A dancer chat was held at the Joyce Theater after the second performance of the "Bournonville Celebration" by the Soloists and Principals of the Royal Danish Ballet group. Shortly after the curtain came down on exuberant Napoli pas de six and tarantella, which predictably had me smiling from about the first bar and feeling as I was about to burst with happiness, the dancers emerged looking as if they had barely broken a sweat or raised their heart rate.
The most exciting news first:
Another Bournonville Festival is being planned by the Royal Danish Ballet for 2018! You can be sure Tours en l'air will be organizing a trip, so start saving your pennies now. I attended the last Festival in 2005 and it was a week of absolute joy. Definitely a Ballet Bucket List item.
When Nikolaj Hubbe was appointed Artistic Director of RDB a couple of years ago, he said he wasn't interested in another Bournonville Festival, so it is very heartening to know that he has changed his mind.
It is also very heartening to hear the 29-year-old RDB Principal Dancer Ulrik Birkkjaer, who organized this mini-tour of RDB dancers in their post-Christmas break, speaking of Bournonville's 19th-century ballets and style with such enthusiasm and respect, something which shines through when he himself dances Bournonville.
Gudrun Bojesen and Sorella Englund joined Birkkjaer and Bournonville scholar Erik Aschengreen on the panel. When asked how he had chosen the 13 dancers for the tour out of the 85 dancers in the company, Birkkjaer joked that it's hard to pick and choose among one's colleagues, but "That's ballet!".
He mentioned his deep indebtedness to the coaching given him over the years by Sorella Englund, whom he described as "an Artist with a big A". He noted that both Gudrun Bojesen (the world's best Sylph in my opinion, who literally looks as if she's made of air) and Diana Cuni will hit the mandatory retirement age at the RDB of 40 within the next couple of years (Cuni this season and Bojesen next) and so this was a precious opportunity to see them.
Bojesen mentioned that one of her greatest "special moments" on stage was the final performance with her regular partner Thomas Lund (now director of the Royal Danish Ballet School) a couple of years ago. She felt at the time that it was also her retirement from the role, so when Ulrik asked her to join this group, she said, "Only for you, Ulrik". (One definitely gets the impression from watching Birkkjaer both onstage and off that he could charm the birds out of the trees with a flirtatious grin!)
Englund, when asked if there were any standout moments for her watching dancers she had coach, described the great gratification she gets from watching her proteges develop character, musicality, and technique. "I feel like they are all my children, that I have the world's best kids, and it feels better than being on stage myself".
An audience member asked about the current vogue for reconstructions of 19th-century ballets and whether this was also happening with Bournonville ballets. A reconstruction was recently done for the National Ballet of Georgia of "From Siberia to Moscow" (the "Jockey Dance" performed as part of this program had been otherwise the only surviving fragment). Another ballet was mentioned but I couldn't catch its name.
These Royal Danish Ballet dancers perfectly embodied the following statement by Bournonville, which is also one of my favourite ballet quotes:
"The beautiful always retains the freshness of novelty, while the astonishing soon grows tiresome."
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