I actually wrote this back in May 2006, but it never got posted or published. So as an intro to the 07-08 season...
Royal Danish Ballet’s Eye-Catching Eight:
An octet of corps members and soloists who stood out during a May trip in Copenhagen
Kizzy Howard. Trained in England, Howard came to Copenhagen in 2003 after two years with the Royal Swedish Ballet. Since joining the company she has danced in everything from “Etudes” to “Napoli”, but it was in her role as one of the Vivaldi women in “La Stravaganza” that she first really caught my eye. Though just 26, Howard brings a calm maturity to the stage, reflected in the sureness and flowing precision of her dancing. These sterling qualities were evident no matter whether Preljocaj’s choreography was infinitely slow or quicksilver fast. With many contemporary works on the schedule for next season, we can only hope to see more of Howard’s talent on Royal Theatre stages.
Sebastian Kloborg. Taking on into the role of Romeo in John Neumeier’s production of “Romeo and Juliet” is a challenge for any dancer, let alone one in their first year as a corps dancer. But Kloborg, just 19 at the time of his debut, received solidly positive reviews for his performances last fall. Though he did not solve all the problems presented by the difficult partnering in “Romeo and Juliet”, Kloborg’s performances this spring as the young Vermeer man in “La Stravaganza” demonstrated that he has already come a long way as a partner and dancer. He handled Camilla Ruelykke Holst with care, their pas de deux tinged with a touching naivety and flow. With many years of his career yet to unfold, Kloborg is certainly a work in progress, but an exciting one at that.
Marcin Kupinski. Over his four years with the Royal Danish Ballet, Marcin Kupinski has slowly but surely worked his way into a impressive range of solo roles and has begun to establish himself as one of the next generation of partners. In 2004 Kupinski debuted in the notoriously tricky turning solos of “Etudes” which highlighted his long lines and impressive turning skills; I’ve often thought his ménage of split-tour jetes to be one of the best in the company. But it was during my recent visit, seeing Kupinski in “Polacca” that I began to notice a new dimension in his dancing. Not only has he become a more confident partner, but his dancing shows flashes of mature emotion and characterization. There is great potential, and one looks forward to seeing it realized in years to come.
Elisabeth Dam. Dam, who made the transition from aspirant to corps in 2003, first came to my attention during the Fall 2004 rehearsals for the new production of “Kings Guard on Amager”. As Trine, one of the two Amager girls who develop crushes on Dupuis, she demonstrated a very nuanced and natural mime for such a young dancer. Her facial expressions combined with body carriage conveyed perfectly the naiveté and innocent love of the simple Trine. This May, as a Vivaldi woman in “La Stravaganza” – a role about as far from Trine as you can get in the Royal Danish Ballet repertory- she again caught the eye, this time for her fluid, athletic movement. The ability to stand out in such differing works bodes well for Dam, who has many years left in her performing career.
Julien Ringdahl. A native Dane, Ringdahl spent time with the New York City Ballet and Miami City Ballet before returning to Copenhagen where he is now one of the senior members of the male corps. Since injury kept him off the stage during the Bournonville Festival, I’d last seen him as a soldier in “King’s Guard of Amager”. This season he was cast as the Vermeer “father” in “La Stravaganza”, and in both roles he displayed a cool intensity, which in “La Stravaganza” developed into an eerie, but perfectly suited roboticness. In two weeks of rehearsal for “La Stravaganza” I never saw him dance less than full out, especially in his brief, but striking solo. The solo begins in total silence, and the sound of his feet suddenly slamming into the stage after the first bent-kneed jumps, supremely jarring in the stillness, was for me one of the most memorable moments in the ballet.
Christopher Rickert. It’s always a delight to see Christopher Rickert on the Royal Theatre stage, because his path to the company crossed mine. I first saw him at the June 2003 NYC International Ballet Competition whilst he was still a student at the Royal New Zealand School of Ballet. It was at the NYCIBC, where Eva Kloborg and Thomas Lund were coaching the “Kermesse in Bruges” pas de deux, that he came to the attention of RDB. Not long after I first traveled to Copenhagen in March 2004, he auditioned for the company and was promptly offered a contract. As one of the younger members of the corps, and another of the company’s long-legged men, he is just beginning to be cast in featured roles, approaching each challenge with his eager, but poised energy. But what has most impressed me is his focus and dedication, especially in the intense rehearsals leading up to the premiere of “La Stravaganza”: he’s always there to observe or mark time with the other cast, absorbing comments and directions.
Lesley Culver. Elevated to soloist in 2001, Culver joined the Royal Danish Ballet out of the Royal Ballet School (London) in 1991. During this decade and a half, she has been cast in ballets from “Swan Lake” to “The Concert”, but for me, first stood out, this past May in “Polacca. With dark hair and freckles, Culver looks younger than her 34 years, and can accent her dancing with maturity or youth, depending on the role. In last season’s “Kermessen in Bruges”, she delighted as a feisty, good-natured Marchen, and succeeded in blending tricky choreography with just the right zesty characterization in Bournonville’s “Polka Militaire”. This season’s performances in “Polacca” were surely some of her finest. The oldest by nearly a decade in the second cast, Culver brought a needed calm maturity to the ballet, her unrushed dancing capturing the full complexity of the melancholic role. It can’t be easy to follow Silja Schandorff in a role, but Culver found her own way, her performances touching me and remaining in my memory.
Maria Bernholdt. It’s hard to miss Maria Bernholdt when she’s on stage, and not just because of her fiery red hair. This ten-year veteran of the Royal Danish Ballet corps dances with a refreshing boldness, using her tall, solid body to carve out steps. Though no slouch in the modern repertoire – as seen in this season’s “Colour of Love” - Bernholdt is perhaps at her best in the more dramatic roles. In May 2005, she nearly stole the show as The Countess in Lloyd Riggins' new production of “Kermessen in Bruges”. Using her perfectly timed humor, hysterical facial expressions and remarkable talent for improvisation, she elevated a more minor character into of the more memorable parts of the ballet. Her theatric and dancing talents have also found a good match in the role of Effy in “La Sylphide”.