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More about Bournonville


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Henrik, this question is really more suited for the YD board than the Buddy Board. It could actually even go on the General Discussion board. Actually, I think I will move it there, as there are some Bournonville experts on this board who will see it there, and they cannot respond on YD.

On second thought, I moved it to Subtexts and Contexts, under Choreographers.

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Bournonville preserves, in a way no other choreographer does, the old French school of ballet and way of performing which did not get filtered through Russia and Marius Petipa. It is a sort of "endangered species" now, as very few people seem to be preserving it, preferring to adapt the Danish School to the International, which is a pity, as the Danes had a tradition unlike any other, and even with the incorporation of some Russian practices from Vera Volkova's teaching, maintained a purity and style of working which was distinctive. The use of the feet and ankles in petit allegro and the long, soft plié in large jumps was different from any other school. The use of turns was kept to a judicious minimum, with multiple turns discouraged. Anything more than a double is unusual in Bournonville. Extensions are properly placed, but great height was sacrificed for proper placement and aplomb. Batterie, whether petit or grand is very clean, and is characteristic of the Danish school. Typically, multiple beats like double cabrioles are held to a minimum and used like punctuation, and perfect, clean singles are preferred. The use of the arms is practically unique, and cannot be exactly duplicated by dancers not trained from an early age in Bournonville. Perhaps typically, even pas de deux were extremely restrained, and "acrobatic" lifts were frowned upon, favoring only the gentle bounces that emphasized the step being done, rather than picking it far up off the floor. Restraint, refinement, endurance, quickness and quietness are probably the watchwords of the Bournonville style.

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Well done, Mel!

Henrik, in addition to the technique and style, 10 ballets, or substantial fragments of ballets, still survive -- and that's quite rare. Only two choreographers who worked before 1900 -- Bournonville and Petipa -- have a body of work still in repertory.

Bournonville was a follower of the 18th century choreographer Noverre and believed that anything that could be painted could be danced. Unlike Noverre, who thought that classical dancing could express only itself and used pantomime to express emotions, Bournonville believed that classical dancing could express one emotion -- joy. His ballets are like moving pictures -- if you read his libretti, they really seem like filmscripts; you can practically see the action.

The ballets have lasted because they're very well-choreographed, and by that I mean they're well built, like a good house can be well built. He was also a genius at creating characters and little vignettes -- some of the ballets have lasted because one or two scenes are just too good to lose, or because dancers have wanted to dance the roles, or audiences have wanted to see the stars of their generation dance roles associated with past stars.

The ballets that have lasted are mostly comedies. Bournonville also did many historical or mythological ballets, but these were thought too heavy in subject matter at the beginning of this century -- and, I think, the people running the company in the 1930s couldn't stage them. They could only do the light ballets, the comedies.

As Juliet said, information on individual ballets, as well as the style, can be found at www.bournonville.com

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I was going to start the Kronstam book after I read Nijinska's "Early Memoirs", but after reading your last post

Alexandra, I've changed my mind and will order your book right away!

I wish I had it in my hands now!

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Thank you all for very valuable information. I am not good in finding information on the net, either I dont find it, or, if I do, I cant handle it because its either too much or to complicated :) I am going to talk almost 2hours about bournonville and his style (in norwegian, have a whole lot of translation to do :)) at school!! I hope it will go fine! Ill let you know :)'

THanks again!

-dont stop posting if you thinks its something more I should know!!

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just re-read this thread, and wow, Mel, you really said it.

For the Bournonville Celebration the RDB has issued a DVD of the "schools" -- i.e., of the set Bournonville classes -- so the rest of us can see what Mel's tlaking about. There's also a wonderful video of 50 Bournnville combinations, danced by Rose Gad, who's divine in it, and Johann Kobborg (sp), who's almost equally wonderful -- and it gives you a chance to see the very particular steps he used (such as pas de bourree to second position, or the hobble steps which some people call Danish Bourrees, since they're many close little steps that stay in plie and almost always precede a medium-grand jete and make it look light and floating and effortless, and hte exquisite Danish tombe pas de bourree which looks almost like cabriole pas de bourree, the timing is so light, and hte wonderful little turns in sur le coup de pied. O they are delicious......)

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