Royal Danish Ballet & Guests
June 9, 2018
The Old Stage
A festival must end with a gala. I remember a gala in Copenhagen many years ago where the gala consisted of international guests dancing all the famed Pas de Deux while the RDB stars did the 3.act of “Napoli”. Well at least we have moved on to an era where the RDB dancers can be allowed to take on the international classics themselves.
However, international classics demand international dancers. Therefore, Nikolaj Hübbe brought in a team of dignitaries from La Scala, Paris Opera, New York City Ballet, Bolshoi and Royal Ballet, UK each to partner a Danish star in an international classic Pas de Deux, with links to their home company.
All Hands on Deck
A good idea on paper. However the material chosen left the Danish stars either dancing pas de deux´s, they had never done before or done a long time ago with a partner, they have never worked with either. They did actually do a very fine job. However reaching the sky with only two days rehearsals and for some of them the added challenge of dancing new choreography the day before the gala is a challenge. However, it is difficult to be outstanding with so little time to prepare. It was obviously not considered to include a pas de deux´ from “Raymonda” or “Swan Lake” from this year’s repertoire.
Staging this oeuvre together with “Etudes” also puts four of our leading dancers out of the competition, also did some harm the Danish team.
Upcoming dancer Emma Riis-Kofoed with Italian Francesco Mura, now at the Paris Opera Ballet, danced the first Pas de Deux, August Bournonville´s “Flower Festival in Genzano”. They danced very well. However, it was difficult to overlook the significant height difference between them, as Emma Riis-Kofoed, certainly not one of the tallest girls in the company, towered over her otherwise brilliant partner. Well shopping online do carry the possibility of getting a wrong size.
Next out was Dorethee Gilbert, Etoile from the Paris Opera with our own senior dancer Marcin Kupinski, one out of the two Danish dancers who had actually danced the role the “Grand Pas de Classique” before. However, it was some years back. He struggled and he won. Miss Gilbert also did a very fine job. Placed just before “Sleeping Beauty” Pas de Deux, it did lose some of its magic.
“Sleeping Beauty” was new material for our young prima ballerina, Ida Praetorius as it has not been performed for several seasons at RDB. As a young veteran of “Swan Lakes” and “Nutcracker´s “ she was well prepared to handle the challenges and received strong partnering from Bolshoi Principal Semion Chudin.
“Manon “has been on the RDB repertoire some years ago, when principal J´aime Crandall danced the title role. Unfortunately, it was decided to perform the Death scene rather than one of the earlier Pas de Deux. Not the best decision made. The final pas de deux only make sense if you know the full narrative of the ballet. It left J´aime Crandall in a very awkward position. It is difficult to be outstanding lying dirty on the floor. Reese Clarke of “Royal Ballet” did not appear as a strong dramatic dancer.
Finally, George Balanchine’s “Stars and Stripes” “Pas de Deux was danced by NYCB principal Lauren Laurette and Danish Principal Ulrik Birkkjær, who joined the festival from his present company, San Francisco Ballet.
She is a tiny, dynamic and charming dancer. Ulrik Birkkjær focused on being charming and funny, more than being the equilibrist the choreography demands. Birkkjær rejoined RDB for the festival to dance James in”La Sylphide” and Gennaro in “Napoli”. It was good to see him back after a very successful year in San Francisco”.
Senior principals, Susanne Grinder, Amy Watson and Kizzy Matiakis presented a little Bournonville bonbon. “The Muses of Our Home Country”, made by August Bournonville in 1840 and directed by Dinna Bjørn, probably the most enthusiastic Bournonville expects.
Dressed in beautiful, but much too long dresses, the trio gave Bournonville all the style and charm, the miniature could muster. It was a nice break from the standard classics otherwise performed.
The rest of the evening was dedicated to Harald Lander “Etudes”, considered one of the key ballets in the RDB repertoire. The major roles was danced by Principals Andreas Kaas, Holly Jean Dorger Jonathan Chmelensky and Soloist Jon Axel Fransson, who took on the difficult solos and mazurka with great skills and charm.
Simultaneous, while on stage, Jon Axel Fransson won the prize as best dancer at The National Reumert Awards, the most prestigious award for a Danish dancer. It is very well deserved.
Jon Axel Fransson is one of the best- if not the best - dancer in the company. He has a fantastic range covering everything from Bournonville, Russian Classics, dramatic ballets, comedy roles and modern choreography.
He has had outstanding season including a fire cracking Rubies in ”Jewels”, “The Nutcracker”, “Napoli”, and von Rothbart in “Swan Lake” created on him and several other outstanding roles. He can do everything on stage. He won the award for his creation of Valmont in Cathy Marston´s “Liason´s Dangeroux”, a role that demands being the hero and the villain in the same role. The one thing he obviously cannot do is get his name on a promotion to principal.
Having lost Alban Lendorf, Ulrik Birkkjær and Sebastian Haynes over the last seasons, and having no male dancers joining from the company school in five years, Nikolaj Hübbe cannot afford to lose one super talent more. Jon Axel Fransson, Andreas Kaas, Jonathan Chmelensky and upcoming talent Tobias Praetorius, who has been so impressive in “Queen of Spades” and at the festival, is the key to continue the strong Danish tradition of outstanding male dancers.
So do make the promotion of Jon Axel Fransson now. It would look so good - not only on paper.
Photos by Costin Radu. (Copyright(c) by Royal Danish Ballet :
!. Ida Praetorius in "Swan Lake"
2. Jáime Crandall & Ulrik Birkkjær in "Manon"
3. Jon Axel Fransson in "Eudes"