August Bournonville/Nikolaj Hübbe:
The success of a ballet performance is contingent on several factors: choreography, music, set and costume design, as well as the casting and talent of the individual dancers. Often good choreography can balance bad choices on the other factors. Sometimes good dancing can cover bad choreography. The director has a secret weapon: the value of a good partnership. In the final performance of Peter Martins' "Swan Lake" this weapon was put to good use by rematching Gudrun Bojesen and Thomas Lund.
When casting Thomas Lund as Siegfried, the directors likely concluded that the four local ballerinas were too tall for Lund and Jurgita Dronina was brought in from the Netherlands. As seen last week Dronina proved a competent technician but not a dramatic force. As Dronina was unavailable for the last performance in the season, Thomas Lund was paired with Gudrun Bojesen, who had danced the role with Alban Lendorf for the premier performance and who has partnered Lund frequently in their earlier career. But for the last seasons Bojesen and Lund have developed in different directions. Gudrun Bojesen has shone in a more mature ballerina repertoire while Thomas Lund has moved in the direction of character dancer.
Where Lund seemed somewhat strained in the pairing with Drognina, everything came beautifully together with Bojesen. One of the main reasons is Bojesen's unique take on the Odette/Odile role which she infused with a strong romantic and dramatic feel. It was easy for Lund to simply mould himself around her interpretation. Another and maybe stronger reason for the success is that Lund and Bojesen share the experience of dancing together in a number of ballets and both have very high taste levels. The pairing was an unexpected and unique treat, and shows that is possible to cast "Swan Lake" out of type, if the dancers in question can bring their own magic to the equation.
Unfortunately I missed Alban Lendorf as Gennaro due to forced cast changes. But instead we got Alexander Stæger's strong take on Napoli. Due to Gitte Lindstrøm's absense, Stæger's original partner Susanne Grinder is now dancing with first casts Ulrik Birkkjær and Amy Watson is now Teresina to Stæger's Gennaro (A third cast is Alban Lendorf and Cecilie Lassen). But where Stæger and Grinder were a good match as a youthful and caring couple, Watson is too mature for Stæger and cannot match his believable and intense Gennaro dramatically. As I have not had the opportunity to see the Birkkjær/Grinder pairing I cannot tell whether they have benefited from the cast change, but it certainly did harm the second cast.
Historically partnerships have been synonymous with success, but over the last decades very few partnerships have been established and supported in most of the worlds leading companies. Thomas Lund and Gudrun Bojesen, Silja Schandorff and Kenneth Greve are the foremost and almost only examples of partnerships in the company's newer history. A good partnership can bring more to a ballet and is also commercially efficient. What Lund and Bojesen succeed with in their only "Swan Lake" is based on the value of the partnership. The pairing of Stæger and Watson in an example of what happens when one simply substitutes one dancer for another without considering whether the two dancers really compliment each other.