“L´Homme de Bois” and “Le sacre du printemps”
Royal Danish
The Opera Stage
Copenhagen, Denmark
May 12, 2007

by Eva Kistrup
copyright © 2007 by Eva Kistrup

Last season Jorma Outinen, the former Carolyn Carlson dancer and Director of the Finnish National Ballet, created the ballet “Earth” for the Royal Danish Ballet, a pagan piece for an all-male ensemble focusing on the relationship between man and earth, and one of the best works created on the RDB in a long time. The look and feel of this work made the very obvious thought that Jorma Outinen could make a valid “Sacre du printemps”, and he immediately got the offer to produce a ballet to the famous score.

RDB had a very successful production of Glen Tetley’s “Le sacre” in 1978 with Ib Andersen in the principal role, and although this production is considered a legend, Ballet Master Frank Andersen decided to commission a new version for the larger stage rather than reuse the Tetley ballet. For all its qualities it would have been difficult to match the casting of the young Ib Andersen as the core role in the ballet.

While Tetley used the traditional pagan mis en scene, although with a male victim, and a development from the pagan to Christianity, his work was a super abstract, stripped version with raw energy and a moving mass of dancers. Jorma Outinen goes a totally different route, and if the expectation was a longer version of “Earth” to the famous score, that expectation was not met and instead we got a totally original and breathtaking take on the famous and well-known material.

Rather than staying in the pagan theme, Jorma Outinen has focused his version on the fact that sacrificing people is not an ancient tradition but a fact as well in modern civilisation and warfare. So no more stamping aboriginals, no more speculation about prehistoric customs. Instead we got a beautiful, original and scary piece about our civilisation and how little value is put on the individual person.

Using practically the same male cast that served him so well in “Earth,” including Kenneth Greve and Thomas Lund, Jorma Outinen adds partners for all the men, putting the flexible and expressive Marie Pierre Greve up front as the main couple with her husband Kenneth Greve. Marie Pierre Greve has never been the most favoured ballerina in the company, but she's first in having original choreography made on her, including Alexei Ratmanskys “Anna Karenina” and John Neumeier's “The Little Mermaid,” and she brings her mystery and vulnerability as well as her impressive flexibility to “Le sacre” as well. Outinen has a great feel for making the classical dancer appear modern by using the steps and skills of the classical dancer and adding a modern twist. He also uses the space and the height of the great opera stage to good effects. Some reviewers stated that they miss the pagan beat in this urban “sacre”, but I celebrate the originality and intelligence of the piece. Outinen has now made two very good ballets for the RDB. He should be given the opportunity to make some more.

For the first ballet of the evening, Frank Andersen gave Belgian choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui the home assignment to create a new version of “Punchinella & Pimpinella”. Cherkaouis ánswer was to create a totally different ballet about environmental issues and not care about the set assignment. Unfortunately even a cast with 15 of the best RDB dancers, costumes from Dior and a breathtaking scenography by Rikke Juellund, the result was meagre and unimpressive. It has probably as much to do with the subject matter — who can object to a good environment? — as well as the nonexistant relationship with the music and the crowded and unoriginal choreography. If you do not like the assignment, then object earlier in the process. That said I would prefer if Frank Andersen in his final season would leave the musical choices to the choreographers. As it is, this is the third program this season marred by the set assignment strategy.

Nevertheless, it was a triumphant evening showing that good contemporary choreography can be made on a classical company in general and on RDB in particular.

Photos here and on the front page are by Henrik Stenberg.

Volume 5, No. 21
May 14, 2007

copyright ©2007 by Eva Kistrup

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