The Royal Danish Ballet is intrinsically linked to Bournonville, the French ballet-master who shaped the Company, its style (the closest to 19th century French school) and its unique repertoire. But thanks to globalization and a young Artistic Director fresh from the NYCB rosters, the company also dances plenty of Balanchine, another legend whose choreographic style and ideas, albeit on the whole contrasting to those of Bournonville, share similar qualities of musicality and technical virtuosity.
The hand of Artistic Director Nikolaj Hübbe seems evident in the couple of performances of Symphony in C I attended last week. One only has to look at the cast sheet: whereas other troupes tend to cast this ballet’s lead roles from the higher ranks Hübbe has given opportunities to many of his younger soloists and corps members. With his NYCB/SAB credentials he has been able to bring on the off-balance catch-me-if-I-fall style that often eludes European companies, while maintaining the high quality of dancing that such repertoire demands.
At both performances the 1st movement was led with brio by Principal Amy Watson, who delivered all the technical fireworks while letting herself be overtaken by the music, very much à la Balanchine. She was partnered by the very elegant, ex-Scottish Ballet, Gregory Dean. Slightly miscast in the 2nd movement was corps member Alexandra Lo Sardo. This grand ballerina role demands an authority that she doesn’t quite yet possess and at times she looked uncomfortable despite the very experienced hands of her partner Jean-Lucien Massot.
Kizzy Matiakis (and Diana Cuni in our last evening) and Lena-Maria Gruber were in no such danger, giving solid performances as the lead ballerinas in the 3rd and 4th movements. But most impressive was the sheer virtuosity of their respective men. Young Alban Lendorf (still in the corps de ballet) flaunted his outstanding ballon, demonstrating “how to fly”. If he’s like this now we wonder what he’ll be able to achieve in the future, a real must-see. Sebastian Kloborg and Ulrik Birkkjær in alternate evenings moved with clarity and precision through the series of jumps and turns characteristic of the 4th movement and we also had the added bonus of Marcin Kupinksi, another “one-to-watch”, as one of the side soloists.
If anyone has any doubts regarding the RDB dancers’ ability to plunge into the technical intricacies of Balanchine’s Symphony in C and to present music as dance, surely they must dissipate by the time Bizet’s Allegro Vivace comes to a close. The company is in good hands, with young members developed and receiving opportunities to star alongside some of the more established dancers. I once read that it was one of life’s pleasures seeing Bournonville danced in Copenhagen. It is another treat to see them do Balanchine. It looks like the Danes really know their B’s.