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‘Out of Denmark’ by Johan Kobborg

‘Festpolonaise,’ excerpt from ‘From Siberia to Moscow,’ pas de deux from ‘William Tell,’ ‘Afsked,’ ‘The Lesson,’ excerpts from ‘Napoli’

by Emma Pegler

September 2003 – Queen Elizabeth Hall, London

I managed to get to the Queen Elizabeth Hall for the programme. An enjoyable evening - being so up close to Alina Cojocaru and Jamie Tapper was very special. Wherever one sits in the Royal Opera House, one is never up close and personal. Having the opportunity to watch their styles and technique so closely was like being in class. Although in the final piece, Divertissements from “Napoli,” none of the dancers had top billing and it really was a democratic Pas de Six and Tarantella, Tapper and Cojocaru brought a class to the piece that made it come alive. Tapper's arms are particularly elegant and her subtle changes of positioning from the shoulder mark her out as a principal.

Why do we not seem more of Zenaida Yanowsky? I have always been her most ardent fan ever since I saw her endless legs encased in black stockings kick the ceiling in Ashley Page's choreographies. She is also the best 'first harlot' (“Romeo and Juliet”) I have ever seen. In fact her performance is one of the things you talk about in the bar afterwards once you've dispensed with the deceased couple themselves.

And now it is confirmed that she can master contemporary choreography as if she were trained for it. Dylan Elmore and Yanowsky in Kim Brandstrup's duet made the evening. The couple have parted and now they are trying to saying to goodbye. At once all certain of their decision, and yet uncertain, they are completely believable. Yanowsky's body is liquid and flows like the very best of contemporary dancers: she is not ballerina in bare feet. She uses her training and technique but the incorporation into Brandstrup's language is seamless. Elmore from Batsheva Dance Company and Gulbenkian Ballet was no less impressive. One of the few World Premieres I have seen recently that I could sit through again! Indeed I would not only sit through it again, but I would like to dance it myself. When choreography is truly communicative, I want to dance it.

I would never want to dance in Flindt's “The Lesson.” I can only assume that the reason this received applause – the like of which I have not heard in London for a long time – is that we as a society are so desensitized by the graphic portrayal of pain, death and violence in film, that we are only moved when it hits us in the face. If Kobborg had played the teacher in a way so we felt his dilemma and watched him wrestle with his desires, I would have put up with the near groping of Cojocaru's breasts and her ultimate strangling. Instead, it was clear from the moment Kobborg walked into the room that she was 'done for' and that, because of the music strewn all over the floor with chairs in places that you don't normally find them in dance studios, this had happened many times before. “Silence of the Lambs” goes Laurel and Hardy.

The over-acting from Kobborg was dismal. Performed in the Bolshoi with me sitting at the back, I would still have got the point. Do the dancers appreciate they are normally acting when they perform in “Romeo and Juliet” and so when they are given a very dark and dramatic piece, they should just apply the same principles. Of course I am being unfair – it is Flindt's fault. Zenowsky didn't have the opportunity to play the piano teacher like Mrs. Danvers. Instead she storms around the room with a sour look on her face as if she is repressed.

The reason I am so critical is that I think if you are going to portray child abuse and murder on stage – particularly in front of children sitting in the audience wearing pink party frocks – there   has to be a point. Flindt's piece is obvious and I don't know what he is saying other than "there are some real weirdos out there” so "Don't put your daughter on the stage, Mrs. Robinson."

However, the piece divided the audience. Some people did not clap at all and others practically gave standing ovations.

 

Edited by Jeff.

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