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Royal Danish Ballet - 'A Folk Tale'

by Kate Snedeker

March 20, 2004 -- The Royal Theatre - Gamle Scene, Copenhagen

On Saturday night, the Royal Danish Ballet celebrated a very special occasion in ballet history. The evening marked the 150th anniversary of the first performance of August Bournonville's "A Folk Tale" which premiered on March 20, 1854 in the Royal Theatre. Not many ballets have survived for 150 years, and only a very few have been performed continually by the same company in the same theater, on the same stage, with virtually the same choreography. Thus, this was truly a remarkable event, and one clearly treasured by all involved.

In honor of the occasion, Queen Margrethe II, who designed the sets and costumes for the current production, attended the performance, and champagne was served to all during the intermissions. The importance of the night and the presence of the Queen seemed to inspire the dancers, who were -- without exception -- outstanding.

Heading the exceptional cast were Mads Blangstrup and Gudrun Bojesen, as Junker Ove and Hilda. Blangstrup was a handsome and gracious Junker Ove, and in his brief solo he demonstrated the qualities that have made him such a fine interpreter of Bournonville roles. His jumps and beats had an airy, easy quality and great power and ballon without huge preparations or obvious strain. Bojesen, with her radiant smile, again seemed to skim the stage with each step, mixing delicacy and a crisp, controlled power.

A truly entertaining pair of troll brothers, Lis Jeppesen and Peter Bo Bendixen gave the roles of Diderik and Viderik their own unique stamp. Jeppesen's rather petite Viderik was endearing and mournful-eyed, a dramatic contrast with Bendixen's macho Diderik. With a piercing, mischievous glint in his eyes and a trollish swagger to his step, Bendixen made it quite clear why an eligible male troll is every woman's worst nightmare. This was clearly not a creature Hilda was ever going to accept a ring from, let alone marry! Jette Buchwald's Muri was appropriately domineering and unlovable.

Led by Bendixen's humorously macho and increasingly "drunken" dancing, the troll engagement party was an outrageous and festive occasion. From the droopy busted troll with a gaggle of little trolls clinging to her tail to the three headed troll to the bushy bearded Viking troll, each creature was acted and danced with droll humor.

As Frøken Birthe, Tina Højlund was appropriately moody and tempestuous, terrifying the maids with her fits of trollish pique. Højlund also was notable for her limb flailing dancing, drawing out the contrast in Birthe's fine upbringing and trollish underpinnings in the lightning fast switches between elegant dancing and trollish hoofing!

The crisp, stylish pas de sept, danced by Nicolai Hansen, Morten Eggert, Thomas Lund, Susanne Grinder, Claire Still, Julie Strandberg and Amy Watson, radiated good-natured energy. Morten Eggert stood out for his fast turns a la seconde, but it was Thomas Lund who really commanded the stage with his seemingly effortless, stunningly high jumps, nimble but controlled footwork and quiet, elegant epaulement. Lund, one of the company's top Bournonville dancers, now also instructs the corps in Bournonville, and one can only hope that he will be able to pass on his obvious respect and deep knowledge of the technique to the next generations of dancers.

As for the current dancers, this fine performance on such a special occasion seems to indicate their deep respect for and knowledge of the Bournonville style and tradition. May "A Folk Tale" be so well cared for in its next 150 years.

Rob Reimer conducted the Royal Danish Orchestra.

Edited by Lori Ibay

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