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Royal Danish Ballet

The Bournonville Festival - Bournonvilleana Gala

Star filled evening

by Kate Snedeker

July 11, 2005 -- Royal Theatre, Copenhagen

The 3rd Bournonville Festival concluded on Saturday with a truly memorable gala performance, which featured a well-crafted program of dance and video, described by Frank Andersen as “a colorful flora of selected pas de deuxs and divertissements”.

The black tie event was televised live on Danish TV, allowing those outside the theatre to partake in the festivities. The arrival of the Royal Family was heralded by the playing of the Danish National Anthem, after which the orchestra played the ‘March of the Gods’ from "The Lay of Thrym", a no longer performed Bournonville ballet.  Following a brief speech by Artistic Director Frank Andersen, reflecting on the Bournonville Heritage and looking towards the next Festival, the dancing began.

Fittingly, the balletic part of the program opened with the students of the Royal Danish Ballet School in a demonstration of steps from the Bournonville School.  The curtain lifted to reveal the entire ballet school arrayed in neat rows, from the youngest students in the back to the aspirants in the back. The short excerpts revealed an impressive stylistic unison: though these students are still works-in-progress, even in the simple port de bras, tendus and jumps, one could see a distinctive, cohesive style.

The first act continued with excerpts from “The Kermesse in Bruges” and “The King’s Volunteers on Amager’ as well as the pas de deux from “The Flower Festival in Genzano”.  Each piece was preceded by video of current dancers and teachers talking about the ballet and Bournonville.  In the first act excerpt from “The Kermesse in Bruges”, newly promoted soloists Dawid Kupinski and Yao Wei sparkled in the showpiece pas de deux, with Kupinski displaying an endearing free-spirited energy in his solos. In the final scene from “The King’s Guard on Amager” led by Jean-Lucien Massot and Caroline Cavallo, it was Tim Matiakis (as Otto) in the pas de trois who stood out.  Marked by fast, controlled pirouettes and airy grand jetes, this was Matiakis’ finest performance yet.  

No tribute to Bournonville would be complete without the pas de deux from “The Flower Festival in Genzano”, a sweet piece performed with gentle aplomb by Gudrun Bojeson and Mads Blangstrup.  Though deceptively simple at first glance, the pas de deux is full of non-stop steps.  Those lucky enough to see the televised version had the opportunity to view a slow motion excerpt of Blangstrup’s performance which revealed the true difficulty of the piece –  a near continual flow of steps, beats and jumps – performed with precision and flow by Blangstrup.

After the intermission, the program continued with six brief divertissements, some rarely seen on the stage today.  These included Tina Højlund in the brief “The Troubadour”, Lesley Culver and Andrew Bowman in “Polka Militaire” and Marie-Pierre Greve in Fr. Lefebvre’s “La Lithuanienne”.  Gudrun Bojesen and Gitte Lindstrøm paired up for a rare all-female “Jockey Dance” (from the ballet “From Siberia to Moscow); adding a little bit of feminine charm to the swaggering choreography. 

The oldest of the Bournonville pieces performed, “Paul et Virginie” is a delicate dance for five women in knee length pastel dresses.  The unrushed, luxuriant choreography, with its sustained balances provided a wonderful opportunity to observe the epaulment and controlled footwork that is so typically Bournonville.  It was beautifully performed by Yao Wei, Ellen Green, Isabella Sokolowska, Camilla Ruelykke Holst and Christina Olsen.  But the finest performances in the divertissements came from Thomas Lund and Diani Cuni in the delightfully tongue in cheek “William Tell” pas de deux.   Lund in his red lederhosen and Cuni in matching red dress were amusing and impressive in the lighthearted flirtation and non-step dancing.

Before the grand finale, clips from the Elfelt films, with music arranged and recorded by Elvi Henriksen, were shown.  These films, taken from 1902 – 1905 are a rare chance to see Bournonville ballets as they were danced in the time of his protégé, Hans Beck.  The final clip was that of Hans Beck and Valborg Borchsenius in the Tarantella from “Napoli”.  A century later, “Napoli” is still a vital part of the company’s repertory, and the final act provided a fitting ending to a spectacular gala and festival.

Beginning with the pas de six, we were treated to a once in a lifetime, all-star version of the 3rd act from “Napoli”.  It’s always a bustling, colorful scene, but on this evening it appeared that every ballet student and corps member were on stage. Both the pas de six and Tarantella were deftly expanded to encompass almost all the soloists and principals. Mads Blangstrup and Jean Lucien Massot were the two Gennaros, while Gitte Lindstrom their Teresina.  Cecilie Lassen, Susanne Grinder, Amy Watson, Femke Mølbach Slot, Nicolai Hansen, Kristoffer Sakurai, Thomas Lund, Caroline Cavallo, Silja Schandorff, Mads Blangstrup and Diana Cuni all appeared in the course of an outstanding pas de six.  

Morten Eggert and Claire Ratcliffe led off the Tarantella with six more couples joining in the joyous celebration, including Andrew Bowman, Mads Blangstrup, Jean-Lucien Massot, Gudrun Bojeson, Silja Schandorff, Tina Højlund, Andrew Bowman, Marie-Pierre Greve, Tim Matiakis, Lesley Culver, Dawid Kupinski, Christina Olsson, Peter Bo Bendixen and Kenneth Greve.  It was a rare and awe-inspiring opportunity to see so many soloists and principals dancing all together on one stage – and perhaps the only time this generation of dancers will all share the stage.

Following this stunning “Napoli”, there came the “Bournonville Salute”, a Royal Danish Ballet grand defile of sorts.  With a cascade of balloons and tiny Danish flags swirling down over the audience, principals, character dancers and soloists paraded on to the stage, each wearing a costume from a Bournonville ballet, a costume for a character they had danced in the previous week.  The great honor of being the last couple, and wearing the “La Sylphide” costumes was given to Thomas Lund and Gudrun Bojeson, the premiere Bournonville dancers of today.  When they had taken their place, with children, extras, dancers and character dancers all present, over 150 bodies filled every inch of the Royal Theatre stage.

After a most deserved and long standing ovation, the crowds filed out to witness an equally spectacular fireworks display over Kongens Nytorv.  A truly special night, and many bravos to Frank Andersen, the dancers and staff of the Royal Danish Ballet for a memorable evening and Festival.


Edited by Staff.

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