Hübberiet (The Hübbery)
Feb. 19 2011
De Udvalgte (The Chosen ones)
Television documentary Danish Television
Feb. 9 and 16
Nikolaj Hübbe is determined to broaden the audience at the Royal Danish Ballet and makes himself, the company and the dignity of the tradition available for every possibility to get in contact with a broader and younger audience. The RDB has come alive on social media like Facebook and Twitter. Nikolaj Hübbe himself is open for any PR opportunity. In the last weeks he have been in magazines and newspaper on subjects like his reading habits and his favorate room. These last two weeks the company have been the subject of an all access documentary called "The Chosen Ones," and judging by the positive comments on facebooks and in letters to newspaper editors, as well as growing and younger audiences at recent performances, it looks like the strategy works. More people are discovinging the joy of being a ballet fan.
Hübbe himself is featured prominently in the documentary, outspoken, harsh, funny and - in the first installement - direct and almost cruel, when he choses not to promote a hardworking, technically sufficiant aspirant to the corps with the argument that he cannot see himself using her. In the other corner is Niels Balle, leader of the ballet school fighting to give all the students the benefit of the doubt. "As long as there is hope" is his mantra when the censors and experts turn down the thumbs. Where the first programme focus on the school , the second programme put the limelight on shooting star Alban Lendorf and retirering Caroline Cavallo and - on Hübbe himself. It becomes brilliantly clear that below the spiky hair, flashy clothes and plenty of attitude is a conservative stickler for the values of older times: precision, hierachy and quality of the dancing. The young dancers are told off for chatting in class and are ask to emulate non chatting stars Susanne Grinder and Ulrik Birkkjær. And when discussing the childrens company B, Hübbe says no to the childrens wish of wearing green wigs by stating "When they can do a good grand battement, they can wear a green wig", and he want to have more "school" in the performance. (I am therefore sure that he must have been as delighted as me to see a healthy dose of "La Corservatory" in their final production). But it is this belief in the quality of the company and the belief in dance as an at form and the value of art that legitimise the outreach efforts. Hübbe may sugarcoat and twist ballet to get in touch with new audience, but he will not compromise on quality and he will make people love ballet for what is is. It is a good strategy compared to his predecessor who made many trivelised attempts to bring in new audience like competitions, ballet to rock music etc. but had not the conviction or maybe the understanding of the artform. Where Frank Andersen was promoting "Ballet won't hurt you," Hübbe want to educate the audience to love the real thing for the right reasons.
In his Stand-up ballet programme "Hübberiet" , Hübbe calls to attention how well a Bournonville solo is chorographed and how Bournonville uses every note in the music. "Hübberiet" combine ballet snippets with rap-, story and poety slammers and includes an improvisation match between actors and dancers. It is a showcase for Hübbe, and whether standing on stage or hosting from the court box (even Hübbe did not have the audacity to sit in the royal box) he is as much a performer as he has ever been. He has succesfully merged his own brand with the company brand and it looks like the awareness of the company is growing. The reason is not only Hübbe, but also the quality of the company, not only the established stars, but very much the young and coming. At "Hübberiet" five young men took center stage: Alban Lendorf, Ulrik Birkkær, Sebastian Kloborg, Alexander Stæger and Jon Axel Fransson, all homecgown talents and all pupils of Niels Balle. Whether is is the "As long as there is hope" strategy that is the reason for this talent infusion, it is a testimony that something is very right at the school, and judging by their performances in "Hübberiet" , especially "Pas de Sept" from the upcoming " A Folk's Tale", I would say that they can wear green wigs, if they want.
Nikojal Hübbe works tireless