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 Post subject: Bournonville
PostPosted: Wed Dec 01, 2004 6:45 am 
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Joined: Fri Oct 29, 2004 11:01 pm
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Location: USA (Midwest)
I hope a Eurocentric place like this board will yield me some good answers. :) My daughter has begun some work in the Bournonville style, and I'm curious to know more about it. I hear terms like "delicacy" and "fluidity" bandied about, but what does it actually mean, and what distinguishes this style from the others? And how would you characterize or describe dancers who have been best at this style (describing both physically and emotionally, I mean)? thanks for any and all input!


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 Post subject: Re: Bournonville
PostPosted: Wed Dec 01, 2004 10:58 am 
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Location: Canada
Greetings!
I'm by no means a Bournonville expert, but I'll try my best to give you an idea of the style and point you towards some good resources.

The best place by far is the Bournonville Website, http://www.bournonville.com/, which has wonderful articles about Bournonville, the style, the dancers (and dance types). Click on the link on the left for "The Style" and you will find a series of article on the style, including a great article, 'Positions and Stylistic Characteristics" on the positions with links to pictures of each position. There are also articles on the typical male and female dancers.

It's not easy to put the style into words (the above website does a much better job than me), but I think 'fluidity' and 'delicacy' are a part of it. Bournonville technique is very demanding, in that it's all about the effort not showing. There's a great emphasis on the epaulment (how you hold your arms and upper body) and the head is almost always tilted slightly down at an angle. In Bournonville's choreography there is little rest - instead of having the dancer walk back to get room for another sequence, the dancer will have a series of steps back acrosss the stage. There is also a great emphasis on fast legwork - beats etc., but without losing the fluid, stage-skimming look.

For me, the style is illustrated most perfectly in the flying grand jete attitude croisee en le air (grand jete with legs bent in attitude) that marks Gennaro's entrance onto the stage in 'Napoli'. It has to be light and airy, but cover an immense amount of space and not be heavy on the landing. It's not as flashy nor does it often look as spectacular as the tours and spins of other ballets, but it's just as challenging. I first began to appreciate the difficulty when sitting on the studio floor watching men's class at the Royal Danish Ballet looking UP at the dancers as the did some short Bournonville Class excerpts. The height and distance that men like Thomas Lund cover in the move, while still landing softly and lightly, is just amazing. And the sheer speed of their legs in the beats - things like that often aren't so apparent from out in the audience.

I'm not sure it's really possible to describe the perfect Bournonville dancer, because there is so much diversity in Bournonville's roles. Thomas Lund, who is one of the best Bournonville dancers today, is on the short side and slender. But Mads Blangstrup, who also dances many lead roles is quite tall, though also slender. Then you have dancers like Peter Bo Bendixen, who is tall, but more solidly built, who has excelled in different roles, and is a fabulous character dancer. And Kenneth Greve who is very tall and solid, but also dancers a wide variety of roles.
The women also vary, just as in any other company, and thus dance in different roles. So, I think if you are going to describe the attributes needed to be a Bournonville dancer, it would be patience, diversity and good acting skills. It takes years to perfect the style - the Danes start as 8-9-10 year old children in the Royal Ballet School - and it takes as time to learn the distinctive mime skills as it does the technical skills. You really can't go far as a Bournonville dancer unless you are convincing in the roles, which means being comfortable with mime and understanding the history behind the ballets/characters. And then it has to go into one package, and look effortless.

Gotta run to my own ballet class...if you want more detail on something I mention etc., please post!

Kate


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 Post subject: Re: Bournonville
PostPosted: Wed Dec 01, 2004 6:24 pm 
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Location: USA (Midwest)
Wow, Kate -- That's great info, thank you! Aesthetically speaking, I like the sounds of what's being attempted here, especially with constant flow of movement. Wouldn't it be nice to get such a thing back into gymnastics' floor exercises? :D


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 Post subject: Re: Bournonville
PostPosted: Thu Dec 02, 2004 4:18 am 
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Joined: Mon Nov 27, 2000 12:01 am
Posts: 3375
Location: Canada
Greetings
The same thought about the floor routines came out in discussions I had with friends while watching the Olympics this summer. Those routines are an uneasy and perhaps ill-conceived mix of dance and tumbling. It's as if they are trying to be dancy, but the excessive posing and pauses strip the routines of any real dance aesthetic. Plus, most of the time it seems that the routines have nothing to do with the music that has been chosen. Frankly, I would prefer they go to the music-free, tumbling heavy routines like the men. No pretentions of dance there, and all the better for it.

Anyway, back to Bournonville...
To get more of an idea of the dancers and how they perceive the style, as well as how information about what is taught at the school, you might be interested in looking at the interviews I've done with some of the RDB dancers and artciles about the company.
Most are in the May Issue of our Ballet-Dance Magazine - just drag down until you see the section with the RDB articles and interviews.

As I've mentioned, Thomas Lund is probably one of the most talented 'Bournonville' dancers today, and is also very involved in preserving and passing on the Bournonville tradition. In the interview he talks about Bournonville and also touches upon the issue of 'body type', and the limitations it does sometimes impose.

To get an idea of the thought and research that goes into the characters, the interview with Peter Bo Bendixen in our current issue might be of interest.

In essence, I think Bournonville is really about tradition, and though there is an active debate about how the tradition should be preserved, it is still very much a presence in the company. On the Bournonville Festival website, you can find chronological lists of every dancer who has ever danced the lead roles in the Bournonville ballets, going back to the premieres in the 1800s And the roles are passed down, both by direct or indirect teaching and by watching. For instance, Peter Bo Bendixen, who recently debuted as DuPuy in 'King's Guard in Amager', rehearsed the role in the early 1990s (but didn't dance it) and at that time saw several dancers perform the role back then. A decade prior, he danced a more minor role in the ballet, and in the 1970s, he performed one of the children's roles while a student in the company ballet school. So he saw three decades worth of casts before be coached by those setting the ballet.

There are some great clips (nice long ones!) from the Bournonville ballets at the Festival Website:http://www.kgl-teater.dk/dkt2002/bournonville2005/uk/mirewelt/videoclip.htm.

Kate

<small>[ 02 December 2004, 05:19 AM: Message edited by: ksneds ]</small>


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 Post subject: Re: Bournonville
PostPosted: Fri Dec 03, 2004 11:41 am 
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Joined: Fri Oct 29, 2004 11:01 pm
Posts: 110
Location: USA (Midwest)
Awesome Bournonville.com site, and I greatly enjoyed your articles, Kate. Very in-depth and well-written (I'm a journalist myself: I care about these things :) ).

And I'm going to permit myself a small bout of cautious optimism about my daughter encountering this method. She literally has issues with the nose-in-air head position of other methods because she has told us she thinks it looks snooty. This head canted slightly down in Bournonville to create an "expression of kindness" is her all over. Fascinating stuff. Can't wait to see more of it now.


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