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Hübbe's La Sylphide / Balanchine's Theme & Variations

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Videos and pictures from rehearsals of La Sylphide have begun to show up on Instagram. A few videos and pictures from Theme & Variations have been shared here and there as well, though mostly before The Nutcracker run began... The Royal Theatre just sent out a new subscription email with an intro to La Sylphide, mentioning Gregory Dean and Amy Watson specifically as cast in the roles of James and the Sylph, respectively. Otherwise, no official cast lists have been posted yet and with the rate the RDB have done this the first half of the season, we probably shouldn't expect any until New Year. Nevertheless, from Instagram I could piece together at least two four-member casts, but I know BA has a policy about using official sources, so I won't start the guessing game here.

Is anyone planning on going?

La Sylphide/T&A is going on tour in Jutland throughout January, after two initial performances in Copenhagen. Being the fannish nerd that I am, I've procured tickets for four of the Jutland performances and for a final performance in Copenhagen mid-February, too, so I feel like the luckiest girl in the world. I'll be writing reviews of each performance, if anyone's interested.

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Looks like I'll be catching at least two of the - so far - three main casts! Grinder/Kupinski/Kloborg in Copenhagen and Watson/Dean/Haynes in Aalborg (if their casting announcement is correct). Of the minor roles, I'm super excited to get to see Femke Mølbach-Slot as Effy and my beloved Stephanie Chen in the role in Aalborg. There's still a chance I might catch Kizzy Matiakis as well!

For T&V, so far I'm seeing J'aime Crandall, Holly Dorger, Ulrik Birkkjær and Jon Axel Fransson, but there seems to be more than two casts (Caroline Baldwin and Jonathan Chmelensky have been cast as well), so there's a good chance I'm catching more combis along the way!

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Cast lists up for the tour. A fair few surprises there, I must say.

I am shocked that they're not bringing Susanne Grinder on tour, but instead bringing on J'aime to dance the Sylph alternately with her solo lady part in T&V. She won't be dancing the role at all in Copenhagen and (so far) only two times during the tour, but one performance (26th) is still not covered with a Sylph and my guess would be that it's bearing her name. Watson will be continuing her Sylph run throughout the tour with four performances. Her main cast remains largely unchanged with only some slight rotations in the roles of Madge (shifting between the two Sebastians), Effy (rotating between primarily Kizzy Matiakis and Stephanie Chen Gundorph, though Femke Mølbach Slot will join as Effy on the 26th) and Gurn (between Alexander Boxinoff and Andreas Kaas).

T&V will be alternately danced by Caroline Baldwin/Jonathan Chmelensky (I'm so excited for these two!) and by J'aime Crandall/Jon Axel Fransson (J'aime is really their little work horse this run) most of the nights, except for one performance with Holly Dorger/Ulrik Birkkjær in the leads.

All in all, I'm halfway expecting this cast announcement to be VERY preliminary and could see some changes before the 22nd.

That said, a lot of cast choices are making me a very happy fan. Although completely unexpected, I could actually easily picture J'aime in Hübbe's La Sylphide and look forward to seeing how she handles returning to the role in this form. I'm scheduled to see all three main combinations in La Sylphide, with Susanne Grinder/Marcin Kupinski in Copenhagen, J'aime Crandall/Ulrik Birkkjær and Amy Watson/Gregory Dean on tour, as well as Crandall/Dean on the 31st. Looking forward to experiencing Sebastian Kloborg as Madge and equally so to return to Sebastian Haynes' Madge as well. My beloved Stephanie Chen Gundorph as Effy on tour, as well as in the role of 1st Sylph on alternate nights. Also excited about Kizzy Matiakis getting her hands on the role again... Caroline Baldwin as 1st Sylph will be adorable and amazing, I have no doubts and the same goes for Femke Mølbach Slot as Effy, although I won't get to see either as things are looking right now.

The tour casting really looks like a big jigsaw puzzle of lacking funds, to be honest, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed and hoping for the very best, because I love this ballet and these dancers so much.

I'm also fortunate enough that I'll get to see all three casts in T&V. Caroline B./Jonathan Ch. and J'aime C./Jon Axel F. twice and Holly Dorger with Ulrik Birkkjær once with the casting announcements made this far. I am very excited! We have also just purchased tickets for closing night on the 27th of February, but casting hastn't come up for that date yet, so here's to hoping!

Additionally, I HAVE to say that seeing Camilla Ruelykke Holst announced as Nancy for the tour makes me extremely happy. I've had a special attachment to her since I first noticed her, also in La Sylphide although as Effy.

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Some changes have been posted for the tour casting of La Sylphide.

Stephanie Chen has been replaced with Femke Mølbach Slot as Effy on the 22nd, meaning that she'll dance the role only once. She's still cast as 1st Sylph.

J'aime Crandall has been confirmed to dance the Sylph on the 26th.

Still no casting for the last two dates in Copenhagen.

The entire casting process for this really comes off as rather desperate to me, but then again... Lendorf who should undoubtedly have danced T&A seems to be injured still? He might have been cast as James, too, meaning that with Alexandra Lo Sardo (who I wouldn't be surprised might have been originally scheduled to dance the Sylph), they're suddenly "three" dancers short. Good thing Fransson is accustomed to being used side by side with Lendorf and I really do hope that J'aime has time to get a feel for the role of the Sylph again before the tour, especially being cast in T&A as well. Argh, that girl - she really is their work horse.

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Part 1 of 2. La Sylphide.


Having crept into my pyjamas and stocked up on popcorn in front of the computer, I am ready to reflect on the absolute gift of an experience that the RDB granted me tonight when they visited Aarhus as the first stop on their Jutland tour. My girlfriend had bought us amazing tickets on the third row, dead centre. The view was amazing enough that I could even (for the most part) ignore the very inconsiderate, elderly man seated on my left who refused to applaud the dancers and made loud, rude comments throughout both performances, though La Sylphide definitely received the brunt of it. I do suppose that if you attend a performance expecting tartan and forests (and identify as a puritan in other aspects as well), Hübbe’s new version can only disappoint, no matter the scale of the storytelling and the quality of the dancing.

I, on my part, have never felt further from disappointed than I did at the first intermission tonight.

Hübbe himself went on stage before the overture to inform us that the performance of La Sylphide that we were about to see was in honour and memory of Anna Lærkesen (former principal at the RDB and particularly famous for her Sylph) who, we were told, passed away yesterday. I could not think of a more beautiful tribute.

As the Symphonic Orchestra of Aalborg embarked on the overture, conducted by Geoffrey Styles, Løvenskiold’s music came alive in a way I have never heard before. Perhaps the liveliness and intensity of it felt all the more vivid, because I still remember how poorly Tchaikovsky was handled when we went to Copenhagen for The Nutcracker in December. The two musical performances were worlds apart and this one, all by itself, transported me right into James’ great tragedy.

As the curtain rose, it felt like coming home. I adored Hübbe’s reinterpretation of the ballet when it premiered last season, where I saw two of the three casts – including first cast on opening night, but time has a tendency of stealing details and washing out impressions until mostly biases are left. Thus, I’ll admit, I had been a bit apprehensive to revisit the production, especially when I saw that the first time doing so wouldn’t be to my favourite Sylph, Susanne Grinder (who has stayed behind in Copenhagen), but rather to the only dancer of the three cast in the role who is a completely unknown factor to me. Besides Susanne, the only veteran from last season is Amy Watson (who is being used extensively for the tour) and I did see her as the Sylph last spring. In contrast, J’aime Crandall was a completely unknown factor. I only knew she danced the role in Hübbe’s previous production some years back and got very mixed reviews on her portrayal. Personally, I am a dedicated J’aime fan through and through (especially after tonight), but I am nonetheless guilty of associating her mostly with the grandiose Russian style of the classics and other pieces demanding pyrotechnics, such as Etudes where I found her a very lovely fit. I didn’t know what to expect from her in La Sylphide. I wasn’t certain if I could even imagine her in the role. … But, the curtain rose. The curtain rose and as soon as I focused my attention on her petite figure kneeling next to Ulrik Birkkjær’s James, her features projecting more clearly than I’d ever seen before, even more clearly than her Odile (whom I adore), I instantly knew that I was about to witness a true wonder.

And, did I ever. Down to the most practical aspects of costume-aesthetics and wing-shedding, J’aime was the definition of perfection. I think Lykke Møller’s design for the Sylph costume complimented J’aime’s body very well and it’s very likely one of the most flattering costumes I’ve ever seen her in. The floating feel of the romantic skirts that fortunately don’t pool around the waist as is the case in some other designs softened her lines wonderfully and added a dreaminess to her technique that was no less sharp and on point than it usually is. No, J’aime isn’t a classic Bournonville dancer, if really a Bournonville dancer at all. Bearing a Sylph in mind such as Susanne Grinder’s, she doesn’t dance the role with the same inborn lightness and ease, but she made the role her own. She owned it. I can honestly say that of all the Sylphs I’ve ever seen, on stage and in recordings, J’aime’s Sylph is right up there with my Danish-born and Danish-raised number one. I was blown away. The sharpness and security of her technique I might have expected, though – what I hadn’t expected was how alive her features became as the Sylph. Let it be said immediately, there’s something dark about J’aime’s Sylph. There were certain moments, especially throughout act one, where she reminded me a bit of her Odile, although less clear-cut evil. She portrayed the same playful assertiveness. The same selfish want that really reflected Birkkjær’s James amazingly well. They were perfectly matched, the two. He was desperate with a surging mental instability luring beneath the surface and she was every force of his imagination, igniting it. It might not sound like an interpretation that would ever work (I think I’ve heard something about Schaufuss’ dark La Sylphide from a time long gone), but for me at least… It did. Not only did it work, it made sense. It made more sense than any traditional production I’ve seen. For me it was never a love story between the Sylph and James anyway. The attraction, on his part, has always been for something else and she has always just been the manifestation of that. Hübbe’s new La Sylphide toyed with this concept last season, but didn’t quite manage to cross the finishing line, I realise now, having seen this performance. Tonight they took it all the way and made quite the masterpiece of it, too.

However much that I loved Susanne Grinder’s Sylph when the production opened last season and however much Birkkjær opened my eyes to James as a character, seeing him tonight with a new Madge finally tied together this new production into a whole. Last time, however admirable I found Hübbe as Madge and the entire concept behind his creation, I found Hübbe himself somewhat uneasy to watch. Larger than life, but also just slightly uncomfortable – a feeling I didn’t have at all when I later saw Sebastian Haynes in the role. Tonight, I saw Sebastian Kloborg in the role for the first time and all my great, great expectations were met and more. He was the glue that made everything fall into place. As his Madge skilfully manipulated the sense out of James’ head, he made certain not to let it go to waste. He led the audience through the story from start to finish. Because of him, La Sylphide turned into a universal tragedy. When the metaphorical rocks had fallen and left James as well as his Sylph dead, Kloborg’s Madge alone was standing, left behind to stare at his own hands and wonder how it came to this. It was masterly.

Another dancer that I simply must mention is Kizzy Matiakis as Effy. Effy has always been perhaps my most favourite character in the ballet – ever since I saw Ann-Kristin Hauge in the role in my old DVD recording, but rarely have I found other Effys as engaging and nuanced. Not even when I last saw her in the role last season, did Matiakis strike the same nerve that she did tonight. She didn’t only strike it once, she repeatedly punched me in the guts with her emotional, believable and touching portrayal of this girl who looks as if she might have forgiven James everything, “unnatural” inclinations included, if he would just promise not to leave. Her mime was splendid, her features clear and her dancing very lively. The reel tonight was everything I’ve ever dreamed of seeing on stage, but never have. Sharp, fast and fluid. The end of the first act left me positively sobbing, as Matiakis adopted an air of mindless grief and threw herself at the window with true abandon. When she crumbled at Anna’s feet, it wasn’t a pretty kneel with her head in the other woman’s lap, she allowed herself to be just a ruined wreck of limbs on the floor. It was amazing.

Other honourable mentions in the first act must go to Alexander Bozinoff as Gurn, a soft-spoken and genuine man who seems to only have Effy’s best interests at heart. His solo was also very nice, though it did get overshadowed (as it should, I suppose) by the breath-taking energy Birkkjær put on display right after, in his. Camilla Ruelykke Holst, too, excelled in the small role of Nancy – balancing the strict attitude of the time period with an underlying care and concern for Effy. Ruelykke Holst was actually the first Effy I saw on stage back in 2011 and I found that her Nancy actually came across as a rounded character more clearly.

The cauldron scene that had seemed so awkward when I first saw it was spectacular tonight. Very different from Haynes’, too, although I liked his as well. Kloborg’s Madge is more mature and more consciously manipulative and the way he used his companions felt less erotic (though still decidedly gay) and more obsessively controlling, my girlfriend even used the word “sadistic” about him which I think fits rather well. Kloborg is a master of the subtle gestures and constantly directed his companions with small waves of his hands. He looked so gaunt and bitter and as the cauldron disappeared off stage, the background turning white, he simply stood there. Rubbing the veil against his face. It established a very clear connection not only to the plot, but to both the Sylph and James. As if they were both a part of his past, in some way. In this version, it might not make sense to literally assume that Madge was once a sylph, but the chase on which he sends James to capture her felt too close to home. Perhaps Madge, in this version, once chased a sylph of his own and lost her, the pattern cursed to repeat itself over and over. Maybe, if James were to open his eyes again after curtain fall, he’d wake up to become someone else’s Madge.

One of the details that time had erased from my memory is the use of shading in the white background of the second act. I had forgotten how, whenever James’ mental sphere is entered by Gurn or the others from the real world, it turns greyer and less “pure”. I loved this use of the light and darkness symbolism. How James’ otherwise pure mental world is disturbed by the reality from which he fled, if not penetrated by Madge and the urges he represents. And, honestly, it is in the second act that Birkkjær’s James truly takes flight. The way the freedom of the room and the liberation of having gone there actually seems to give him wings… It was thrilling to watch. His interaction with J’aime’s Sylph was sweet, without muddling the sense that she’s still simply an ideal he’s chasing. Poignant. Ideals aren’t things you can touch, after all. The way the Sylph keeps emphasising that he can’t touch her and he doesn’t understand why, too lost in his own euphoria to consider the consequences… Birkkjær danced so you were left with no doubts that he’d been blinded by the light of his own dreams. The entire divertissement was a joy, the best I’ve ever seen. J’aime’s Sylph was the epitome of this joy. His joy. Beautiful, just beautiful.

If I must choose just one highlight of the La Sylphide performance tonight, though, it must be the death scene. Although Lis Jeppesen wasn’t my favourite Sylph, her death scene has always been a defining one in my mind. Yet, J’aime defined it all over. It was only fitting that her wings should come off just right. She looked truly heartbroken. As she lost her senses, as she searched for James, as her blood froze in her veins, it was portrayed with a sort of desperation that was the very opposite of the selfish playfulness she’d shown in act one. She was not heartbroken for her own sake, she was heartbroken for him. She seemed to know what would likely follow. I was getting all teary-eyed at this point, so I couldn’t tell, but my girlfriend said that J’aime was crying on stage. Even if I couldn’t see her tears, I definitely felt them.

After this, Birkkjær’s James broke into pieces. At the front of the stage, Gurn and Effy received Anna’s blessing and Birkkjær would walk over to Mette Bødtcher and lean his forehead against her shoulder, soundlessly sobbing. As she left without acknowledging him, her expression was still one of regret and pain. They had both lost everything. I remember this particular interaction from last season’s opening night and it was one that had moved me quite a lot; its impact was only bigger tonight. Falling to his knees as the edge of the stage, Birkkjær’s James dissolved into pure madness, half-crying, half-smiling, in utter disbelief. Kloborg’s Madge came up behind him and the ending scene was amazingly elegant in its execution. Not a hitch. As James ran towards Madge to attack him, Madge grabbed his face and made as if to lean in and kiss him, but before they could repeat the kiss of death that Hübbe performed on Birkkjær last season, Birkkjær’s James seemed suddenly overwhelmed by the reality of it all, the consequences and the costs. He falls to the ground, lifeless. The last visual – absolutely haunting – is of Kloborg’s Madge staring first at James’ body, then at his own hands as if asking them what they’ve done.

In conclusion, La Sylphide as I saw it tonight may not just be the best performance of La Sylphide I’ve ever seen, it may actually be the best ballet performance I’ve ever seen, full stop.

It's late and I should be sleeping. I will get around to writing about my thoughts on T&V tomorrow, hopefully.

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Part 2 of 2. Theme and Variations.


I can express my opinion of last night’s Theme and Variations very briefly: I look forward to seeing it again, hopefully the corps will manage to paint a more cohesive picture once they’ve performed it on a few unfamiliar stages.

Yesterday was my first introduction to the piece and I didn’t really like it overly much. When I think of the RDB and Balanchine, I immediately think of my first introduction to the company which was in their performance of Serenade in 2009. I still remember the feeling of my breath escaping me at the sheer beauty of it. Theme and Variations didn’t cause anything close to such a reaction.

The main issue was the corps (and to some extend the soloist couples, though I think it was mainly one of the four who kept falling behind) that was clearly struggling to stay in sync. I had noticed that the corps girls had struggled similarly with the ensemble parts of La Sylphide’s second act, too, but the rest of the performance was so stellar that I didn’t really pay it any mind. In Theme and Variations it became very obvious that the corps (which has otherwise been groomed into such sublime quality over the past seasons) had an off night and it turned every potential that Balanchine’s work might have held into mere confusion.

When the curtain went up, the sparse decoration and intended spaciousness of the stage instantly made me think of Etudes, but somehow the complete ensemble still looked crammed – more so when the dancing began and everyone struck their differing exercises. The final diagonal at the end of the piece also looked horribly overcrowded on a stage that – to my understanding – is actually bigger than Old Stage, so I don’t know if that’s simply the Balanchine aesthetic or if something else created this visual result. A second and third viewing might clear this up for me, I suspect.

However, it didn’t help that I found the music very dull, especially at the beginning. My interest was piqued by Caroline Baldwin’s interaction with the other female dancers where she was very secure and stable in her balances and parts of her pas de deux with Jonathan Chmelensky were lovely, but never particularly striking. I don’t agree that Baldwin didn’t manage to create a connection to Chmelensky, there were indeed moments where the relationship between the two was well-conveyed, but it was also obvious how much concentration it required especially for her to master the difficult technique. I personally found her a very pleasant focus in a choreography that otherwise often overwhelmed me with too many impressions at once and I liked her, although this wasn’t the best I’ve seen her in. My girlfriend didn’t. Tastes differ. Hopefully Baldwin will grow into the part as the tour continues onwards.

Jonathan Chmelensky is such a lovely dancer, but I must say that I found the male solo in Theme and Variations rather tame. Not technically, of course and Chmelensky did well from what I could see, but after the fireworks of La Sylphide, it just felt like a show of steps and nothing more. That was perhaps really my issue with Theme and Variations through and through. It felt like technique on display and unlike Etudes, it never ignited a flame in me.

Maybe it will on a night when the corps can dance in sync, when the four soloist couples come through a bit more strongly and a different or longer-into-the-run leading couple might just add what it’ll take to make me find the ballet engaging. I’ll hopefully be seeing J’aime Crandall and Jon Axel Fransson (now a soloist, yes! he was promoted after yesterday’s performance) on Friday in Esbjerg. And hopefully, hopefully, I’ll get to see Holly Dorger and Ulrik Birkkjær in Copenhagen. Watching Baldwin yesterday, it struck me that Dorger would be just the perfect blend of dreamy softness and technical perfection to master these steps so they’d translate even to me.

And now there's an entire week until my next Sylphide adventure!

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sandik, I'm optimistic that the piece might grow on me as I see it a few more times and maybe eventually catch it on a night when everything comes together for the dancers, too. However, besides Serenade, none of the Balanchine pieces I've seen have ever struck a nerve with me, so it might simply be his style and aesthetic that don't translate to mine very well.

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If you rummage around on YouTube, you can probably find the ABT production of T&V with Kirkland and Baryshnikov in the leading roles. It's a pretty good record of the ballet, and an excellent way to get a sense of Balanchine's musicality. You're right, it may not be to your taste, but do give it a chance. For me, a lover of structure, it is full of treasure.

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I just finished watching the version of T&V that you recommended, sandik and a few things occurred to me while watching.

A ballet like T&V would probably have made a lot more sense to me if I'd watched it from a balcony seat or somewhere with a view from above. The patterns of the corps dancers are easily lost from a parquet seat, especially if the corps is already struggling with cohesiveness.

I actually quite liked the first half of the ballet in Kirkland's and Baryshnikov's version. The corps women were wonderful, the four soloist women were wonderful and Baryshnikov was (as always) a delight to watch for me. I was surprised to find that I actually liked Baldwin's presence in the solo role better than Kirkland, even if Kirkland was technically more proficient. Especially the feeling of Chmelensky's and Baldwin's PDD struck me deeper. That said, Kirkland is still such an incredible dancer, wow.

However, by the second half, once the corps men join in, I lost focus once more. Although the stage here didn't seem as crowded as the one in Aarhus Musikhus Friday, it still looked a mess to me. Perhaps that was really the part that bothered me most Friday, too. I look forward to next Friday's re-watch, to see if it'll all come together as a whole then.

Thanks so much for the recommendation. I really did enjoy (most of) it!

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Our first experiences of ballet teach us how to watch it . We tend to apply those initial experiences to everything we see subsequently and this affects how we understand works created by choreographers with whose style we are unfamiliar. Once you have got your eye in it can be very difficult to fully appreciate a choreographer working in a very different style because he or she is not doing what you have come to expect a choreographer to do.

Perhaps it is easier for someone who knows the late nineteenth century Russian repertory to get to appreciate and understand what Balanchine is doing than for someone who comes from a ballet tradition which does not often use formal devices such as processions and does not use dancers in ever changing groupings and patterns. Balanchine creates complex floor patterns just as Ashton does and both choreographers' ideas ultimately derive from late nineteenth century Russian practice.

Most people I know sit upstairs at the ballet and would not dream of doing anything else when watching ballets by Balanchine, Ashton, Petipa or Ivanov. You will get so much more from the experience if you do. When you are able to see how the choreographer is moving his dancers round the stage as well as watching the soloists you will truly be seeing the ballet the choreographer created in all its complexity. All of the choreographers who I have mentioned created beautifully balanced complex ballets where the floor patterns for the corps is as important as the soloist's choreography. If you can try to see the same work a couple of times in quick succession. You will see more in it each time you view it .

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I'll be seeing La Sylphide/T&V five times, so there should be ample of opportunity to get acquainted with the Balanchine workings, Ashton Fan. Or so I hope, at least.

Since La Sylphide is my favourite ballet of all time and I like sitting close to the stage to get a good view of facial expressions and mimic details, all my tickets are (unfortanately) not anywhere near an upstairs view. When putting two so different styles together in a program, it's a matter of priority, I suppose, and here Hübbe's La Sylphide that I don't suspect will stay on the repertory beyond this season tipped the scales for parquet seating all six times I'm going.

However, I will note that when I saw Serenade in 2009, I was also on the parquet, front row and the beauty of that piece didn't escape me even so, so maybe it's just a combination of the music for T&V not really speaking to me and the mostly halfway execution Friday that gave me a bad first impression. I am completely open for it to change throughout the run.

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Yes, lucky you Syrene!

I have loved T&V since the first time I saw it nearly 30 Years ago although I have only ever seen SWRB/BRB do it. I always sit in the front stalls (parquet) and that has never detracted from my enjoyment of Ashton, Balanchine, Petipa etc. I do hope you grow to enjoy it more.

I love La Sylphide too.

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sandik and JMcN - I'm actually watching it another five times, but looking over my reply I can see that I confused the numebers. I'm seeing the performance six times in all, four times on tour and two times in Copenhagen. So, ahead awaits Esbjerg Friday, Holstebro Sunday, Aalborg Tuesday the week after and then Copenhagen on the 13th and 27th of February. I'm really excited about this tour of my own and will keep the forum updated on my impressions.

However, for now I am looking forward to hopefully catching J'aime Crandall and Jon Axel Fransson in T&V a couple of times and, if Holly Dorger recovers from her injury in time, her and Ulrik Birkkjær in Copenhagen. I am really hoping that she will be able to dance again soon, because Holly is just the kind of ballerina who I believe would be able to engage me in this choreography. The rehearsal footage I saw of her and Birkkjær in the PDD was absolutely divine.

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sandik and JMcN - I'm actually watching it another five times, but looking over my reply I can see that I confused the numebers. I'm seeing the performance six times in all, four times on tour and two times in Copenhagen. So, ahead awaits Esbjerg Friday, Holstebro Sunday, Aalborg Tuesday the week after and then Copenhagen on the 13th and 27th of February. I'm really excited about this tour of my own and will keep the forum updated on my impressions.

However, for now I am looking forward to hopefully catching J'aime Crandall and Jon Axel Fransson in T&V a couple of times and, if Holly Dorger recovers from her injury in time, her and Ulrik Birkkjær in Copenhagen. I am really hoping that she will be able to dance again soon, because Holly is just the kind of ballerina who I believe would be able to engage me in this choreography. The rehearsal footage I saw of her and Birkkjær in the PDD was absolutely divine.

6 times? WOW! Not very familiar with Denmark but are these places close enough to travel with ease. Just curious.

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bingham, yes, Denmark is a small country and the longest travel time (between my home in Aarhus and Copenhagen) is no longer than four hours by bus/train. I'm so fortunate that I have a friend in Esbjerg who wanted to come with me, so that gave me an excuse to attend there. My parents live in Holstebro, so we can stay with them for free and they're attending the performance with us, as well. Aalborg is only an hour away by car from where I live. All in all, it was just about grabbing as many tickets as possible, because travelling was not the issue at all!

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Just saw that the RDB have put up their trailer for Theme and Variations on their website. I hope everyone interested is able to find it. It's introduced by Jonathan Chmelensky who dances the solo part with Caroline Baldwin and features of the both of them, along with the corps - all of it quite lovely footage that also shows the new costumes created for the RDB version.


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I'm staying with the friend right now who went with me to see Sylphide/T&V yesterday in Esbjerg, so I will only make a couple of brief remarks here about the performance. A longer review will hopefully be written tonight.

First of all I'm so happy to to be able return and say that I absolutely loved T&V yesterday. The corps was strong and 100% in sync throughout and to see another lead couple dance made a huge difference. Especially the difference between Baldwin from Friday and J'aime Crandall yesterday was stark and stunning. I couldn't take my eyes off Crandall, she was radiant. After having seen her shine in both Sylphide and this, I honestly believe that woman can save any ballet for me. She's a wonder. Jon Axel Fransson was also very striking in his solo part, especially his jumps, though I found that I missed some of Chmelensky gentle musicality in certain parts. Fransson, on the other hand, was sheer strength.

La Sylphide was good. Especially the second act was very satisfactory. There were some issues throughout with props, but no catastrophes. Once more Kizzy Matiakis shone as Effy, though the dynamic between her and Gregory Dean was very different between the dynamic between her and Ulrik Birkkjær. Dean was a wonderful James, seemed younger and softer than Birkkjær's portrayal. Strong dancing. Mostly, though, his characterization won on the intense connection between him and Sebastian Haynes' Madge. It was sizzling. Pure chemistry. Whenever Haynes was on stage, I couldn't look away. Even just as a corps dancer, he's maybe my favourite male dancer in the RDB right now. Wow. La Sylphide as a performance didn't come together in the same natural way that it had in Aarhus until act two, mostly due to Watson's Sylph. My friend and I talked about it afterwards (she's a novice in ballet and had never seen La Sylphide before) and she had noticed like me that Watson seemed quite heavy in her dancing in act one. However, she didn't at all in act two - seemed light as a breeze and very enchanting. I think it might have been the color contrast between the heavy greys and her white costume. The walls that smothered James' character in act one unfortunately also managed to smother her, where as the white on white added so much air and freshness to her portrayal. You never had a doubt that the white mental void she took James to was her true home. Watson also really shone in the death scene, both my friend and I cried completely without restraint. Other honorable mentions must go to Andreas Kaas as Gurn, a fantastic and charismatic performance and what a solo! And Stephanie Chen as 1. Sylph - strong, flawless dancing and sweet, light beauty, a very different part from what I've usually seen her cast in and she could bear that too. Shouldn't surprise me, but it brought me a moment's unrivalled delight.

That was a quick walk-through of the experience. There are a lot of details that were very, very different from my first viewing and some of them really impacted my enjoyment of the performance for better and for worse, so I'll address these changes in my longer review when I get around to writing it later.

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