La Sylphide, Napoli Act 3
Royal Danish Ballet
Royal Theatre, Copenhagen
20th May 2008
It was more than appropriate that Frank Andersen stepped down as the Royal Danish Ballet’s director on an evening when his beloved Bournonville was being performed because although I shouldn’t really focus on a single event in the six years of his most recent directorship, for me the highlight has to be his presiding over the Bournonville Festival of 2005. Mr Andersen has served the great choreographer well over the years and will continue to do so in the future, but above all he has been a steadying influence after the somewhat turbulent years of the 1990’s.
La Sylphide was the first ballet of the evening with Gudrun Bojeson as the sylph and Thomas Lund as James. Bojeson is a sylph in love as she studies the sleeping form of James, who wakes bewildered and bemused. His Effy was Diana Cuni, all good nature and common sense; but you feel James has given her cause for concern before. Nicolai Hansen was her dogged suitor, Gurn, who went from resignation, to hope and to elation after Madge’s machinations made his dreams come true. Eva Kloborg, Frank Anderson’s elegant wife, made her debut as the witch, Madge. Totally transformed into a gaunt, bitter shell of a woman, she plays with everyone’s emotions for her own evil ends. You would never believe that Ms Kloborg was dancing this role for the first time. Thomas Lund is phenomenal as James: he progresses from Presbyterian rage as Madge hobbles into his hall to his first feelings of self doubt as he pursues a beautiful image that only he can see. His duets with Bojeson were delightful as he forgets everything, including poor Effy, to lose himself in his own romantic dream. Bojeson makes a sweet beguiling Sylph with an innocent exterior that perhaps conceals the heart of a temptress; she danced the role impeccably.
The climax of the evening was a vibrant account of Napoli Act three energetically led by Tina Højlund and Tim Matiakis. A ballet that always lifts the spirits, halfway through the fun I sensed a ripple of anticipation from the audience as an unscheduled interruption appeared to be taking place near the wings. A group of girls had pulled Frank Andersen on stage and were tying a red sash around his waist, next he was pushed into a chair and his street shoes replaced by dancing ones. Kitted out in a similar style to the dancers all it took was a tambourine for him to take his place with the dancers at the back of the stage. He banged his tambourine with enthusiasm, much to the audience’s pleasure, but then to our surprise he stepped forward to prove he was capable of playing a whole lot more than just a bystander and joined in with the boys for the big ensemble number near the end, matching everyone step for step. To say the audience went crazy is an understatement. Afterwards, as he made his final bows beneath a shower of golden tinsel, with his bouquet of red roses adorned with Denmark’s national colours in his arms, the entire audience rose as one. Ballet has a special place in the hearts of the people of Copenhagen and their affection for Mr Andersen is clearly boundless. It was a magnificent farewell.
At the after show party (attended by the Queen of Denmark by the way) we had the traditional film show of the man of the night’s greatest hits and for those unfortunates such as, I’m afraid to say, myself and the younger dancers that never got to see Frank Andersen in his prime, we got to be bowled over by the quality of his dancing. What a turner he was! And as for the clip of him in the Don Quixote pas de deux, well, I’m not sure that anyone today can match what I saw: I was seriously impressed. Frank Andersen has dedicated almost all his career to the Royal Danish Ballet spending a total of around fifteen years in all as the company’s director, an astonishing achievement when one considers the nature of the many pressures that go with leading a major ballet company. Far from retiring from the ballet world, he will be working right across the international dance spectrum from now on and I wish him every success in his new endeavours.