Because ballet was introduced to us by Diaghilev and his Ballets Russes we tend to think of it as an art form that began in renaissance Italy, developed in 18th century France and flourished in 19th century Russia under Marius Petipa. Almost every classical company of any size includes at least some his works or those of his pupil Lev Ivanov in its repertoire. But there is another important tradition, that of the Royal Danish Ballet and its great choreographer August Bournonville. Principals and soloists of the Royal Danish Ballet have performed a selection of extracts from Bournonville's work at The Peacock Theatre off Kingsway on the 9 and 10 Jan 2015.
I saw the show on Friday the 9 Jan 2015 and was thrilled by it. It consisted of the following works:
- A Folk Tale (pas de sept)
- Flower Festival in Genzano
- Jockey Dance
- La Sylphide (Act II)
- Conservatoire (pas de trois) and
- Napoli (Act III).
All of the works were by by Bournonville and save for La Sylphide all were new to me.
Through this show I was introduced to some remarkable dancers: Gudrun Bojesen who danced the sylph in La Sylphide, Ulrik Birkkjaer who danced James and Sorella Englund who danced Madge, the witch. The scene that was chosen for the celebration shows James (who is supposed to marry Effie who is a real person) fall in love with the sylph. He is duped by Madge into acquiring a shawl that is poisonous to sylphs as a gift for the sylph. He wraps it around the sylphs body and she immediately expires. One wing falls from the sylph's tutu followed by another. She is carried away by her fellow sylphs. These are two fine virtuoso and one great character role which those dancers performed magnificently. As I have said many times before La Sylphide is my favourite Romantic ballet and I can't see enough of it. I already have my ticket for the performance of the Queensland Ballet in the summer (see Looking Forward to 2015 - My Choices 29 Dec 2014).
The other Bournonville work that is fairly well known in this country is Napoli. According to the programme
"Despite its southerly theme, Napoli has become the 'Danish National Ballet' - the costumes are Italian, but the joie de vivre is Danish, The third act with the pas de six, which is a purely classical composition, and the taratella, inspired by the Italian folk dance, has become the calling card of the Royal Danish Ballet."This was the bit that we saw with glorious dancing by Susanne Grinder, Amy Watson, Kizzy Matiakis, Femke Slot, Andreas Kaas and Sebastian Haynes.
Haynes was impressive in Jockey Dance. Whenever one reads a biography of Bournonville or a history of ballet one is told that his great contribution was the development of an important role for the male dancer. Jockey Dance, which was Bournonville's last ballet according to the programme, is a great example of that. Two horsemen try to outdo each other in a race. The other was Marcin Kupinski, one of the company's principals. Needless to say he was exquisite.
My only criticism of the evening is that it was not enough. I would have liked to have seen the whole of La Sylphide and Napoli and I would have liked to have seen them on a big stage with scenery and an orchestra. In short I would like to have seen a season of their work at Covent Garden or The Coliseum. It has been 10 years since the company's last visit and I don't propose to wait that long until I see them again. I am getting used to crossing the North Sea to see the Dutch National Ballet and I am now checking out airline schedules for Copenhagen.