Royal Danish Ballet Soloists and Principals
Bournonville Celebration: A Folk Tale pas de sept, Flower Festival in Genzano pas de deux, The Jockey Dance, La Sylphide (Act 2), Conservatoire pas de trois, Napoli (Act 3)
Gallery of pictures by Dave Morgan
“…this is dance (and music) as simple joyous pleasure …It truly adds to the gaiety of nations.”
Those were my concluding comments when the dancers of Royal Danish Ballet last visited London 9½ years ago. And like everybody else I wanted them to return soonest. Rinse and repeat this time really – but said with more passion: we really are short-changed in not seeing these dancers more regularly.
On a lot of levels this mini-season (which also visits New York this week: 13-18th at the Joyce) shouldn’t really work – the rep is by one choreographer, rather one-dimensional (in modern terms) and anything but mixed. It’s all excerpts – nothing is presented in its entirety. Also there are no recent commissions, no orchestra, no sets and just 13 dancers are listed and one of those, the great Alban Lendorf, was unable to perform on opening night. But for me it didn’t really matter a jot as I renewed my acquaintance with the company’s 19th Century Bournonville style – a style unique in the world of ballet and rightly cherished by them on behalf of us all.
Ballet is often said to be the dance of the air, where we defy gravity – effortlessly. But until you see the Danes you don’t really know just how effortless and joyful this can be. And big too – each springy hop, or bound, seems to cover more ground. They also distort time, seeming to have all the time in the world to get from A to B with their beautifully-defined movements but there are constant embellishments that make the feet flicker with speed and dexterity. We are so used to ballet steps coming packaged in certain ways and concentrate on the dexterity of execution between companies, but Bournonville is ballet a different way and a whole night of having ones ‘normal’ ballet eyes Tangoed is a very good thing.
The Jockey Dance is the most unusual and shortest item on the bill as 2 men try to outdo one another in capturing our attention. It’s actually supposed to be an evocation of the English love of horse racing, but really harnesses fast dancing and acting to woo our sense of fun and excitement. Just 3 minutes long, huge marks to Marcin Kupinski and a young Sebastian Haynes, the latter only joining the company as an apprentice 4 years ago, and a star in the rapid making. It was a huge contrast to an excerpt from La Sylphide with the great Sorella Englund as the witch, Madge, scaring us all to bits as nobody else can (she guested with RB when they danced it) and Gudrun Bojesen as the Sylph we all want more of and can’t really have. Ulrik Birkkjaer was a modern feeling and very laddish James. If there was one ballet that really needed sets this was it. The other pieces for me were a blur of Bournonville movement happiness, ending with the Pas de six and Tarantella from Napoli where all the dancers get solo and group spots, clapping each other on to ever-bolder movement.
The principals and soloists involved, led by Ulrik Birkkjaer, are to be congratulated for making this happen. Yes it might be better with lots more money spent and yes it would be nice to see the company in longer and recent works too – but the dancers made it actually happen, raised our spirits mightily, and for that I’m truly grateful and say, come as you are again please. But soon.