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Royal Danish Ballet - 'La Sylphide,' 'Napoli' - Act III

by Dani Crawford

January 17, 2004 -- Kennedy Center, Washington, D.C.

The January 18th evening performance, which featured "La Sylphide" and Act 3 of "Napoli," was my first time to see the Royal Danish Ballet and my first time to see either of these productions by any company. Here are my impressions:

Overall the Royal Danish have to be one of the most energetic companies I have ever seen. Even in the slower, more serious moments of their ballets, they exude an incredible kinetic force that is sustained throughout. They also dance with so much joy, it's just captivating. You truly sense a great pride and love of their work through their performance. I was won over by these two elements alone.

Of the two productions, I preferred "La Sylphide.". I love haunting tales and this one was quite charming yet also unsettling. The first Act is full of plaid - splashy reds, greens and golds. Great ensemble dancing with a true party atmosphere (well ... it is a wedding). There were several children dancing and they were quite remarkable and very gifted. I also loved the set design - inside a home with these large windows that open out onto a garden path. It's so nicely done it seems the path outdoors leads on forever. The woodlands scene is also very well designed. Like a grotto and a woods, you almost feel the chill of the forest bed.

When the curtain goes up on Act 1, James (Mads Blangstrup - who from my seat looked a lot like actor Matthew McConaughey) is asleep when The Sylph (Silja Schandorff) first enters the house. I just could not take my eyes off her the rest of the ballet (and that's something because usually I wouldn't be able to take my eyes off of a Matthew McConaughey look alike). She was just so lovely and had a fragile but playful charm about her. I thought she danced the role quite magically and it indeed made you want to follow her wherever she might lead you.

Of course that is what James does. Blangstrup played James as a sort of self centered, somewhat spoiled man who succumbs to the charms of The Sylph and callously runs out on his fiancee (Maria Bernholdt) during their wedding. But my favorite scenes came in Act 2 when James follows The Sylph into the woods and all the other Sylphs come out. I loved their costumes; very simple, filmy nearly knee-length tutus. They had a set of small, gossamer wings at their backs and also, attached from the tutus to just above their elbows what looked like a thinner set of wings so that when they raised their arms it looked like two sets of wings - like butterflies. They were all very enchanting.

When James tries to force the Sylph to be more human, to do as he wants her to do, the pain and anguish on Schandorff's face as she tries to resist him but yet wants to please him just sets you up perfectly for her death when he finally overtakes her against her plaintive pleas. As she slowly dies before him, her wings drop off. I literally had a lump in my throat and my eyes teared over. When you next see The Sylph she is with two young attendants floating up into the sky towards the heavens. And the now despairing James is left bereft and all alone as he has not only caused her death, but he comes to find his jilted girlfriend has found love with his best friend Gurn (Nicolai Hansen). He is left forever alone.

Act Three of 'Napoli' is more a series of dances than a story. I wish I would have seen the entire production, but this does show off, again, their great athleticism, as well as their profound technique. Their footwork is marvelous and leaves you nearly dizzy - all so quick and precise. Their jumps and leaps are very powerful and many of the men have magnificently muscled bodies which make them look a bit superman-like.

I am truly happy I got the chance to see the Royal Danish Ballet in performance and I would highly recommend them if they come your way. I cannot say enough about the joy they express in their dancing. It spills out onto the audience and sends you home feeling much of that joy as well.


Edited by Staff.

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