Royal Danish Ballet
September 28, 2018
The Old Stage
Three years ago, Nikolaj Hübbe asked upcoming Spanish choreographer Marcos Macau to create a ballet based on “Carmen” for the Royal Danish Ballet. The obligate interview with Macau in the official program shows an ambivalence regarding “Carmen”. Morau states, he is fully aware that he were asked because he is Spanish. In addition, he saw “Carmen” as overexposed and over interpreted. He decided to make his Carmen a story more about Spain and the country´s arts and symbols, using the story of “Carmen” as a frame on the Spanish identity and development.
That is probably the reason why neither Carmen, Jose nor the bullfighter are central in his work. Instead of making Carmen the focal point, the roles is shared by a number of dancers, with Ida Praetorius and Kizzy Matiakis getting the biggest pieces of a rather small cake.
We also get practically to the end of the performance before Principal Andreas Kaas leaves the collective of male and female dancers to go into the character of Jose. Jon Axel Fransson is funny and sharp as the Toreador, but he hardly leaves his dressing room, where he jokes and flirts with Oliver Starpov as one of a bunch of Josés.
Putting Dancing in the Corner
Morau has decided rather than giving us a ballet, to give us a movie. The stage is shared between a big screen and a space for the dancing. A camera team films the live performance, which is shown, mostly live, on the big screen. It is a clever idea and the quality of the filming is outstanding. However, in order to create these effects it has been necessary to rig the stage with heavy equipment which makes it difficult for the audience to actually see what is happening on stage, as the film equipment blocks almost half of the stage. It forces the audience to follow the live film rather than the live action.
There are several beautiful scenes like the opening, where the ballet corps are seen grooming a horse. There are several outstanding comedy scenes, and it is wonderful to see that Marcos Macau have spotted and used our strong dramatic dancers, especially, an insert where Tobias Praetorius, our outstanding performer together with dancer noble Marcin Kupinski creates a gem of two grieving widows dancing to Bizet´s well-known intermezzo. It is both hilarious and heartbreaking.
The first act is full of gags and innovative choreography, a large part of it done on flight cases. However, the second act is less inventive and it looks like the choreographer has run out of time and ideas. One of the better parts is Esther Lee Wilkinson´s Edith Piaf-like diva. Carmen´s demise, here in the charming and
as strong a performance as Ida Praetorius can deliver, is a car crash (probably prerecorded).
No Country for new Choreography
As this “Carmen” is one of only two big new creation this season, it is annoying that it failed to deliver lasting value. The company needs new and great choreography.
Last season, Liam Scarlett´s “Queen of Spades” showed how it to do it. Unfortunately, it is not on this season´s roster. Changing the annual production in the Drama House from new creations to “Ballet & Bubbles,” a format mixing a little dancing with small-scale contributions from the drama and music departments, also cost us an annual production. The previous format at least, gave us three strong new productions, “I Føling (in Contact)”, “Shaken Mirror” and “Liaisons’ Dangereux”.
Instead of Nikolaj Hübbe dictating which ballets he would like to see, he might consider another approach and asking the choreographer, what they would like to create. In this case, we ended up with a ballet, to full of too many compromises. With Marcos Morau, we got a choreographer who showed an affinity with the dramatically gifted RDB dancers and who could choreograph for them. However, giving him a set task proved not to be the best idea.
- Kizzy Matiakis as Carmen
- Stephanie Chen-Gundorph and Jon-Axel Fransson
- Opening scene
- Esther Lee Wilkinson
- Ida Praetorius and Alexander Bozinoff