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November 12, 2018


Simone Jensen

Dear Eva,

Thank you for an interesting read. You and I seem to watch exactly the same ballets through two very different lenses, and thereby of course two very different opinions on the outcome.

You praise Chen-Grundorph/Fransson cast, which in our opinion heals the “weaknesses of the production”. I think especially Chen-Grundorph did a great job, but as a whole this version was not at all as strong as the one delivered by the cast including Holly Dorger Larsen and Jonathan Chmelensky. There were simply no weakness to heal!

I think our different opinions come from very different fundamental believes. I think you are far too conservative, and that you actually damage the Royal Danish Ballet with your reviews.

It seems like none of the non-Danish dancers never can impress you, while the Danish/Scandinavian dancers do everything right. Don’t get me wrong…. Some of the dancers born and raised in the Royal Ballet’s School are among my absolute favourites, the brilliant Andreas Kaas and very talented Emma Riis-Kofoed just to mention two. However, it is also of crucial importance to wake up and acknowledge that the Royal Danish ballet anno 2019 is so much more than Bouronville and Ida Prætorius, even though one can easily be fooled when studying the Royal Danish Ballet’s own promotion.

Let’s be clear. The Royal Danish Ballet is a world-class company not at least due to its long, rich and wonderful Bouronville-tradition. I do believe that the current and future Ballet Masters of the Royal Danish Ballet, have a huge responsibility keeping this tradition alive. Nurse it. Pass it on to the next generation. It must not be lost. But the Bouronville-tradition that got the company here will not keep it here. The Royal Danish Ballet needs to represent more than proud history. It needs to embrace the fantastic work of modern masters e.g. Mr. Balanchine, Mr. Neumeier and Mr. Wheeldon just to mention a few very obvious and popular ones, and dance a versatile repertoire including foreign dancers, who absolutely can do Bouronville but also master other styles to perfection. If it fails to do this, it will eventually lose its position as a world-class company. Slowly but surely. I’m not asking for a revolution, but more a careful and respectful evolution.

Nikolai Hübbe has indeed pushed the Royal Danish Ballet in the right direction, and modernised it with respect of the Bouronville-tradition. He has employed a number of foreign dancers which is great. But he could do even more.

Conservative reviewers like yourself need to wake up. Stop dragging the Royal Danish Ballet in the wrong direction. Let go of the conservatism. Support Nikolai Hübbe in his mission to do the right thing. And please stop being so old fashioned and review everything through a hopelessly conservative lens. It really hurts the company.

As a last comment, I think you also need to work on your facts a bit. Many romantic ballerinas have actually did brilliant interpretations of Teresina. Gudrun Bojesen, Susanne Grinder and Heidi Ryom, just to mention three.

Simone Jensen

Sorry I got so carried away I did not notice that the auto correct changed Mr. Bournonville's name to "Bouronville". My appolgies.

Eva Kistrup

Hi Simone,
Thank you for your input. I am always pleased to hear from people who really care for the RDB, their dancers, skills and repertoire. I do have strong feelings regarding the Bournonville repertoire, not as much as a museum pierce, but as an outstanding and special tradition that remains relevant and a central and a special piece of ballet.

I am very fond of many of the international dancers who has joined the RDB in the last decades. However not born into a dramatic tradition, it takes time to adjust to the dramatic roles. Still many of them has adjusted to the company style and proved that they belong in company. A dancer like Kizzy Matiatis delivered an outstanding Odette/Odile.

I am slightly puzzled that you see me as a very conservative reviewer, as I have given high price to productions like "Queen of Spades", "Broken Mirror", Vertical Road", "Liasons Dangerous" and several other contemporary productions.

I have praised many of Hübbe´s productions and has recently written that he in many aspects has over-performed as a director. Nikolaj Húbbe is currently fighting against severe budget cuts That makes it difficult to give all the dancers the opportunities they need.
We must accept that not every new created ballet will be a big hit. Still, it is necessary to keep trying.

For Instance the Carmen presented earlier this season, was not 100% successful, still I celebrate how well the choreographer created roles for special dancers like Esther Lee Wilkinson, Tobias Praetorius and others.

I am a great fan of John Neumeier, Balanchine, Liam Scarlett, Alexey Ratmansky and Christopher Wheeldon and several others contemporary choreographers. I do not expect every creation to be a hit, but is important to keep trying.

We may not always agree which dancers and ballets we prefer. The important issue is that we both consider the RDB as an important player in the ballet world. I accept that not every production will be a hit.

Still every time I take my place in the auditorium, I hope the miracle will happen. It does not happen everytime , and if a production fails , I hope my reviews will be fair. It is important to keep trying.

Simone Jensen

Dear Eva,

Thank you so much for taking the time to reflect on my views. Highly appreciated.

Even conservative reviews can appreciate a contemporary ballet. My point is more that you seem to apply a conservative and a blurry yardstick on what a good performance from a dancer looks like. I think you simply fail to give enough attention to the technical side of a performance. Here I mean basic but crucial factors like turn out, feet and lines just to mention a few things. Ballet fundamentals, which may be more important in other styles than Bournonville.

I think your comments on Kizzy in particular is a good point to start a discussion. Here we really disagree. Kizzy is a wonderful asset for the Royal Danish Ballet. She is outstanding in roles like the countess in The Queen of Spades and she was one of the few bright moments in the modern Carmen. This is where she shines and where she defines herself as an artist. She is bold and crazy, which is a true privilege to watch. However, she was by far outperformed by other ballerinas in the role as Odette/Odile. These roles require a ballerina with not only great and versatile acting skills (fragile and vulnerable as Odette, but tempting and seducing as Odile) but also a ballerina with outstanding technique. The performance will only be as good as the weakest factor. So strong acting skills cannot compensate for technical flaws.

In my opinion, Marianela Nuñes of The Royal Ballet is currently the world’s best ballerina. If she was invited to do a guest appearance in e.g. Napoli, I’m sure she would do an outstanding job if she had some coaching from a Bournonville-guru (luckily there are quite a few). She may not live up to all of the old and conservative rules and norms, but she would definitely enchant everybody in the audience and give them an experience to remember. It may not be 100% Bournonville, but it will be outstanding. Something that would tickets sell faster than ever before and support the financial situation of the Royal Danish Ballet.

Marianela is obviously very busy, but no need to worry. Other dancers currently in the company could do the same as long as they get the credit they deserve and that reviewers like yourself acknowledge that conservative Bournonville rules are not the only way to successful performances. There is so much more!

Eva Kistrup

Hi Simone, I really enjoy our written conversations. It is so great to exchange views with people who really care about ballet.

Regarding, how I view dancers, I would say that I really love the classical dancers the most. I am a sucker for good lines, musicality and virtuoso dancing as well as character building skills.

When I mentioned Kizzy Matiakis´ Odette/Odile it was mainly to give an example of how a non-Danish educated dancer managed to create an interesting character. When I interviewed Kizzy Matiakis, she told me that she had decided to put everything she got into Odette, because she feared the high technical demands of Odile.

I think we agrees about her forces and where she brings value to the repertoire.

I would label myself as an almost all-round admirer of ballet and dance. There are many modern ballets I love and some classics I hate.

As I write for an American and international web media, I write for the international fans of primarily the Royal Danish Ballet, which is well-known abroad, which cannot be said for many Danish modern dance ensembles. I have also included interviews with RDB stars and dancers.

My motivation for doing that is that although I see International companies when I travel, on television and when they visit Denmark, it is very difficult to keep hold of the stars and upcoming dancers. By interviewing them, I keep their international fans up to date and get some background. I have discovered that Wikipedia links to my interviews, which in the case of many dancers are the only interviews with them in the English language. I sometime review modern Danish companies, however they remain unknown abroad, so they are not that relevant for my readers.

I would say that for the last decade my main storyline is Nikolaj Hübbe´s project as Artistic Director for a company with historic roots, pressed to fill every seat and financially pressed. I would hate to see ballet going the way of opera, where there are very few works created.
I support Nikolaj Hübbe´s strategy to bring new creations to the company. However, we cannot expect every new creation to be a masterpiece. Some will fail, as was the case for ballets created in the two last centuries. For every new production I view, I hope each time for a masterpiece. Seeing a production like “Queen of Spades” makes me very happy. Especially as it also creates some meaty roles for the dancers.

When Nikolaj Hübbe took on the post as Artistic Director, he also took on the mantle of the Bournonville heritage. I am certainly not the only reviewer who feels that the Bournonville heritage is in question and who asks questions whether the heritage can survive on so few productions. We do not love Bournonville because it is old. We love it for the quality. Have you seen Signe Roderik´s films on Bournonville? They show how strong the Bournonville heritage is. I will also recommend you to read my interview with Alexander Meinertz on the future of the Bournonville tradition. https://alexandermeinertz.dk/2018/06/08/is-bournonville-still-alive/

I do share your admiration for Marianela Nunéz. I have seen her perform several times in London and see her as fine classical ballerina.

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