The Royal Danes’ Program II June 4 2011

16 Jul

Artistic Director Nikolaj Hubbe brought a contemporary program for the Royal Danish Ballet repertoire and displayed it June 3 and 4 at Zellerbach Auditorium  under the titled Nordic Choreographers.  Finnish choreographers Jorma Elo and Jorma Uotinen were represented with Lost on Slow and Earth. The first work of Johan Kobborg, the noted Danish principal with England’s Royal Ballet, titled Alumnus, had the subtitles Les Lutins and Salute.

The first work, however, the arrangement by Thomas Lund and Nikolaj Hubbe of Hans Beck’s daily class compilation of August Bournonville’s exercises for the male dancer, was titled Bournonville Variations.  A dozen men arrived in raincoats, shed them and went to work to a mixture of exercises from the six-day regimen, starting and ending with Pas de la Vestale, progressing to petit allegro, to grand allegro, adding jumping ronds de jambes en l’air, a mazurka, brises, batterie and enchainement, all interspersed with male solos. Easy to watch and replete with insouciance possible only with familiarity, it’s something one should watch frequently to appreciate just how well it displays the Danish male dancer.

Jorma Elo’s Lost on Slow utilized Antonio Vivaldi’s sprightly compositions for three couples, agreeable, and far more winning than his other distortions and eccentric takes on classical vocabulary.

Kobborg’s choreographic essay relied on the age-old relationships between young men and women, followed by a major domo putting both genders through disciplined paces. Fifteen dancers were involved in a trio, a pas de six and pas de sept.  The flirtations and display allowed the display of  gentleness and grace of the Bournonville technique for women as well as the strut-your-stuff elan for the men, all evoking some of the light-hearted charm of the Ballets Russes in its heyday.  It would be so nice to have another  demi- charactere master emerge in our midst, a ballet genre bereft after Leonid Massine dominated as its exponent.

Uotenen’s Earth was inspired by the red clay of Australia and perhaps also  male aboriginal gatherings.  A dozen men in kilt-like garments danced to a cello version of Metallica’s music.  Expectedly powerful, if verging on the monotonous thanks to the music, the Danes danced the piece, created in 2005, with their standard strength and verve.

While it is clear Hubbe wants the Royal Danes’ repertoire to be relevant to the 21st century, it scarcely is surprising that the most absorbing works in this program were firmly routed in the Bournonville and demi-charactere traditions.  Along with Flindt’s contribution in Program I, the Danes will always be welcome dancing what they know best, and, or course, dance superbly..

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