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Til lykke for festivalen! (Congratulation on the Festival!)

Looking back on the 3rd Bournonville Festival

by Colin Roth

June 2005

The 2005 Bournonville Festival has been a huge success: the standard of dancing has been consistently high, and even though each of us will remember some particular things done otherwise, or imagine them being done in a different way, we have seen an exceptionally fine parade of talent, carefully cast to give each the chance to shine. In particular, so many dancers – but especially Thomas Lund and Gudrun Bojesen – have grown as dancing actors, with mime increasingly well articulated at the same time as it is worked more deeply into the substance of the dance. The musical support, too, has mostly been of fine quality this year.

Through the careful cultivation of partnerships – take a look inside the back cover of the programme or on the festival web site ( to see how widely they range around the world of commerce and industry – and the assiduous development of good relationships with public organisations and people of influence and authority at all levels of society, the festival organisers have built a consensus of support for their great project over many years of steady effort.

This is just as true of the aesthetic content of the festival. A broad range of historical and academic support has been drawn into what Frank Andersen has called ‘a family’ of Bournonvillistes. Within this family– which during the festival period conspicuously included each member of the audience, every happy, helpful member of staff at the Royal Theatre, every dancer and musician – there were different roles for each to play and, just as in the first act of "Napoli", everyone was carefully coached to give their best so that the overall effect, our experience as a whole, was a triumph of theatrical management. The directors truly succeeded in welcoming us all into the Bournonville family for the festival.

More than that, though, the opening up of the Bournonville heritage by the publication, in beautifully designed-to-be-used form, of ‘The Bournonville School’ dvd and books, and through the wonderful classes given each day in Staerkassen, have at last made it possible to show Bournonville to the world. Now dance teachers can see, and learn to teach, exactly what it is that makes the Bournonville heritage so significant, and fans and students have – at last – the chance to learn more about the style, all the better to appreciate its practitioners’ skills.

The Festival directors have built a grand platform for the rest of us to use: it is our role now that the festival is over to carry the word about Bournonville and about the extraordinary Royal Danish Ballet to our friends, colleagues, students and communities. The sheer quality of the printed documentation that has been made available as part of the festival project, the wonderful books, the music on cd, the programme book articles, provides us all with fine material we can rely on in evangelising for Bournonville.

The greatest achievement of all, though, is the model the Bournonville festival has provided of how a very special interest group, those committed to a field of endeavour that may not seem ‘relevant’ or ‘useful’ to absolutely everyone else, can build a new relationship with the wider world and secure its place, its funding, its status, in the steadily built partnerships and the absolute commitment to a really well made plan that helps ‘outsiders’ to understand why it matters so much to those who care about it. It will be for other such special interest groups – bagpipers, bike riders, bird-fanciers or environmental crusaders – to learn from this festival how success and security can be built by dogged hard work.

Let us make no mistake: though many, many individuals have made contributions to the success of this Bournonville festival, it has been the way those efforts have been brought together and managed towards a clearly envisaged outcome, that has allowed everyone to work as a team, and therefore to succeed. We must acknowledge, above all the wonders we have seen, that the gentle but oh-so-firm hands of Frank Andersen and Anne-Marie Vessel-Schlüter have been everywhere. The triumph is without question theirs – their leadership, not least the splendid style of it, at the head of such a very LARGE family, has earned them a special place in the history of Danish ballet.  Lucky Bournonville, to have had his festival in hands as safe as these!

I believe that we have been present at one of the Danish ballet’s great moments and I hope that the foundations that have been so solidly made for the wider appreciation of Bournonville – and ballet! – will prove to be the beginning of a great era in which bigger audiences will enjoy more dance in more places Now, can we have each of these wonderful ballets on dvd, please?


Edited by Staff.


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