Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux
Royal Danish Ballet
February 29, 2012
The premiere of this seasons reach out programme, "Dance to go", serves as a vehicle for three of the most interesting and talented male dancers of the RDB, Thomas Lund, Alban Lendorf and Sebastian Kloborg each owning one of the ballets. What the three dancers share are commitment, a clear understanding of who they are as dancers, the ability to find new depths in the material, and to communicate from the stage. Neither is a conventional type. It is their individuality that allows them to break standards and barriers. They are a gift for a ballet master, but also a challenge. Their repertoire needs to be considered carefully. They may not be the easiest to select partners for, but they can all three take ballet to new and existing places, even works as well-known as the works in this programme.
A Man with a Plan
In the filmed intro to "the Lesson" Sebastian Kloborg stated his game plan. He wanted a different approach to the sinister part as the mad dance teacher. He wanted to induce some humour and to take the audience on a trip from first seing the teacher as a funny pituful character and then unfolding the full evil character. As he concluded the madness is the normal stage for this character. He followed his game plan and more. Because he also managed to reinterpret the - for a Danish audience - well known choreography and gives a modern and contemporary twist. At 25 Kloborg has come early - but definately not to early - to this part, which he unfolded with total conviction and effect and a surprisingly maturity. Sebastian Kloborg is in total command of his part and his appearance. Every little twist is considered and planned with great skill and the abilitity to take his mind and body in to unknown territory to staggering results. Coming back from a long injury period he certainly signs on and it will be interesting to see where he will go next. Kloborg's range is so broad that he reaches all the way from romantic leading man to monster. It is a great credit to Nikolaj Hübbe that he can see and use the full scale of Kloborg's talents and not only use him as the traditional danseur, he also does so well.
The only thing that did not function as well was the other leading role, the pupil danced by Shelby Elsbree. And while the casting of Kloborg was a triumph of casting against type, the casting of Elsbree was taking typecasting to far. The role of the pupil is 100% identified with Anne Marie Wessel, who danced the part for decades, and since then the part has been casted with primarily small gutsy blonds.
But this is an unfair casting principle. Originally the role was created on the French dancer Josette Amiel and then danced by the tall and dark Mette Hønningen. But more importly what today will be marked a a Wessel type is very far from the qualities and appeal of the real Anne Marie Wessel in her dancing years. Wessel was a feisty dancer, with many - and this is a compliment - non ballerina qualities including a strong sensuality. And this is these qualities that should be guiding principle when casting this part. Elsbree is a strong technical dancer, but she has not managed to get to the deeper part of this role. It demand the abilities that Sebastian Kloborg pocess to analyse, to reinvent, to invest one self and to express on stage. I would love to see the part danced by some of the other young dancers of RDB, A Hilary Guswiler or Josephine Berggreen could probably make an interesting and new interpretation of the part.
Alban Lendorf has been developing so fast that when he reaches a plateau one tends to be a bit disappointed even though his present level is almost the highest possible level. Seing Alban Lendorf in Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux was not quite the experience one has expected following his absolutely outstanding "Donizetti Variations".
The main reason is that the pas de deux is not really created for Lendorfs key qualities. It contains a lot of posing and is not the most intricate solos. But another reason is that although Lendorf and his partner J'aime Crandall both are small high driving technical dancers, they do not create magic together. Both creates much more interesting results when paired with dancers who complements them rather than doubles their skills. Casting Lendorf with Gudrun Bojesen, Alexandra Lo Sardo or Lena Maria Gruber or even tall Hilary Guswiler creates a much more interesting pairing as Lendorf responds to the mystique, poetry and style, they bring to the plate.
And looking at J'aime Crandal, her femininity comes much better out when paired with a strong masculine partner. She blossoms both as a romantic dancer and a sirene when partnered by Jean Lucien Massot, Mads Blangstrup or Gregory Dean. And I am 100% certain that her wonderful Sugar Plum Fairy was partly the result of pairing her with young Jón Axel Fransson and his great presenting skills.
It is the logical choice - and often the right choice - to pair dancers based on their physical scale but in the case of Lendorf and Crandal, they have now been paired so often that if it has not happened yet, it will not happen at all. Of course if the ambition is only to showcase pyrotechnics, do continue this partnership but if the ambition levell is where I suppose it is, Hübbe will serve both the dancers and the repertoire better by exploring other possibilities. At it was we got a functional Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux, danced on a high technical level, but the other central qualities the playfullness the hint of light romance did not happen.
"Copenhagen Post", the English Language paper in Copenhagen payed Thomas Lund a rather dubious compliment when writing that Nikolaj Hübbe had decreed that "The Lesson" must stay in repertoire as long as "ageing" star Thomas Lund was around, because he danced it so outstanding. And he does and at the moment Lund cannot put a foot wrong. His season so far included not only a fabulous "The Lesson", an incredible musical and poetic groundbreaking "Other Dances", a top notch cavalier in "The Nutcracker" and on top of that taking the husband in "The Concert" to new and hilarious highs in cooperation with two of his regular partners Gudrun Bojesen and Tina Højlund. But what he gives to "The Concert" is not only his humor and timing. He also brings out new qualities and energy in the steps. Lund is a primary example of how a dancer can question and develop even standard pieces. Like the other two male stars he has found an approach to his work, that creates constantly new and surprising roads even in well tramped territory. In times where finance and the global inability to create new masterpieces limits the repertoire this programmes three male stars are a godsend to a Ballet Master, because their intelligence and dare can reinvent house classics and remind audience why we should continue to attend even where we have been numerous times before.
General repertoire photos:
1. Sebastian Kloborg
2. Alban Lendorf
3. Thomas Lund