Royal Danish Ballet
Royal Danish Ballet managed to dance the full Balanchine program ("Symphony in 3 Movements", "La Sonnambula" and "Symphony in C") with a cast lacking Silja Schandorff and using only one male principal and doing an ok job. Taking a half time status is Nikolaj Hübbe's first season as ballet master one must conclude that he managed to develop promising dancers to potential stars in record time.
The country is hit by Siljamania. With only one week left of her career the audience crowds to catch her last performances and rightfully so! One could wish that many of these disciples of the last days could had got to know the gospel sooner and enjoyed this magnificent ballerina in the more than 20 years, she has graced the Copenhagen stage. So when Silja Schandorff misses one of her last performances, disappointment is in the air. But all though they missed Silja Schandorff, they did not miss a very fine performance, and that is the best of news.
Christina Michanek as the sleepwalker in "La Sonnambula" really rises to the occasion and gives a performance that would justify keeping this gem of af ballet in repertoire after Silja Schandorff has left the company. Tall, willowy and expressive like Silja Schandorff and yet,so much her own self and own brand of ballerina, Michanek has been a very promising dancer from her early years all though her rise has been if not slow then not meteoric either. It is telling that Michaneks career have getting its first break with Nikolaj Hübbe and flourish with his arrival as ballet master. She was handpicked as the Sylph in "La Sylphide" a role she might have had too early but has grown impressively in since. This season she had danced the lead in "Cinderella", 1. Wilie in "Giselle", Juliet in "Romeo and Juliet" and now "La Sonnambula" and for each ballet she grows in stature and impression to today where she in reality though not yet in title is a true ballerina. What makes Michanek a real ballerina, a title I find it difficult to bestow on Yao Wei, all though she is a hardworking principal, is her ability to infuse each work with her personality and style is such a way that you see each ballet as a new work of art. She will be a major force to be reckoned with.
Luckily Christina Michanek is not the only dancer who had benefited from the new Hübbe regime. And one must conclude that Sebastian Kloborg have developed much more during a half season with Hübbe, than in several seasons with his father Frank Andersen as ballet master. His performances as central male dancer in "Symphony in 3 Movements" and 4th movement in "Symphony in C" demonstrated a new clarity and understandimg of dancing. He has lost the tension that marred his movements and cuts an impressive figure. Kloborg has always had his strenghs in the dramatic department, but now he also masters the stylistic elements and has grown a becoming musicality. I would almost go so far as to state that he had probably developed more as a dancer than fellow soloist Ulrik Birkkjær, who may have earned more significant leads during Hübbes tenure. Whereas Kloborg has opened himself up for change, Birkkjær seems more to insist on remaining the technically sound dancer, he has all-ways been and not test new pasture. With Mads Blangstrup, Kristoffer Sakurai and Andrew Bowman missing in action, it is great to see new talent emerge.
Alban Lendorf who showed such promise as Harlequin in "La Sonnambula" did also deliver a fine 3. movement in Symphony in C with Diana Cuni as the perfect soubrette partner. As Harlequin the very good Charles Andersen also created a fine character, build on his significant flexibility.
All though I am bursting with admiration for the younger generation, I am not as impressed by the more established dancers in this programme and I would have expected. Gitte Lindström all though was a fine exception in 1. movement in "Symphony in C", which suits her type of virtuoso. She and Amy Watson as well, who danced 1. movement at the premiere, is somewhat let down by their partners soloist Fernando Mora and principal Jean Lucien Massot, who cannot quite match the accepted level regarding style and virtuoso. Maybe Nehemiah Kish could have been been used in the second cast.
Second movements lead couple are Gudrun Bojesen with Gregory Dean. Off course Gudrun Bojesen can dance a fine Adagio, but adding a short partner and and tall cast of soloists, she dos not really register in several key moments. She is not a small dancer but comparatively shorter than most Second movement ballerinas, and it mares the impact she otherwise could have made. My choice would still be to swop her with Amy Watson in the first movement. Gudrun Bojesen is one of the dancers who seems to be in constant development and have probably had her finest season so far. Interestingly she has not danced once with her frequent partner Thomas Lund, and it is becoming to see her with taller partners and develop her stage persona from the twin girl to a stronger more grown up ballerina.
For the second cast Amy Watson danced one of the soloists in "Symphony in 3 Movements" and was not as sharp and buoyant as I would have hoped. Unfortunately she is a dancer who is as erratically cast under Hübbe as under Frank Andersen, and the results is beginning to show in her dancing. She would have been obvious as the Coquette in "La Sonnambula" but seems to be used more as a filler.
Yao Wei on the other hand have not lacked opportunities this season, but where Watson is placed in the wrong employs, Yao Wei is overstretched. It is a big job to cover the whole field from ingenue, romantic ballerina, Russian virtuoso, dramatic diva to modern Balanchine. Yao Wei has been most successful is in works, where the choreography define most of the full package. One would expect that to include Balanchine, but apparently not in this case, where she appears to almost dance in the romantic style. The artistic management and Yao Wei needs to decide where she is best suited and let her develop an employ.
For a company boasting a female corps of 34 dancers this is a heavy undertaking. On my second outing I registered that lines was beginning to slip and that several of the 16 girls forming the white line in "Symphony in 3 Movements" were struggling to cope. But luckily that was changed when I returned. They are really getting it, and they are dancing in unity . Likewise is the more experienced dancers used in "La Sonnambula" beginning to enjoy the beauty of this strange ballet. In "Symphony in C" it is a joy to see especially the younger dancers aiming for perfection.
Hübbe's confidence in the material and ambition for his company is showing in record time a future generation emerging that can supplement and eventually take over from the established stars. We feared that the line could be broken as the generation gap was significant, but now I feel very confident on behalf of the company. It will need careful and considerate casting and most of all it will need a steady stream of the best ballets available. Next seasons pro-gramme seems to be a very well cosed mix of opportunities for further developments.
Photo: Kyle Froman, Copyright(c) The Royal Theater