Alexxandro Sousa Perreira:
June 8th, 2018
In some ways, Nikolaj Hübbe must be excused. As he made an early transfer to NYCB, he has been spared the many publicity-seeking adventures of his predecessors. He is not the first RDB director to get the idea on creating ballets on contemporary rock music, played on stage by popular bands. There is more than one hiccup in the plan. However, the biggest difficulty should be easy to spot. Putting the bands on stage, you compromises the dancers’ room to perform.
The first ballet out, Oliver Starpov “Dream Rewind” ‘with music by the group ØYA were particularly hard hit by the decision to put the bands on stage. ØYA is a big group and it filled up the central pace. Starpov is a choreographer that really uses the space. Instead of doing his normal big runs, throwing dancers spectacularly across the room, he had to limits the movement’s pattern to cater for the band.
However, at one point, he placed himself hanging down from the ceilings in wires. That was probably the only free space available. He had created a dream universe, where the dancers remains between reality and dreams. The decision to put the band on stage also compromised the films showed on the back wall.
The second ballet “Individual” by Alessandro Sousa Pereira with music performed by Teitur managed to get more space, probably because the band was smaller. Pereira´s ambitions also seemed smaller than Starpov’s. Well danced by five dancers with the outstanding performance by Tobias Praetorius it was nice, short and not memorable.
In many ways the third ballet, Melopoia, by Sebastian Kloborg became the best of the bunch. Instead of placing his music star Lydmor on the middle of the stage, she was used as a dancer/actor on line with Principal Amy Watson. Dressed and undressed alike they created a sisterhood. The look was 1930 Berlin. The costumes the same color as the curtain, or Tata, as Sebastian Kloborg like to call it. He dares to challenge his performers and us. It was a clever response to a difficult challenge.
Chaining a Festival
This program was a late addition, chosen probably because something else was not possible. In all looking at the festival program, it is clear that the programme has been compromised, partly because the Royal Orchestra was not available for a full week duty. Therefor the middle off the week was dedicated to small scale works like “New Tones”, The talk show ”The Hübbery,” It Finishes when it Finishes” with in-house company Corpus and the new concept “Ballet & Bubbles”. The originally planned “Shaken Mirror” by Kim Brandstrup was dropped from the festival and season for none to clear reasons.
One would expect the management of the Royal Theatre would understand the importance of a big ballet festival, and make is possible for the RDB to present themselves at their best and therefore allow them the full use of the shared orchestra. Apparently not. If the orchestra was available the festival program could have include the season´s two big, new and successful productions: Nikolaj Hübbe´s own production of “Raymonda” and Liam Scarlett´s outstanding creation for the RDB “The Queen of Spades”.
Riding the wrong Horse
Left with what was feasible, Nikolaj Hübbe and the PR Agency Have Kommunikation started a rebranding of the festival. It was no longer showing Bournonville and other key productions to the connoisseurs from home and abroad. The new theme became making Denmark dance. Through media, internet and free for all outdoors transmissions Nikolaj Hübbe took on bringing dance to new audiences.
There was a good turnout and the weather was cooperative, so Hübbe and Have collected a good audience. However, there are limits on how long lasting a success they can count on. It had never been a problem to offer ballet free. The challenge is to make an audience pay. During the festival, several others and I have received offers from the RDB of buying tickets to the festival for a much-reduced price. The tickets might be available because dedicated ballet fans may have concluded: Why should I buy a ticket when can see the performance in live transmission free?
The Royal Opera has created an Opera group for young people with reduced prices. It is growing into a community. Maybe a Ballet group could help the RDB to gain a younger and loyal audience. The free for all event may bring in some new fans. However, do not expect it to turn into a moneymaker.
The Road to Success is Vertical
I do not know if the expectance of the new created ballet would fill a whole evening. At least the day before the run, Akham Khan´s “Vertical Road “was added to the program.
The Khan ballet is popular in Denmark, but unfortunately have become a part of the “Ballet & Bobbles” program, performed on a smaller stage and also limited in using the sand dust that is a central part.
Back on the big stage, the brilliant cast lead by Liam Redhead and again Tobias Praetorius gave it their all. The lightning tricks including the ending where all of the dancers save Liam Redheads traveler are actually behind the bag drop. However, you are never sure whether you see tricks or reality.
“Vertical Roads” delivers everything you can demand of a contemporary ballet and then more. The audience was on their feet’s and gave the best and longest applause seen and heard through the festival.
They are willing to pay for quality, and this the audience the RDB should cater for.
Photo of "Vertical Road" by Costin Radu. Copyright: Royal Danish Ballet