Raymonda Pas de dix
Helgi Thomasson/Marius Petipa:
Blue Bird Pas de Deux
Peter Martins/Marius Petipa:
Russian Pas De Deux
Black Swan Pas de deux
Les Bras de Mer
An Elegy for Us
Nikolaj Hübbe/August Bournonville:
As far as national summer tours go, Nikolaj Hübbe is much more ambitious than his predecessors, who seemed to rely on small scale ballets and Napoli III act that could be produced with minimal effort. I his repertoire for the summer tour Hübbe not only include excepts from "Swan Lake" and "Sleeping Beauty" which will be part of next years season, he chooses two of the most taxing pas de deux as well as the divertissement from "Raymonda" to showcase his dancers and give the Danish audience a healthy dose of classical excellence.
When appointed ballet master two years ago Hübbe stated that for him ballet should be spelled classical ballet and he had steadily improved the corps' ability to perform classical and neo-classical ballets at a high level as proved by last months "Serenade". For next season Peter Martins' "Swan Lake" , Harald Lander's "Etudes" and a new production of "Sleeping Beauty" by Christopher Wheeldon will keep the company in tutus and on their toes.
How much Hübbe has achieved was proved by the production of "Raymonda Pas de Dix" that opened the summer tour. No so much by lead couple Ulrik Birkkjær and Kizzy Matiakis, who both still cannot quite pass the border between competent and excellent, but by the four supporting couples, especially the men, Sebastian Kloborg, Gregory Dean, Nicolai Hansen and Marcin Kupinsky, who all showed strong dancing and a lot of progress. Among the girls, newcomers Lena Maria Grüber, Alexandra Lo Sardo and Hilary Guswiler confirmed their promise and Alba Nadal showed why she is becoming a force in the company.
Guswiler also danced the pas de deux choreographed by Iain Rowe for her and Alban Lendorf for the Eric Bruhn competition. Although the work showed the dramatic ability of the young couple, it was really not suited for a competition as it failed to address the real stand out qualities of the dancers. Guswiler's lovely long lines were hidden by a sack-like costume and Lendorf's pyrotechnics were likewise not put in play. Changing this ballet with for example "Partita" choreographed by Anna Lærkesen for the then young Hübbe and Silja Schandorff might have been a wiser choice for the competition.
Albert Lendorf was also a very visible part of this programme. In addition to the competition piece he danced "Bluebird Pas de Deux" as brilliantly as one could suppose, and almost as importantly Alexandra Lo Sardo, who stood in for Diana Cuni, showed herself a perfect Florine and a potential partner for Lendorf in his main employ. Lo Sardo is one of several foreign dancers who seemsnot only to fit in the company but to enhance it. But where she outshines most of the others is her ability to stand out and show personality. And she handlerd all her assignments well from "Dances of a Gathering" to "Symphony in C second movement, and the novice in "The Cage".
From white to black
As mentioned above Peter Martins' "Swan Lake" will open the season, and given the passage of time and the numerous injuries that plagued the company for last season, the production will most likely include several new swan princesses and Siegfrieds. It was certainly with that expectation the casting for the summer tour is viewed. For the two performances I saw, Susanne Grinder and Ulrik Birkkjær danced Odille and Siegfried.
Susanne Grinder has been kept on the brink of an appointment to principal dancer for several years. She have danced most ballerina roles like Giselle, Juliet, Titania, Teresina, La Sylphide and The Dying Swan e.g. She is a very elegant dancer with long limbs and a handsome lyrical face. She is a natural Odette but can she also be Odille? For the first performance she was very much Odette in a black dress, Lyrical and soft and somewhat daunted by the task. The legs were not used as much to build power as one would hope. In all it was a little bit disappointing. But at the second performance she suddenly showed a much stronger grip on the role and the dancing and found her evil side and became a true black swan.
She was partnered by Ulrik Birkkjær, who much more than her seemed to need more rehearsals to become the prince and although he showed his fine skills in pirouettes and jumps he also showed his lack of finesse. Often a good move is marred by a bad fall out in the finish or he loses his body pose in a jump.
In view of this and the general level of experience with the young and talented male dancers, Nehemiah Kish' transfer to Royal Ballet will be e felt. Kish has been the most reliable dancer in the last two seasons; although he lacks great dramatic skills, he has nevertheless held the fort in troubled times and his strong partnering has been been the base that has made many ballerinas shine. In this final programme he danced Petr Zuska*s "Les bras de Mer" with Amy Watson, and though this is not a memorable piece of choreography Kish and Watson nevertheless made an impact.
A little dose of Bournonville
The programme concluded with the tarantella from Napoli III act. At the recent Royal gala Hübbe presented the same piece as it runs in his version with some of the character dancers doing some of the variations with limited impact. This time around it was all dancing, but the dancers were now wearing costumes from the corps which concluded in a more bulgy impact. Please can we not get the traditional costumes back and keep the ballet feel. I admire and agree with a lot of Hübbe's decisions, but I cannot agree with everything and Napoli III act has proven so successful over the years that there is probably no reason to mess with it as a stand alone piece. That said I look forward to see Hübbe's editing of his production of the full piece and here I can tolerate major changes. At present his 3rd act is blank, which is the worst predicament.
The upcoming season will be a key season, not the least because of the upcoming big scale tour to the USA. Looking at what Hübbe has achieved with the company in his first two seasons, one does feel optimistic on what he can achieve in one more year, but the company and tradition rests on relatively few key dancers, but Hübbe has certainly managed to broaden the talent platform.
From September onwards I will produce a series of articles leading up to the tour on the repertoire, dancers and company challenges in the blog. I hope you will enjoy my efforts.
Photo: Hilary Guswiler & Alban Lendorf in An elegy for us
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