danced by Bournonville himself, and which it's said that Erik Bruhn refused to dance because it was so difficult. In between, the dancing is non-stop, but broken into distinct sections - one with a Spanish flavour, for instance - and there's also a nice joke, when the sequence known as the Dark Step (because it's so complex that a black mist descends on the brains of dancers trying to learn it) is done literally in the dark, with only the flashing feet of the dancers visible in ultra-violet light. Ulrik Birkkjær is the soloist leading the cast of twelve, but the stylish technique of Alban Lendorf and Alexander Stæer, often dancing together, grabbed most of the attention.
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It was a really interesting review - thank you for that, Jane! I especially liked this passage: "The RDB may not have the glamour and the megastars of some of the big companies but on their night they have a directness and a spirit that delivers the essence of a ballet in a way that would make any choreographer very happy." It just hits the bull's eye, and I thought instantly, yes! that's why I love this company too with all it's imperfections!

I was glad to hear that Sakurai is back and looks like he's in good shape. None of the Danish reviewers have mentioned him at all, which is quite odd, as he has been away from the stage in close to 2 years.

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This Q&A w/ stager Stephen Pier appeared in the latest edition of the Limon e-newsletter:

Former Company member Stephen Pier recently returned from setting "The Unsung" on the Royal Danish Ballet, so we asked him to write about his experiences.

Tell us why this was a special experience for you.

SP: My personal connection to both the José Limón Company and the Royal Danish Ballet is rather profound and, I must say, somewhat unique as I had the rare pleasure of dancing with both of these great companies. I've always believed that José and Bournonville shared certain common values. They were both interested in the development of men's dancing. They shared a commitment to exploring the deeper aspects of the human experience through dance. They both sought to elevate dance as an art form beyond mere entertainment.

How did it go?

SP: I was slightly apprehensive before I started, knowing how physically and mentally demanding "The Unsung" is for the dancers and not knowing how these very classically trained dancers would take to it. From the first day, however the dancers were completely enthralled and gave everything they had to the process. They held nothing back. The director, Nikolaj Hubbe, who fell in love with the piece years ago, was present at many rehearsals and told me the dancers had come to him to tell him how much they were getting out of the process and how much they loved the piece. They were so eager that I prepared two casts to afford as many of them as possible the opportunity to work on it. The company arranged to add extra rehearsals to accommodate that. Throughout the process, company members kept coming up saying how excited everyone was to be doing this work. Many of them came to watch rehearsals of other sections. The crowning moment was, as it should be, the premiere. The men pulled together fantastically and I knew after the first set of taps that they were "in the zone". They really entered another world together. The audience was in shock! Wonderful ovations! Most of all, I was pleased that these dancers clearly understood what this piece and this way of dancing was about. It was meaningful to them, to me, and to all who saw it.

What memories do you have of dancing "The Unsung" yourself?

SP: Passing this piece on to other dancers evoked so many deep physical memories. I recalled vividly the incredible experience of learning it from Gary Masters when I was a young dancer, and performing it all over the world. It was one of those pieces that goes deep into every fiber of one's being, where you always could feel the audience in a kind of mystical union with the dance. The piece is both brutal and noble, highly physical and deeply sacred. It gets inside of you and changes your DNA somehow. An audience member said to me, "I imagine the dancers both love and hate this piece." He was right. One approaches it knowing it will demand an awful lot of you, but once you are in it, it takes you somewhere and you never know quite where you will end up or how.

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