Bournonville Celebration, The Peacock Theatre, 10th Jan 2015

What a delight of an afternoon. It was a rare pleasure to see the Principals and Soloists of the Royal Danish Ballet here to celebrate their heritage in an all Bournonville programme. B6--wqnCcAAwH1i.jpg largePic by/©

For those who are new to the Bournonville style, The Royal Danish Ballet site offers this:

“Bournonville created a tradition for Danish male dancing of the highest virtuosity raising the Royal Danish Ballet to an international level of ability while giving it the unique national quality which remains to this day its distinctive characteristic.
With a firm foundation in the Danish cultural tradition of the period – the Danish Romanticism – Bournonville maintained that art should be positive; its purpose was to elevate us and to make us into harmonious beings. This harmony is to be found not only in the stories and the happy endings of his ballets, but also in his style of beautiful proportions and delicate musical timing.”

And Sadler’s Wells this:

“The essence of the Bournonville style lies in its joy of life, rhythm, harmony and easy elegance.”

In all aspects the company showed why these descriptions are accurate.

The dances:

A FOLKTALE

FLOWERFESTIVAL

JOCKEYDANCE

LA SYLPHIDE ACT2

Interval

CONSERVATORY

NAPOLI

The whole ensemble were delightful. I was most looking forward to their take on La Sylphide and here Gregory Dean was fantastic. His dancing was of course impeccable. Aside from his absolute ease in the role, what made it special was that he invested meaning into this excerpt, no mean feat when it was presented as here, out of context, on a naked stage, to piped-in music. Here was great acting, genuine despair and love, anguish and joy. Here was elegance in a genuinely moving performance. The sound of sniffling sussurating throughout the auditorium as The Slyphide’s wings fell and his heart broke was testament to the power of pure dance.

This Slyphide herself was danced by Susanne Grinder. Her struggles during the seduction/stolen kiss moments with her enamoured suitor were piercingly intense. Her subsequent disintegration was excellent: one saw the life drain from her, a lambent flame guttering to extinction. This was dancing dramatic and intimate. She was borne movingly offstage. Loud applause, bravos well deserved.

lrik Birkkjær as James and Susanne Grinder as the Sylph in Nikolaj Hübbe’s production of La Sylphide – Photo: © Costin Radu

Ulrik Birkkjær as James and Susanne Grinder as the Sylph in Nikolaj Hübbe’s production of La Sylphide – Photo: © Costin Radu

Sebastian Haynes was joyous in his roles. Grinning with delight, his expressions lit up the stage. I have never really thought a dancer to have musical eyes but his truly are; alert, changeable and smiling, he is a true joy to watch. I am very surprised to see he is “only” a member of the corps de ballet. His acting as the witch in this modern presentation of La Slyphide was a little too overstated for my tastes, yet this was a minor point when his duet with Marcin Kupinski in the Jockey dance offered such stupendous feats of athleticism and footwork. No heavy breathing from anyone really here (and I swear I saw Dean hold his on his death scene! crazy!) these are artists for whom exertion doesn’t seem to exist.

If the Bournonville school strives for quality of male dancing especially, it was here well shown. All are handsome danseuers, all with tapering lines, youthful verve mixed with boundless power, men revelling in their abilities as if at play. Andreas Kass projected dynamism around him, giving the credible illusion of almost animating space itself.

From the whole team the footwork was exhilarating. Quicksilver beats, gorgeous jetés, and above all musicality and warmth of expression. As to the ladies, Gundrun Bojesen even managed to make échappés, a move I am not really a fan of, brim with exuberance and style.

Femke Slot’s slyph in particular drew my eye, she was emoting throughtout, and legitimately lost on her sister’s fragile demise. Truly touching. She was aided by Kizzy Matiakis and Ms Bojessen, the trio wonderful handmaidens to Ms Grinder.

I can imagine a lot of ladies in the audience would love to have been part of Ulrik Birkkjaer‘s Conservatory. Lucky him to have Diana Cuni and Ms Bojesen as his pupils. Ms Cuni is a lovely dancer in this piece and in Flower Festival with Andreas Kass. Her light feet were a marvel: noiseless landings time after time. The true chemistry she had with Mr Kass and Mr Birkkjaer made her a delight to watch.

And what a treat to end with Napoli, to watch each dancer take a turn for the audience. As one ensemble they were thrilling as they bounded from up to downstage in synchronisation. In A Folktale this musical and dynamic crescendo was excellent, genuinely thrilling and so to in Napoli. This was bravura dancing, and a true celebration in (and of) dance. The house was a little empty yet we cheered, and they deserved all the cheers we could muster.

Lucky us to have seen them. After coming out, I wanted to see it all again.

THIS!

Terrible phonecam pic of a wonderful set of dancers.

Terrible phonecam pic of a wonderful set of dancers.

Theatre snark; my seat in box stage right was not best. I could see into the wings. Mimesis was at risk of breaking in places due to this. It is jarring to see a slyph glide supernaturally offstage and then see her in the wings, hands on hips in “catching my breath” mode! The price for tickets was quite a sum (£40 for stalls!)  but the exigencies of touring, accommodation, travel, expenses etc for this wonderful company had to be met I guess. I don’t begrudge them a thing. Their artistry overcame all objections. Thus, snark is nullified. And thusly, too, no rating today. Wonderful, full stop.

If this review has piqued your interest, you may be interested in the video here:

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