The Royal Danish Ballet: Principals and Soloists
Nikolaj Hübbe, Artistic Director
Choreography: August Bournonville
Lighting Designer: Maarten K. Axelsson
Company Manager: Thomas Mieth
Tour Organizer: Ulrik Birkkjaer
Gudrun Bojesen, Diana Cuni, Caroline Baldwin, Femke Slot,
Susanne Grinder, Kizzy Matiakis, Sebastian Haynes,
Gregory Dean, Ulrik Birkkjaer, Andreas Kaas,
Marcin Kupinski, Sorella Englund, Ida Praetorius
The Joyce Theater
175 Eighth Avenue
New York, NY 10011
Joyce Theater Press: Richard Kornberg & Associates
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
January 17, 2015
A Folk Tale (Pas de Sept), 1854: Choreography by August Bournonville, Music by Niels V. Gade, Performed by the Company.
The Pas de Sept (for seven) from Bournonville’s 1854 romantic ballet, “A Folk Tale”, was tonight’s introduction to this astoundingly ebullient and talented ensemble of Principals and Soloists from The Royal Danish Ballet. For years, I have missed seeing Nikolaj Hübbe dance with New York City Ballet, and his Farewell in 2008 was emotional, as he filled so many Balanchine and Robbins roles with aplomb. But that year he became Artistic Director of The Royal Danish Ballet, right where he had begun his early dance training in his native Copenhagen. Mr. Hübbe has now immersed this Company in the quintessential technique and gesture of August Bournonville’s choreography, and tonight we experienced Mr. Hübbe’s extraordinary success. Quoting from the Joyce program, the choreographer Bournonville believed that “Mannerism is not character, and affectation is the avowed enemy of grace.” These dancers performed with sparkling luminosity.
The solid red costumes for both men and women were especially resplendent as the dancers leaped from side to side in graceful, buoyant partnering. Caroline Baldwin, Femke Slot, Ida Praetorius, and Kizzy Matiakis filled out the female ensemble, with Sebastian Haynes, Gregory Dean, and Marcin Kupinski as attentive partners. The Pas de Sept is from a full-length story ballet, about a girl who lives in a hill, a witch, her trolls, and the requisite happy wedding. But this excerpted Pas did not need a story. The wide leaps and spins, the full body in thrilling speed, the arms outstretched, and the warm smiles all spoke of pure joy.
The Flower Festival in Genzano (Pas de Deux), 1858: Choreography by August Bournonville, Music by H.S. Paulli, Performed by Ida Praetorius and Andreas Kaas.
A Pas de Deux followed from Bournonville’s 1858 “The Flower Festival in Genzano” featured Ida Praetorius and Andreas Kaas. This ingénue, illuminated couple, exuded youthful romance and magnetic, mutual charisma. The couple, in peasant dress, cinched at the waist, and peasant shirt, with billowing sleeves, leaped about mid-air with stunning ease. Only the most youthful dancers can achieve the height and speed and dramatic verve inherent in this effervescent piece. I would love to see the full-length ballet, but program notes indicate that it has disappeared. The percussive power of the dancers, cross stage and in lifts and whirls, is theatrically riveting. By the end of this dance, the audience was enormously vocal in its adoration.
Jockey Dance from “From Siberia to Moscow”, 1876: Choreography by August Bournonville, Music by C.C. Møller, Performed by Sebastian Haynes and Marcin Kupinski..
This bouncing, bubbly dance for two men, in jockey costumes, is excerpted from Bournonville’s 1876 “From Siberia to Moscow. This was Bournonville’s last ballet, and the Jockeys were to represent the English, in homage to the river Thames. Sebastian Haynes and Marcin Kupinski jump jack-in-the-box style, snap whips against each other playfully, wink at the audience, and briskly leap with extraordinary elevation. Each dancer outdoes the other in sequential tours de force, within duo, campy twirls.
La Sylphide, Act II, 1836: Choreography by August Bournonville, Music by Herman Lovenskiold, Performed by Gudrun Bojesen as The Sylph, Gregory Dean as James, Susanne Grinder, Kizzy Matiakis, and Femke Slot as Three Sylphs, and Sorella Englund as Madge..
New York balletomanes have seen Bournonville’s “La Sylphide” performed by Ballet Theatre, and this spring it will be presented at City Ballet in a new Martins production. It’s a fantasy story ballet about a Sylph and Scotsman, James, who’s engaged to wed. James follows the Sylph into the woods, where the witch, Madge, has her revenge for not being invited to the engagement party. It’s a one-act ballet, but tonight we saw the second half, centered on the pas de deux between James and the Sylph, plus Madge’s witchcraft. In 2011, The Royal Danish Ballet presented the full one-act version on a trip to New York, and it’s even now in stronger theatrical form.
Gudrun Bojesen is an exquisite Sylphide, her head slightly to the side, her torso forward, with extreme lightness of motion, a surreal, floating performance. Gregory Dean, as James, dancing in his plaid kilt, is moonstruck with the Sylph, infatuated, ready to give up his impending bride and worldly future. He is impassioned, attentive, dancing fully with wonder and obsession. Sorella Englund, a former Principal with the Company, now a Character Artist and Ballet Master, was a ruthless and spellbinding Madge. The three Sylphs filled the stage with lush, romanticized elegance.
Conservatoire (Pas de Trois), 1849: Choreography by August Bournonville, Music by H.S. Paulli, Performed by Gudrun Bojesen, Diana Cuni, and Ulrik Birkkjaer.
Genuine warmth pervaded this abstract ballet for three, the Pas de Trois from Bournonville’s 1849 “Conservatoire”, about a dance lesson. It takes place in the Paris Opera Ballet School, and Ulrik Birkkjaer, a Principal, with Diana Cuni, Soloist, and Gudrun Bojesen, Principal, generated spirited, virtuosic feats. Their striking speed (music is recorded, with a fast tempo), seamless multi-motion footwork, lifts, leaps, spins, combined with outsized personality, made this work a “pièce de résistance”.
Napoli, Act III, 1842: Choreography by August Bournonville, Music by H.S. Paulli, Performed by the Company.
For the repertoire’s finale, the full ensemble performed Act III from Bournonville’s 1842 “Napoli”. The program included notes about Bournonville’s love of southern Italy, and the tarantella is the highpoint of this bright, brisk ballet. There’s flirtation, verve, and dynamism throughout, a celebratory festival of fun. All the virtuosity in this exemplary Principal and Soloist ensemble from The Royal Danish Ballet is on view, to be relished before the curtain falls. This is a Company one wants to see again, and soon. Kudos to all, kudos to Nikolaj Hübbe, and kudos to August Bournonville.
Marcin Kupinski and Kizzy Matiakis
in "A Folk Tale", Pas de Sept
Courtesy of Yi-Chun Woo
Ida Praetorius and Andreas Kaas
in "The Flower Festival in Genzano", Pas de Deux
Courtesy of Yi-Chun Woo
Sebastian Hayes and Marcin Kupinski
in "Jockey Dance" from
"From Siberia to Moscow"
Courtesy of Yi-Chun Woo
Gudrun Bojesen in "La Sylphide", Act II
Courtesy of Martin Mydtskov Rønne
Susanne Grinder and Ulrik Birkkjaer
in "Napoli", Act III
Courtesy of Costin Radu