writers on dancing


Letter from Copenhagen
The Third Bournonville Festival

Eighth night :
Closing Night Gala

by Eva Kistrup
copyright ©2005 by Eva Kistrup

The Bournonville week ended with fireworks outside the theatre and fireworks on stage. The programme was a recap of the festival, with a few miniatures and pas de deux not shown earlier in the week. And in tune with the democratic casting of the festival, the second casts were put in to action in "Kermesse," "Kings Volunteers" and "Napoli." As the gala was transmitted on Danish television it is possible to document the week, but some of the televised casts were not as sharp and poignant as the earlier shown alternatives. In the second casts, we also got more of the foreign born dancers than during the week, as the native born stars were used primarily in the second segments, the solos and pas de deux.

Following the overture, a Frank Andersen speech, and a segment with the children, a big clunk of the "Kermesse" first act was shown, including the slovanka and pas de deux, danced by Yao Wei and Dawid Kupinsky in what was probably their best performance. That was followed by "Flower Festival in Genzano," with Gudrun Bojesen and Mads Blangstrup doing a more classical but still warm rendering of the standard pas de deux. I must admit a preference for the freedom of the Bournonville pas de deux. "Flower Festival" has the adagio start with the girl’s variation and the dancers communicate during their solos. After "Flower Festival," a segment from Act II of the "Kings Volunteers" was shown: the pas de trois, the reel and the Holberg finale (though with a welcome cut). In the pas de trois it was possible to enjoy one of the most talented younger dancers, Christina L. Olsen (not to be confused with principal Christina Olsson). Olsen is elegant, long limbed and does resemble a younger Silja Schandorff, but so far misses the mystique. She was paired with the much shorter Tim Matiakis, a brilliant spinner, who joined RDB this year and is often used as an alternate for Thomas Lund, although he and Lund have very different strengths and styles.

After the intermission a series of vignettes started with Thomas Lund and Diana Cuni, two of the festival's best dancers, bringing the "Wilhelm Tell" pas de deux to life. Here it was possible to enjoy how a pas de deux never becomes cold technique, but keeps its human link. Note the end balance which is also an embrace. Following "Wilhelm Tell," a series of reconstructed solos and ensembles was presented. Most of these stem from the Bournonville group, Frank Andersen's enterprise during the 1970s and 80s, before he got the main job. Not all the vignettes are very interesting, and so to add a bit of fun, the Jockey dance, which in 1979 had been danced by Ib Andersen and Frank Andersen, was now danced by Gudrun Bojesen and Gitte Lindstrøm.

The evening ended with "Napoli" Act III, with all dancers on stage, sharing each part among three or four dancers. It was possible to enjoy solos by Caroline Cavallo, Nikolaj Hansen, Gitte Lindstrøm, Mads Blangstrup, Diana Cuni and Silja Schandorff. For the final bows dancers entered the stage in costumes from all the Bournonville ballets and the applause was substantial and heartfelt.

All in all, the week has been a great success and has shown that both Bournonville and The Royal Danish Ballet are very much alive. It will give the company a needed confidence boost and hopefully stir more interest abroad and, most importantly, at home, where it is most needed. Danish society needs to be reminded that we have one of the world's leading companies with a world class tradition and that it is worthwhile to go and see it—and indeed to sponsor it. The Theatre is faced with budget cuts (because the new opera has been more costly than was projected). Ticket sales for the ballet have been dwindling. The school has had problems attracting children and producing dancers in the required numbers and quality, hence the large intake of foreign dancers into the company.

The ballet has been playing second fiddle to the opera for a long period. Hopefully the success of the festival will attract a bigger audience, but there will be precious little Bournonville to see next season. The year 2018 is mentioned for the next festival, but Bournonville will not survive being put in the attic until then. It is important that a critical mass of his ballets is performed regularly and some new productions should be scheduled for the next seasons, "A Folk Tale" being the most pressing. If the RDB wants to be the world's leading storytelling ballet company, it can only achieve its goal by keeping Bournonville up front and let Bournonville himself do most of the directing. Because nobody does it better.

Volume 3, No. 21
June 11, 2005

copyright ©2005 Eva Kistrup



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last updated on June 8, 2005