The facade of the Old Stage at the Royal Theatre is covered with two gigantic portraits. It is a part of an advertizing campaign themed “Stars shine in the dark” On the left, Principal Dancer Susanne Grinder; on the right, recently appointed Soloist Alban Lendorf. The Royal Theatre has never made a campaign of this size focusing on its stars. Traditionally the personality factor has been downplayed, but this time the faces of six leading artists (two actors, two singers and two dancers) are used for billboards, full size print ads, television and cinema advertising. And 21 year old Alban Lendorf is the face of the company and that feels absolutely right.
Lendorf’s career has, in less than two years, catapulted him not only to the front line, but to the position as the leading male star, the most coveted position in a company where the male wing is the historic determinator. Although not a traditional danseur noble, he is the first cast for both Peter Martins’ “Swan Lake” and Christopher Weeldon’s new “Sleeping Beauty” and in the spring production “Danseur Noble M/K" he had the lead in three of the five ballets. It could have gone to his head but meeting Lendorf is meeting a person whose feet are squarely on the ground and who is still dazzled about how his career had developed so fast.
Going back nine years in time, Carl Philip Alban Lendorf lived the life of an ordinary Danish boy, keen on football.
“My mum got a bit tired of constantly having to take me to football practices and matches and suggested that I tried ballet. She had seen an ad for an outreach effort from the Royal Ballet School called Ballet Garden Nursery, I had no concept of ballet at all, but agreed to go for a try,” says Alban Lendorf. The Garden Nursery projected consisted of a short series of introduction classes on successive Saturdays.
“The RDBS is always looking for boys and the teachers asked me to join the ballet school. I accepted but had the secret plan to give it six months and then return to the normal life as a twelve year old boy playing football”, explains Alban Lendorf.
As a twelve year old, Alban Lendorf was a late starter, and after a few weeks of classes with his contemporaries, he got sent down to the lower class to get his basic skills in place. He soon began to develop at an alarming speed and in a few years he was ahead of the syllabus and received more advanced training than his peers. Still Alban Lendorf has very vivid memories of his first years and the feeling of being at the bottom end of the class.
“It was so nice when eventually I was not always in the bottom of the class and always the last one to learn a step sequence. I remember, I was so annoyed to be the only who could not go down in a split. I sort of stopped a foot about the floor, so one night at home; I forced myself to go all the way down. I overstretched a muscle and had to go to the emergency ward, but after that I could do the split”, says Alban Lendorf.
Alban Lendorf believes that he had some natural physiological advantages, like a good sense of balance and the ability to move fast which helped him develop as a technically strong dancer. He credits his first teacher Niels Balle, now the head of the school, to help him develop and after a few years, Balle became more of a mentor to him:
“As a kid I sometime felt that he was holding me back a bit, insisting that I got all the basics right before moving on to the next level, but now I am very grateful that he insisted that I got every move correct. It has given me a good basic for development”
And developed he has. When he was in the aspirant class, word started getting around that there was an extra ordinary talent heading towards the company, and Lendorf joined the RDB at the same time as Nikolaj Hübbe took over the company and started out with a repertoire including several Balanchine ballets.
As a first year dancer, Alban Lendorf got his official debut as Harlequin in “La Sonambule” and 0n the same programme. the Third movement in “Symphony in C”. These are two roles channeling into the obvious core weapons in the Lendorf arsenal; the traditional demi character traits: speed, high flooding jumps and strong pirouettes and also a surprisingly well developed sense of humor and timing. It was very clear that this was a star in the making. The same season Lendorf was Iago in Louise Midjord’s “Othello”, a ballet created to tour schools. Here we saw for the first time how strong a dance actor Lendorf already was.
In his second season he bagged no less than seven leading roles, including the coveted Man in Brown in “Dances at a Gathering”. Kim Brandstrup choreographed the lead in “Eidolon” on him, and he supplemented his daily work with international tours, participating in the Erik Bruhn competition and dancing Bluebird and the piece Iain Rowe choreographed for him and Hilary Guswiler for the Bruhn competition at the RDB summer tour.
One of the seasons highlights was his performances as Puck in John Neumeier’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”. Originally Alban Lendorf was on the list, but as he had another smaller role in the ballet, he never got a rehearsal for Puck.
“Both the other two Pucks managed to get injured almost simultaneously and Silja Scandorff told me that I would dance Puck the next day. “But I have never had a rehearsal” said I, so Silja and I rehearsed until midnight and most of the next day,” explains Alban Lendorf. Nevertheless his Puck was a triumph. The role includes a lot of slapstick comedy and Lendorf’s timing and humor made the day.
“Luckily Puck is rather confused during most of the ballet and I certainly shared that trait on the first performances”, admits Lendorf.
A Royal touch
Not surprisingly Alban Lendorf was made soloist by the end of the season, where he dominated the last mixed programme. If the 2009-2010 season featured Lendorf as the demi-charatere dancer, this season is giving him opportunities to shine as the classical prince:
“The prince in Swan Lake has always been a dream role for me, but I could not have anticipated getting it so early. I supposed that I might get the jester or some of the divertissements. Nikolaj Hübbe has given me the opportunity to focus totally on Siegfried and I have no other assignments in the production”.
Following "Swan Lake," Alban Lendorf did his first Gennaro in “Napoli” and will also be first cast prince in Christopher Wheeldon’s creation of “Sleeping Beauty”.
It is difficult to find a parallel to the speed of which Lendorf’s career and notoriety has taken place. We probably have to go back to Ib Andersen and Nikolaj Hübbe himself to find a parallel, and yet both needed more than a year to amass a resume parallel to Lendorf.
“It has all come very fast and I am enjoying the ride immensely” admits Lendorf. When asked if he has any dream roles left, he still has a lot of roles he would like to get his hands on:
“I have always wanted to be a soloist in “Etudes”, and off course James in “La Sylphide” and Albrecht in “Giselle”. I love John Neumeier’s “Romeo and Juliet” and would like to do almost any role in that ballet. And at later point I would like to be “Onegin.”
But Lendorf does not necessarily want all his treats at once. His view is that it is also good to have something to look forward to. But as “Etudes” and “La Sylphide are on this season’s repertoire he could get some of his wishes granted sooner rather than later. In the meantime he loves reading ballet history and is very well versed in the history of Erik Bruhn and has read both the older and newer biography. Unlike many dancers with a busy calendar, Lendorf also has the surplus energy to engage in company development and is following the budding careers of his friends from ballet school with enthusiasm and joy. He is very proud of the achievement of Hilary Guswiler as Odette/Odile and Jon Axel Fransson as the Jester.
Lendorf has been given an outstanding talent, but he is also very lucky to be in this company in this time where he gets the right opportunities and support to grow even further.