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Bournonville (and Balanchine) then and now


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Ballet Arizona, in Phoenix, is about to perform Bournonville's Napoli on a program with Balanchine's Concerto Barocco and a beautiful new ballet by Ib Andersen, the company's Artistic Director. I'm sure members on this board have discussed before the whereabouts of former NYCB dancers, and their involvement, or lack of involvement, with the Balanchine repertory...

The situation in Phoenix is remarkable in that Ib Andersen, a great Bournonville dancer as well as leading dancer for Balanchine during the 80s, is presenting works of both choreographers to the dancers and audiences out here (Napoli has actually been staged by Nicholaj Hubbe, who seems to breathe Bournonville, and Barocco by Zippora Karz).

It is not unusual to see Barocco (and perhaps Napoli as well) performed by regional companies; what is worth noting is the unique viewpoint Ib Andersen seems to bring to Balanchine and Bournonville. These two ballets are jewels, distinct and rare, but not unrelated in some ways; one can really see the connections between the two choreographers' styles when the musicality and style of each one is understood and upheld.

In light of recent events, I can't help but think of the radically changed social environment that both ballets - especially the Bournonville - now exist in. How does the passage of time affect great works such as these? I'm not necessarily talking about whether or not they will survive as time passes, but rather how they are perceived by early 21st c. audiences as compared to how they would have been experienced when first performed. Bournonville created for a world so different from the one we live in now; yet his choreography seems at times so contemporary.

Any comments, perhaps from those who have a greater experience with Bournonville than I?

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Thank you for that, Sonora. I think that Bournonville only looks contemporary when the stager can make the dancers believe in it, and make it live. I think both Ib Andersen and Nikolaj Hubbe, from the little I've seen, can do that. (I wish I were there! I hope you'll report on the performances and post links to reviews, if you can.)

I should note, too, that Zippora Karz staged some Balanchine for Goucher College, near Baltimore. I didn't attend, but several colleagues who did gave glowing reports -- and had no preconceived notions, either. It's wonderful to know there's the possibility of a (relatively) young stager beginning to spread her wings.

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Yes, it seems to me believing in what you are dancing, particularly when you are dancing Bournonville and other choreography with a certain time depth, is so important, and then beyond that, the ballets must be staged by those who deeply understand them, in part through their own experience.

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