The Royal Danish Ballet
at the Paris Opera
19 February 1999 -On their first visit to the Palais Garnier in
thirty years, the Royal Danish Ballet opened their programme with Le
Conservatoire (choreography Bournonville), one of the most
treasured works in their repertoire.
Bournonville(director 1840-1877), often referred to as a Frenchman by
the French, but claimed as a Dane by the Danish, was actually the son
of a French dancer, but born in Copenhagen. He was trained in France,
and while the nobility and elegance of the French school formed the
basis of his teaching, he added a certain "joie de vivre" to
his choreography, believing dance to be the expression of the joy and
happiness of life.
The Bournonville style is graceful,
harmonious and gay, with great importance given to mime and the
expression conveyed by both body and gestures.
One of the
greatest choreographers of the Romantic Age, he drew on reminiscences
from his student days in Paris with August Vestris in the 1820's for
the Conservatoire. We watch a dancing lesson of young students
at the Paris conservatoire, a typical class, enlivened by
demonstrations by Vestris and Bournonville himself.
joyous dancing of both company and soloists proved that Bournonville's
works are not museum pieces but living art, and set the evening off to
a fine start.
Aware that Bournonville is delightful but
limiting, it was therefore a good idea to then bring in three
contemporary choreographers to show that if the dancers have their
roots, and hence their identity, solidly implanted in their unique
tradition, they also have their heads and shoulders in the next
The Wish (choreography Stanton Welch) was an
expressive pas de deux, beautifully interpreted by Kenneth Greve and
Gitte Lindstrom. An oasis of depth in an evening of bubbles, it
expressed something of the human soul in a way none of the others did.
It justified classical dance in the 21st century.
resident choreographer with the Australian Ballet is creating a new,
more important work for the Danish company in May; 1999 - Spirits
(music Benjamin Britten).
In contrast, I found the
choreography and interpretation of the other pas de deux
disappointing. 1963 - Yesterday (choreography John Neumeier),
created for the 250th anniversary of the company to four of the
Beatles tunes was original and light-hearted, but despite Neumeier's
long association with the troupe, the interpreters, Peter Bo Bendixen
and Silja Schandorff (exquisite as the little Sylphide) did not
Caroline Cavallo and Johan Kobborg are both fine
classical dancers, but both (despite Cavallo's training at the School
of American Ballet) lacked the sparkle and zest to dance Zakouski,
a rather colourless work created by Peter Martins for New York City
came to stage Gaité parisienne, a work which evokes his
own experience in Paris. He mingles humour with melancholy, and dreams
with fantasy in his own particular brand of musical comedy.
ballet is situated at the Palais Garnier, and is truffled with
illusions to other works in the Paris Opera repertoire. It is peopled
by Offenbach and many other characters including King Louis of
Bavaria, Napoleon III, and Béjart's own teacher, the
authoritarian Madame Rousanne.
A divertissement created over
twenty years ago for his glorious "Ballet du XX century"
(disbanded in 1987), all comparisons should be avoided, but the Danish
troupe danced the piece with vitality, freshness and charm. Given the
excellence of the male dancers in this work, I was somewhat surprised
by Mr. Béjart's comments that the troupe had to seriously
rethink their way of working.
At a press conference, Mr. Béjart
said that the dancing of the Royal Danish Ballet no longer
corresponded to today, adding, "They need shaking up a bit".
he should apply these words to his present troupe, "Béjart
Ballet Lausanne", for the last time I saw them, they were but a
shadow of his former company.
The Orchestre de L'Opéra
National de Paris was admirably conducted by Graham Bond.
: The Royal Danish Ballet - Mogens Boesen, Silja Schandorff, Krystof
Credit : Martin Mydtskov Rønne