Royal Danish Ballet
November 10, 2012
Nikolaj Hübbe has defined the Russian tradition as one of the cornerstones of the RDB, and has
over his past seasons presented productions of "The Sleeping Beauty", "The Nutcracker", "Swan Lake" and "Don Quixote" and has now set his sight on " La Bajadère", which has never been done by the company before. The first night became a triumph not only for his drilling of the corps and his propensity for redressing the plot but also for his psycho-analytical urge.
top of white acts, but the road to it is as illogical and plot wise weak as the rest of the bunch if not more.
Nikolaj Hübbe's previous staging’s shows him as a director who cannot let sleeping dogs lie and
who is constantly seeking new depts. in the material as well as a strong urge to toss everything up in the air, time wise and plot wise. It has so far brought new energy and clarity to some of the ballets, but has also somewhat masked what he does so well in building and preserving characters and drama and some of it has seemed like change for changes sake without really bringing value to the work. His recipe for "La Bayadere" is to place it in the British Raj regime in India and turn Solar and Gamzatti and their set into British upper-class enjoying and exploring the colonies pleasures. This proves
to be a very intelligent move, for not only does it create variation, its creates clarity regarding the power structures and it creates the basis for how Solor, now Sir William, can make so much havoc and, as shown in the first scene simply does not understand the difference between an ordinary Indian damsel and a pious temple dancer.
Casting Alban Lendorf, who is not only a great classical dancer, which I will come back to later, but also an apt actor as the young officer, makes it possible to build a character, equally naive and class proud, which create an understanding of his treatment of Nikiya. Turning Gamzatti into an English upper class bitch goes with the territory and Lena Marie Gruber makes a great impression in one of her first dramatic roles.
Another role who grows in magnitude and benefits from Hübbe's Freudian approach is the Brahmin priest giving in to his illegal lust for Nikiya. Mads Blangstrup's enormous stage presence and intelligent acting creates a commanding and emotional power house and proves that it is possible to build a dominant and sexy character without steps and even dressed in the mother of all awkward costumes.
But while Hübbe's approach managed to strengthen three of the four main characters, poor Nikiya
is left even worse off than usual. Some of the problems are grounded in the original plot line where she has to change from soft sufferer to morbid killer in a few seconds but her immediate and actually falling for Sir William seems forced and incredible, given her stance against the Brahmin seconds earlier. She lacks time, not awarded, to make these changes understandable. Going Freudian raises the bar for character building and J'aime Crandall, a strong technical dancer; do not have the dramatics skills or the romantic glamour to build a believable tragic heroine. The ballet therefore loses its emotional anchor. Crandall will share the role with two experienced ballerinas, Gudrun
Bojesen and Gitte Lindstrøm, who may bring in what is needed.
Nikolaj Hübbe and Eva Draw have made a radical decision to simply cut the fourth act, which actually makes a lot of sense. Why postpone Solar's death to the fourth act when he can knock himself off in the beginning of the third act and move to the shadows on a one way ticket? One little comment though. Why does he become Indian in the ever after? This is one of the problems with the timelord approach that it changes more than you bargained for. Otherwise the only consequence of skipping act four is that act two becomes very full of divertissements. Jon Axel Fransson makes a strong impression as the Bronze Idol, now a blue god in reverence of the Nijinsky role. Hübbe creates a few more male roles by changing the pas d'act into a divertissement for four men and two women. The parrot dance is now a peacock dance for the ballet children. Etc. The dancemarathon of shifting small and greater ensembles is crowned by Lendorf's and Gruber's soli and pas de deux, before Nikitya dies her tragic dead in a scene owing more than a passing resemblance to "Giselle".
Finally we arrived with the prime reason for staging "La Bayadère", the famed third act. It is an act with many, including myself, believed never would be in the range of the RDB corps because of the age structure of the company, which for many years would have prevented the numbers needed for the demands of the act. But Hübbe has in a few short years managed to raise both the numbers and the skill level of the corps to take on "La Bayadère". And they did a fabulous job. Yes, there are segments where the unison can be improved and the famed arabesques sequence can be tighted a bit, but these are minor concerns, which will cure themselves with more performances. It is an outstanding feat for the Corps and for the ballet master. Alban Lendorf has saved some of his energy and some of his best dancing for the final act. and set a high bare for the rest of the casts.
With "La Bayadere" the RDB has acquired a ballet with long-term potential and Hübbe and Draw has managed to create an interesting version of the standard work,which should please audience abroad and hopefully at home. The Danish audience has a propensity for dramatic ballets and "La Baydére being more form than content may have to struggle to reach the Danish hearts. Hopefully it can be
done for this production deserves a long time life.
Photos by Costin Radu Copyright (c)The Royal Danish Ballet
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