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Short Time Together

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Yesterday was the premiere of the modern mixed bill, Short Time Together. Did anyone go?

Besides from the dancers themselves and one of the choreographers that I also follow who all seem practically enamoured with this production, there hasn't been much of a buzz about this performance on Instagram which is how I keep myself updated on the comings and goings of the RDB these days (they're crap at updating their new website - pretty layout, horrible functionality - casting wasn't even up until yesterday morning! I hope this won't be a trend this season)...

The promo pictures that have been released on the website look amazing, likewise with both the backstage video and the trailer. I'm really excited for this production, because I've been dying to see the RDB in modern works forever, I really think they of all companies have the range of expression and emotional intensity in their dancing not just to render it void movements to music.

I'll be seeing it on the 2nd of October, so I'll definitely review it myself there, but until then - there's a performance tonight and on Tuesday as well, if anyone goes to see it, please share your experience!

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I'm looking forward to seing this, too, and will probably go later in Octobre.

You are right, Syrene, about the horrible functionality of the new website of the Royal Danish Theatre. They were always late, though, about announcing the casting - forcing you to wait buying your ticket at the risk of all the good tickets taken. The new website is also a severe cut down on information, especially on the artists of the house: Now you can only see the names of the artist but no picture, no cv - nothing! It was probably very costly to keep the old website updated as it was so heavily loaded with information, pictures and videos, and I suppose the new website is a way of saving money. But no matter what, I mourne the loss of the old website every time i visit the new one...

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Last season, I generally thought they were pretty good at announcing their casting in advance, I think they usually said at least two weeks before opening night and stuck to it until Swan Lake seemed to disturb that trend with its many injuries...

The new website has such potential, it's such a pretty and simple design, but like you said - they've also cut the dancer bios in the process which is such a shame, because sometimes you want to look into a particular that you weren't familiar with beforehand...

Sigh. Well. I just hope that they'll start the season out strong with Short Time Together - so far the ticket sales don't seem to be doing too well even as early as October 2nd when I'm going. I didn't expect sold out houses like with classics such as Swan Lake, but still... I had hoped the ballet interest would stick over summer, at least, and make more people give other productions a try.

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Entirely agree about the RDB website - the only hope is that they haven't finished it yet. There was an article criticising it in one of the Danish newspapers, with a long string of very critical comments too - as far as I remember the theatre said they'd had to change it to work with a new booking system. But it's infuriating for instance that there seems no way of finding a list of dates for a particular production.

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Eva Kistrup posted a review of her second viewing of the programme, with a partly new cast, but it didn't change her critical opinion much: Short Time Together - Take Two

The newspaper Jyllands Posten's reviewer Henrik Lyding gives the programme 2 out of 6 stars and calls it a tedious stand still and Weekendavisen's Majbrit Hjelmsbo has a similar critical opinion except that she, like Eva Kistrup, likes “Short Time Together” by Sol León og Paul Lighfoot very much. It looks like the programme divides the audience in two, I will go and look for myself in a weeks time.

As for the casting the theatre has so far only announced who is going to dance until Octobre 3!

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Saw Short Time Together yesterday and it was absolutely incredible. It definitely deserves a longer, more in-depth review, but I've basically just got back home to Aarhus and severely need sleep to put into words the experience, so it'll have to wait till tomorrow. Until then, rest assured that just because it's a bill that will inevitably divide the audience (the audience response yesterday was indeed very mixed), I don't think it was lacking true quality dancing or didn't show great potential for development. Whether you like it or not, I think, basically comes down to tastes. I was lucky, Short Time Together was right up my alley.

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Short Time Together was a three-piece look at modern lifes experience of time passing. After the curtain went down on the last ballet of the evening (the title choreography), I was left with a feeling that each separate performance had shed light on a different aspect of this overall theme. The Death That Best Preserves was death in dancing. The story showed how life is ultimately a race towards the end, but how the end embraces everything that came before rather than erasing it. Know was a close inspection of the present, of the here and now and how we tend to bury ourselves in it, because too much lies ahead, too much lies around us to comprehend and take in. Lastly, Short Time Together itself toyed with life in terms of human relations in its various forms and all its absurdity.

I loved it. I loved it so much that I cant even pick a favourite ballet out of the three, I thought they were all perfect at conveying the issue that was theirs to portray. They all left me in deep thought, inspired to some degree and definitely, definitely touched.

The casting I saw was the first, opening night cast. In the Death That Best Preserves that meant some of the main figures were portrayed by Kizzy Matiakis (the old woman), Ida Praetorius (her younger self), Marcin Kupinski (Death), Alba Nadal and Sebastian Kloborg (the parents) with Oliver Starpov as the wasp. Everyone were nothing short of perfect in their roles and you could definitely tell that the ballet had been created on them, they owned it. I was particularly impressed with Kizzy Matiakis whom Ive otherwise had an ambivalent opinion on (after having seen her in roles such as Prudence, Effie, Birthe and various minor parts in Swan Lake last season). This is the absolute finest performance Ive seen from her, hands down, and I couldnt disagree more that this should be considered a lying down/sitting role. There was lying and sitting, yes, but she was so fully present and so completely engrossed in the part that it was interesting to watch not to mention, that there was still plenty of dancing for her to do. And what amazing dancing, even Death couldnt follow! Similarly, Marcin Kupinski took me by complete surprise as Death Hes always been my least favourite of the current male principal line-up, but in Death he seems to finally have found a role where his acting and dancing can come together successfully, with a cold breeze of sensitivity and yet, a shimmer of empathy. It was such a joy to watch and I was utterly impressed, especially in the part where the Old Woman puts on her floral gown and dances her final dance. He tries to steer it in the direction he knows it needs to go and yet allows her to part with life in the manner that suits her best. It was touching. Actually, the entire ballet was so touching that I cried during it and I could tell that I wasnt the only one. Ida Praetorius had been given the role of the younger self and I cant help wondering if someone saw her in Lolita over the summer, because it was basically a boiled down, abuse-stripped version of that character which means: Everything Ida Praetorius does best. Fiery and feisty and a true wild child. She was an absolute joy to watch and has grown much more secure in her partnering, too. It made me very happy to see. Alba Nadal and Sebastian Kloborg were both good in their parenting parts, but the parts themselves were not memorable and probably the least intense aspect of the ballet. I much preferred Nadal in Know and Kloborg in Short Time Together. Finally, the wasp Oh, the laughs that he drew in his over-dimensional costume and his orgasmic glee over the flowers. Oliver Starpov was splendid and did the parts humoristic nature great justice without it becoming just antics and no meaning. I loved the way the gigantic wings on the costume would flap around his body wildly when he moved. All in all, I really loved The Death That Best Preserves it was a gentle, sympathetic rendition of a woman leaving life behind and felt very personal. However, I must also say that out of the three choreographies that evening, The Death That Best Preserves was the one that was most forgettable to me, except forgettable is the wrong word because I still remember it, it just didnt leave as vivid an impression as the two ballets that followed.

Know, on the other hand Wow, Know. Know felt like a piece of installation art in a museum. A moving, breathing one. Amidst this wave of dancers on stage at once, its difficult picking out distinct people because as the ballet progressed, they all gained personality and uniqueness, but I have to mention Astrid Elbo, Alba Nadal, Tim Matiakis and Liam Redhead in particular. Amazing presences in the seeming chaos. It began with Astrid Elbo coming on stage and introducing herself, engaging the audience, continuously asking random people how they were feeling and responding to their answers in accordance. Lots of smiles, goods and thumb-ups. The atmosphere she created was warm and buzzing with a certain excitement. Then came a bunch of other dancers out into the audience rows, Alba Nadal and Tim Matiakis on first row a few rows ahead of me and I spotted Liam Redhead somewhere in the back, behind me. They shook hands, had little conversations with the audience. It was an amazing experience, feeling the atmosphere in that room just get electric with the interaction. Slowly, the dancers migrated up onto the stage. Found their positions and waited for their cue in silence. The dancing looked chaotic to the eye, but so chaotic that you knew it was intentional. That you just had to give yourself up to the randomness and the unforgiving pace and be swept away anyway, trusting the dancers to lead you where you were supposed to go. Unlike in The Death That Best Preserves the story wasnt spelled out and no one held your hand throughout with immediately recognisable imagery. You had to think for yourself and I loved that. The dancing was mixed with sounds, laughter and cries. Astrid Elbo moved in and out between the others, some followed her, some fell into their own rhythms, fell into their own choreographic worlds. Liam Redhead got to show off some amazing jumps. You forgot time, watching it. There was only the now. Suddenly, Astrid Elbo stopped during what felt like a climax. Stopped off to the side, just staring at the fourth wall. Staring at us and looking lost. In the blink of an eye, she seemed to make up her mind and started taking off all her clothes. All of it, except her panties. Naked, she started telling us about what she didnt know. I dont know if theres enough food in the world for everyone. I, on my part, didnt know how to feel, honestly. I couldnt look away, but at the same time it was as if I was looking at myself, my own mind. Then, she started putting on her clothes again quickly, the entire choreography that had led up to that point was reversed and danced backwards, words spoked backwards, backwards walking, shadows spinning backwards. All of it backwards. As such, you sort of got to see Know twice. Once moving forward and once moving back to the starting point, a bit like time sometimes throws us into loops. At the end, there was Astrid again. Hello, my name is Astrid. And with everything youd just seen, you suddenly knew. You suddenly knew who Astrid was. I was blown away.

However, I can understand why certain people wouldnt like Know at all. It was clearly experimental in nature and raw in its expression. Except the use of shadows and the static crackling of a microphone, it was sort of bare. It felt less like a ballet performance and more like an experience, dance theatre maybe. If you dont want that, if you want the pointes and the highly recognisable body language, Know isnt for you. I thought Know was bold, though, and I thought Know was genuine. If Susanne Grinder hadnt been dancing in Short Time Together, I wouldnt hesitate to call Know my favourite ballet of the night. Yes, Im guilty.

Short Time Together, the only choreography of the night that wasnt created on the Danish dancers (though, the segments with Susanne Grinder, Sebastian Kloborg and Sebastian Haynes had been revised for them specifically) and the title piece of the night, was like a streamlined and smooth-operating version of Jiri Kylians aesthetic. You could definitely see where the inspiration came from. The ballet was sort of split in two with the fast-paced, red hue part danced by Gregory Dean, Stephanie Sahlgren, Alexander Bozinoff and Andreas Kaas. The leading male role was a perfect fit for Gregory Dean and he seemed to be having tons of fun opposite Sahlgreens very Greek statuesque female lead with her quirky moments. Of the two male supports, Andreas Kaas really stood out. The more I see of him, the more I like him and I cant wait to see what waits in store for him further ahead in his career. Im already predicting another great male profile that we could easily lose to international companies The other part of the ballet was all slow-motion and endless balances. This trio was lead by Susanne Grinder and Sebastian Haynes who seem to be paired up more and more frequently lately, something that I completely approve of. Haynes may be young, but his build is perfect for Susanne and the partnering that I saw in Short Time Together was already a hundred times more secure than what I saw in Swan Lake. Grinders character was the constant impact on Sebastian Kloborgs character, her serene figure clad in beautiful costumes with white being the common thread. Her long, loose hair was absolute gorgeous to look at as she forced her body through the agonizingly slow movements. Solo, Grinder has really come far. Looking at her balance Friday and remembering her Nikiya from a few seasons ago She has grown so much stronger and more secure. Her partnering has always been amazing, but it seemed completely fluent opposite Haynes and Kloborg. I hope its a partnering option the management will keep in mind for her in the future, too. Haynes, like Kaas, has grown immensely over summer. When he ascended the stage at the beginning, he was a man where hed looked more like a teenage boy in Swan Lake. He was assertive, calm, controlled and very serious. His mimicry is to die for. Dear God, let this be the one male dancer that wont get away from us. Please. I thought Short Time Together overall bore the obvious marks of having been tried out on another cast first and worked there. It was a beautiful, effective ballet and earned the biggest applause at the end from the audience, but personally I didnt care too much for the middle, fast-paced part and could easily have enjoyed another, additional segment of Grinder-Haynes-Kloborg, but what I got was lovely and had moments of true ballet bliss.

Conclusion? I think this mixed bill was exactly that, a mixed bill. I was lucky that I liked all the bonbons in the bag, but I know not everybody shares my broad tastes. I can understand why some would feel this is the RDB treading water desperately and not always being able to keep their head above, but what I see is the will and the courage to put new shoes on their dancers and see how best to shape a distinctive style for them, in the modern department as well. I think these clothes are promising, full of potential, if not yet perfect. Give them another few seasons to work on the fitting and the style and well soon have something distinctive and altogether ours at the RDB when it comes to contemporary and modern ballet, too. Im confident. Friday night made me confident.

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I went Tuesday night this week. It started really fine: The opening picture of the first ballet, "The Death that best preserves" was delightful: The old lady in her "shell" far back and four young couples dancing happily in the corners, the girls wearing pretty, oldfashioned dresses in bright colours, while Tim Matiakis, naked upperbody and dark trousers, had a frantic and electrifying solo in the middle and frontstage. It was at the same time lovely and scary and kept you on the edge, your curiosity roused: What was going to happen? The entrance of Ulrik Birkkjær as the Death was equally spellbinding (– he is a true elegantier and leaps with astonishing precision and elevation, he shoots through the air like an arrow). His encounter with the old lady, helping her naked soul out of her earthly shell, her heart beat visualized by a flashing red light which she protected carefully with her hands, was truly original imagery. She speaks out her relief at his coming, and from then on, Death guides her gently and respectfully through the different stages of her life, leaving her time and space to come to an understanding of what was actually her life. The Death has never been portrayed more gentle. When it comes to the actual dying, his three servants take over (among them Tim Mathiakis ), and they are far from gentle. This is exemplified by their treatment of a happy bee (yes, a bee!). Once this bee has been introduced, the magic spell is broken, and at least I never really recovered. Comic relief is fine when used with artistry, but this was just toe curling banal and malplaced.

But still, the ballet as a whole had some fine moments, but it sadly lost momentum midways, partly because there is no logic to the structure of the story telling. During its fifty long minutes one never knows whether one is in the middle or near the end of the story: The old lady dies over and over Again. However, when finally the three servants of Death gave her the same treatment as they had given the happy bee, you knew that this time it was final (– maybe that was the true raison d' être of the bee.) But that didn’t mean that the ballet was over, far from…

Choreographically the sources dried out quickly. After 10 fine minutes one had the feeling that the creator, the czech choreographer Natalia Horecna, ran out of steps. Never have there been so many splits in one ballet, mostly peformed by female dancers sliding around and climbing on the body of a male dancer. Like in so many classical ballets the male dancers’ role was mostly reduced to partnering and “handling” the female dancers.

The lack of logic in the narrative was also the weakness of the last ballet in the programme, Sol Leon and Paul Lightfoot’s “Short Time Together”. Like Horecna’s choreography it is based on the classic vocabulary of steps, but twisted and, in the case of Lightfoot/Leon, enforced with sharp edges and statuesque qualities. The middle part with music by Bethoven was efficient and polished. The energy of the music corresponded with the movements, and every nuance of the rhythmic pattern was mirrored in the chroreography. But somehow it left you – or at least me – cold. And so did the frame story, which was added to the middle part especially for the RDB. I had no idea what the story was or what it was all about. Was it the story of the young man, who entered the stage at the beginning? Or was the young man the same as the old man in the grey suit looking down at the stage from the large screen, mirrored by a young dancer similarily clad on the stage, or was it his father? What was their relation to the woman/the women – were the three woman just different sides of the same woman? No idea! And what is worse: I didn’t care.

The ballet in the middle, "Know", was a puzzling affair, like watching a workshop. But no matter how much I tried to resist it, disliking it with my brain, I could't help liking it. Maybe the total abandon and spontaneity of the dancers overwhelmed me and won me over, and it didn't leave me cold like "Short Time Together". When Astrid Elbo at the end of her monologue took off her clothes, and just stood there, facing the audience, it was, to me, and surprisingly so, not embarrasing at all. It had an honest and vulnerable quality, which helped me take in her words, which in another context would have been utterly banal. To other people it was apparently very offensive – I could see a few people leaving the theatre few seconds after it had happened.

That the music was played backwards from the middle of the ballet, is a truth with modifications. It was a very manipulated and electronically remastered version, which covered the structure of the music and only let you hear the music in recognizable glimpses.

All in all the evening was a very mixed experience. But the over all impression was that of a meagre programme, dominated by uninspired choreography. Lots of good ideas maybe, but not matured and ready for an audience yet.

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Also, Anne, I wanted to ask, since I gather that you watched the second cast of Death That Best Preserves... How did you find Stephanie Chen as the younger self? She's a favourite of mine and I was sad to miss her in this role. So glad she is getting to try her hands on major parts now, I'm crossing my fingers for her.

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It is hard for me to say what I think about Stephanie Chen in that part, Syrene, as the role didn't make much sense to me. I didn't understand why she should act so very childish all the time - flayling arms and hopping around like a 10-year old - I suppose she was meant to be a youth and not a child. Furthermore it annoyed me the way she had to do the same things over and over again.

All this was of course not her fault but the choreographer's, but at the same time it makes it impossible for me to tell whether I liked her or not.

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No, I can completely understand how it would be hard to judge if the role didn't make sense to you. I really appreciated Ida Praetorius in the part the night I went, because it reminded me a lot of all her brilliant performance as Lolita... Hopefully Stephanie Chen will get more chances for exciting dancing later this season. I'm really hoping to see her as Dewdrop in The Nutcracker!

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