French dancer Alexandra Lo Sardo has during her four years at Royal Danish Ballet created several small miracles in roles like “Other Dances”, ”The Cage”, ”Symphony in C” and ”Bluebird”. This season she is moving definitely to the forefront of the company and settling in in the coveted position as partner to the company’s leading star Alban Lendorf and taking on leading roles as Teresina in “Napoli” and the title role in McMillan’s “Manon”.
For a dancer in the corps de ballet it is an advantage to fit the norm. But with an increasing average middle height in the RDB Company, the smaller girls find themselves as a minority, and that may be one of the reasons why a substantial number of the smaller dancers has left or taken leave. Petite soloist Alexandra Lo Sardo has stayed on and not only bagged a number of meaty leading roles, but also remains a strong reminder of the force and dynamic of the smaller dancer.
A true European Dancer
Alexandra Lo Sardo got her initial training at Studio Ballet Colette Armand in Marseille and Royal Ballet School. She has danced at Dresden SemperOper Ballet from 2002 and became a Coryphée in 2005. Here she got many interesting assignments including Marie in John Neumeier’s “Nutcracker”. But at one point the ballet master decided to go an all modern route and all thought Lo Sardo enjoyed being in the company she could not close the door on classical ballet:
“I started to look around for a new company and when I learned that Nikolaj Hübbe had taken over Royal Danish Ballet and had exciting plans, I thought this could my company. One of the main reasons I set my sight on Copenhagen was the tradition for dramatic dance, which I wanted to explore.”
Alexandra Lo Sardo was signed on and a few months into her contract, she was cast as the pink girl in “Dances at a Gathering” and made a great impression. In my own words “It is however Alessandra Lo Sardo who proves to be the real revelation among the new intake. Small, delicate, but covering a lot of ground and very expressive, she handles the major part as the girl in pink extremely well. Although when a pairing with tall Andrew Bowman several segments take on a Gulliver among the Lilliput quality, but it is to Lo Sardo's credit to keep the artistic quality as the main issue”.
And Here’s to you Mrs. Robbins
“Dances at a Gathering” was the first of several Jerome Robbins ballet bought in by Nikolaj Hübbe, and Lo Sardo became something of an in house Robbins ballerina. It was very clear that the dancer had found a choreographer whose steps suited her qualities. Over the coming years she stared as the Novice in “The Cage” and Maria in “West Side Story” and most importantly in “Other Dances”.
Lo Sardo and company star Thomas Lund was third cast following two technically oriented pairings, who had not managed to get all the content out and left one in the mindset, that “Other Dances” was no more than a Piece de Occasion. Lo Sardo and Lund, although technically very strong, managed to communicate the lyrical side as well. It looked like Lo Sardo and Lund has analyzed each fragment of the ballet and chosen the best way to present it. It was a master class in concentration and projection.
“One of the reason why our take became so different from the other casts, is probably due to the fact that we did not share rehearsals, We worked alone with stagers Susan Hendl, who also had been the director of “Dances at a Gathering” and Heidi Ryom, former RDB star. Both Thomas and I were focused on getting the relationship between our characters right and I remember distinctly even when dancing the most intricate combinations I stayed fully aware of where he was and what he was doing”.
A Steady Stream
With performances like that and a very impressive second movement in “Symphony in C”, a role we hardly ever see danced by a shorter dancer, one would assume that Lo Sardo’s career would erupt fast. That was not the case. One reason off course is the company was bursting with significant talents. Another reason is that for a large part of the repertoire, there is a bias that favors the Danish dancers. One cannot blame Nikolaj Hübbe for the bias, because he is certainly not nationalistic in his castings. But for the Bournonville repertoire and the other dramatically based ballets, the Danish dancers have - through their schooling and tradition - a very strong advantage.
But now after having danced mainly international roles and bagged Aurora in “Sleeping Beauty” and “The Sugar Plum Fairy” in Balanchine’s “Nutcracker”, Lo Sardo will be only the fourth foreign dancer to take on the female lead, Teresina in company signature work “Napoli”.
It is a daunting task. Alexandra Lo Sardo tells that she gets lots of help and inspiration from the company’s team of character dancers:
“They have been so helpful sharing from their waste experience. There was however one view I could not agree with. One of the character dancers said that he looked forward to see me as Teresina the Bitch. But here I will have to disappoint him. My Teresina will be temperamental, but she will not be a bitch. I am opting for showing her kinder and warm qualities.”
That Lo Sardo can create a bitch was shown this spring when she took on the character part of Marchen in Ib Andersen’s production of Bournonville “The Kermesse in Bruges”, and she has an impressive Bournonville resume including Eliza in “La Conservatoire” and the pas de sept in “A Folk Tale”, both some of the best Bournonville choreography for female dancers.
In “Napoli” she will partner the company’s leading male dancer Alban Lendorf in the premiere cast. She has danced before with Lendorf in “Bluebird Pas de Deux” and other works but save the lead couple in “Sleeping Beauty”, where he stepped in when Lo Sardo’s designated partner, Jon Axel Fransson got injured, they have not dance a major ballet together.
As Lendorf is the company leading star and in house phenomenon, it is no daunting task to partner him. Due to the production line of very tall girls, finding partners that can match Lendorf quality wise has not been easy. He has therefore often been paired with older partners, which has worked brilliantly on the artistic side, but these partnerships will come to an early natural conclusion. Not all partners have been able to match him technically and few artistically. Lo Sardo is older than Lendorf, but not by many years, and with her strong technique and stage appeal, she could be in for a very interesting ride. So a lot depends on her Teresina. If she can conquer the dramatic challenge, her future career will be very interesting and at the forefront of the company. It will be perhaps not be a break role, but definitely a make role. It could change her career patch from a busy soloist to a company star.
She takes the situation calmly:
“All I can do is take one role at the time and give it my best and my all. Placing too much focus on what might happen in the future is not futile and will not help me neither in the shorter or longer run.”
As it is she enjoys working with Alban Lendorf tremendously:
“He is not only a technical phenonomen and a great stylist. He is also a strong actor and we share a common view on where we want to go with our roles. I enjoy the partnership very much and hope we get the chance to dance more together.”
If the pairing work out as hoped, Lendorf and Lo Sardo could definitely make a strong case for the value of the more dynamic dancers and with Balanchine’s “Jewels” in the repertoire for the coming years there could be a lot to look forward to.
Photos from Napoli of Alexandra Lo Sardo and Alban Lendorf by Costin Radu (c)Copyright