16 Jul

The Danes at Zellerbach May 31-June 1, 2011

The Royal Danish Ballet, now headed by Nicolaj Hubbe, came to Zellerbach May 31 with two performances of the 1836 version by August Bournonville of La Sylphide and a multi-generational company of seventy dancers, followed by another two performances of contemporary ballets. Preceding the two-act Romantic era ballet was The Lesson,  Flemming Flindt’s take on Georges Ionesco’s play of the same name about a older teacher who ultimately
murders a student originally ushered in by a housekeeper.

In Flindt’s adaptation, May 31 Thomas Lund danced the ballet master with 17th year old apprentice Ida Praetorius as the student.  Maria Bernholdt was the pianist for both performances; slender and fine-boned, her stalking placement of chairs as the ballet opened evoked rigidity with every lengthy stride and brief back step across the space of the basement studio.  The incessant bell ringing was accented by frisky legs of the student seen waiting to enter. Marking
her debut in the role Praetorius’ entrance provided the personification of an excited young dancer.

The student is reprimanded by the pianist, requiring her to assume a demeure position beside her as the ballet master appears.  Lund, dancing the role for the first time in five years, entered from upstage right, one hand curved almost crippled against his chest, so shy and introverted one wondered how he could possibly communicate. Making his requests to the student he scarcely seemed able to flick his fingers, in marked contrast to the agility of his student. Seemingly satisfied, the ballet master goes to the piano to retrieve the toe shoes, fighting with the pianist who had banished a previous pair.  He closes the curtains as the student dons the shimmering pink slippers.

Ballet master and student start quietly enough, but he ignores her fatigue and demands her to continue.  Executing jetes with increasing agitation, he partners the student until she collapses against the barre where she meets her death by strangulation.  The ballet master collapses; the pianist comes to his rescue.  They remove the limp body; once again the bell sounds and another
student awaits as the pianist straightens the room and draws the curtain.

June 1 Mads Blangstrup and Alexandra Lo Sardo made their debut in the two roles, Blangstrup markedly sinister or deranged where Lund seemed pathetic. One could see him years down the line as Madge the Witch.  Lo Sardo was sensually demeure, and gradually reduced to a floppy doll.

Lund’s portrayal made the ballet master moving from pathetic to deranged; Blangstrup’s interpretation dangerous from the beginning.  Both danced superbly, Lund the smaller, built like a nineteenth century textbook drawing, Blangstrup like Erik Bruhn’s nephew.

The La Sylphide review will be treated separately.

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