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The Royal Danish Ballet Soloists and Principals - Bournonville Celebration, London, January 2015


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I thought this was pretty good this evening.  Programme was:

 

A Folktale - pas de sept

Flowerfestival

Jockeydance

Sylphide 2nd act

[interval]

Conservatoire - pas de trois

Napoli 3rd act

 

Lendorf didn't dance (he was in the audience; presumably he needed to rest after last night's Swan Lake), but that gave a couple of the other men a crack at his roles and so we saw him replaced by Andreas Kass in Flowerfestival and Ulrik Birkkjaer in Napoli.  Hopefully Lendorf will dance tomorrow.

 

The performance seemed a little rough around the edges but I suspect that now they have run it in front an audience once it will sharpen up for the second and third shows.

 

I hope the Danes will come here again soon, but on the main Sadler's Wells stage (I really didn't like the Peacock) and with a bit more promotion and/or lead time on ticket sales.  Such a shame that this hasn't sold better.

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The Royal Danish Ballet at the Peacock gave us a couple of short extracts from their Bournonville programme. There are only two performances left, 2.30pm and 7.30pm tomorrow, Saturday 10th January. Here are a couple of pictures from todays rehearsal.

 

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Gudrun Bojesen as the Sylph and Ulrik Birkkjaer as James in La Sylphide 

 

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Femke Slot, Susanne Grinder, Amy Watson and Kizzy Matiakis in Napoli 

 

More pictures on www.johnrossballetgallery.co.uk

 

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There was not one single piece of promotional material either inside or outside the Peacock Theatre as far as I could see. There were several large advertising boards on Kingsway but none of them showed this programme. I don't think that there were any fliers at Sadler's Wells either. The service from SW has been appalling.

 

Anyway, I was disappointed that Lendorf was not dancing and this may have been the reason that Flower Festival was a bit lacking in something. I really feel that an experienced dancer rather than a corps member should have replaced him as it's such a famous gala piece that many keen ballet goers are familiar with. Jockey and Napoli were the audience favourites. Sebastian Haynes (who is Danish, not British as his name suggests) was witty and had a great stage presence in the former. The standout dancer for me was the man wearing the green cummerbund in Napoli who I believe was Gregory Dean who is a British dancer who has had a meteoric rise to principal level. It was very interesting for me to see this programme. The stamina required for this type of dancing must be huge. I appreciate that the dancers couldn't bring sets with them but I wonder whether some kind of more interesting backdrop (perhaps with projections) could have been used to enhance the performances. A bare set, unimaginative lighting, no orchestra and no introductions does make for a rather clinical atmosphere.

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A few more photos from the afternoon rehearsal:
 
16056601237_0ac907034e_z.jpg
RDB: La Sylphide (Sorella Englund, Ulrik Birkkjaer)
© Dave Morgan. Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr
 
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RDB: La Sylphide (Gudrun Bojesen)
© Dave Morgan. Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr

16054898778_53fa6d2279_z.jpg
RDB: pas de six from 'Napoli' (Sebastian Haynes, Kizzy Matiakis, Femke Slot, Andreas Kaas)
© Dave Morgan. Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr
 
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Set from DanceTabs: RDB’s Soloists and Principals - Bournonville Celebration
Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr

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What a delightful night - just celebrating Bournonville and dancing in his style as only they can.

 

We all get so used to set ways of seeing bodies move and suddenly they blow all your usual expectations out of the water re how a dancer might get from A to B. Ballet is all about defying gravity and I can't think of a style that is more airborn and lighter than Bournonville's.

 

I'd encourage people to go and see something very different while you can. Performances this afternoon and tonight and then they are in NY next week.

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I did not have time to notice if it was a bit rough round the edges or not.There was too much else going on for me to notice any short comings in the staging. I came for the dancing and elegant,clean,clear,crisp dancing is what I got Yes, it would have been nice to have had live music and well, perhaps a bit more thought to the backcloth for the section from La Sylphide; but if that is the price I have to pay in order to see substantial chunks of Bournonville performed by dancers from the RDB then for me it is a price worth paying. Having live music would have scuppered the entire enterprise financially.Getting the chance to see part of Sorella Englund's Madge at close quarters was in itself worth the price of the ticket.

 

For me five minutes of this programme is worth an entire performance of Acosta's Don Q.Before anyone accuses me of being disrespectful towards the dancers of the Royal Ballet let me say it is my " home team" and I am fully aware that it contains many fine dancers within its ranks but if I compare these apparently effortless performances of "bleeding chunks" of Bournonville with the obvious effort that the Bow Street company has to expend to give any semblance of life to their Don Q then this programme wins hands down. I think the reason is pretty obvious Bournonville just happened to be a choreographer of genius and whatever changes may have been made to the texts of his ballets or the company's technique over the years in performance they seem to be effortless expressions of joie de vivre. Petipa was also a choreographic genius but how much of his work remains in any Don Q staged today is a moot point.He was not very complimentary about Gorsky's restaging of it; and that is the production from which every subsequent version of Don Q derives. There is too much flouncing about and too many laboured attempts at humour in Acosta's production for my taste.In the end I am far too conscious of how hard everyone has to work to get the piece off the ground. For me the dogged effort which the company displays is at odds with creating the appropriate atmosphere for the ballet. Perhaps the problem lies with attempting to update it for modern audiences which is what Acosta said he wanted to do. Perhaps that is the secret of the Danes' performances at the Peacock all they seem to be concerned about is letting the choreography speak for itself.

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So, can anyone confirm whether the man wearing the green cummerbund in Napoli was Gregory Dean? It's a point better made on another thread: British dancers get jobs and promotions at ballet companies abroad. At RDB there is also Kizzy Matiakis (who trained at Central) who is a soloist. It was interesting to read that Dean is a linguist and has learnt Danish (among several other languages).

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It was Gregory Dean, aileen.

 

BTW, there is an article by Zoe Anderson in the January Dancing Times in which she "speaks to" Gregory and Kizzy Matiakis about this programme.  Looks like it has been seven years since he last performed in the UK, so this must be quite special for him (and he certainly seemed to be giving it everything he's got last night).

Edited by barton22
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For me five minutes of this programme is worth an entire performance of Acosta's Don Q.Before anyone accuses me of being disrespectful towards the dancers of the Royal Ballet let me say it is my " home team" and I am fully aware that it contains many fine dancers within its ranks but if I compare these apparently effortless performances of "bleeding chunks" of Bournonville with the obvious effort that the Bow Street company has to expend to give any semblance of life to their Don Q then this programme wins hands down. I think the reason is pretty obvious Bournonville just happened to be a choreographer of genius and whatever changes may have been made to the texts of his ballets or the company's technique over the years in performance they seem to be effortless expressions of joie de vivre. Petipa was also a choreographic genius but how much of his work remains in any Don Q staged today is a moot point.He was not very complimentary about Gorsky's restaging of it; and that is the production from which every subsequent version of Don Q derives. There is too much flouncing about and too many laboured attempts at humour in Acosta's production for my taste.In the end I am far too conscious of how hard everyone has to work to get the piece off the ground. For me the dogged effort which the company displays is at odds with creating the appropriate atmosphere for the ballet. Perhaps the problem lies with attempting to update it for modern audiences which is what Acosta said he wanted to do. Perhaps that is the secret of the Danes' performances at the Peacock all they seem to be concerned about is letting the choreography speak for itself.

 

 

it happens I saw the RDB perform Alicia Alonso's production of Don Q a few years ago.  For the performance we saw Kitri and Basilio were danced by Cuban guests Anette Delgado and Joel Carreno.  It could be said that the Danish company members were completely out of their comfort zone.  It was the juxtaposition of the 2 styles that made the overall performance so interesting and enjoyable.  The RDB does not spend their entire time dancing Bournonville...

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I wasn't sure which topic to post this under having seen both Alice in Wonderland and the Royal Danish Ballet Bournonville programme in the same day but thought I'd plump for this one. It was an amazing contrast in view, from high up in the amphitheatre at Covent Garden to Row C at the Peacock Theatre, and an amazing contrast in styles. The matinee performance of Alice was enjoyable but I found the ballet a triumph of staging but oddly unengaging, though Francesca Hayward was wonderful as Alice (I can see what the fuss is about her and I came away wishing I'd seen her Manon). A shame I didn't enjoy it more because Winter's Tale was one of the absolute highlights of my as yet still brief ballet-watching career, so Christopher Wheeldon is definitely in my plus column rather than my minus column!

 

The Bournonville programme, by contrast, was engaging from the moment the curtain went up on the first item. There were a couple of hitches, a wing malfunction in La Sylphide and a slight slip at the very end of the Napoli selection and it was a shame not to have a live orchestra, but that didn't detract from an evening that was a delight from beginning to end. I'd never seen any Bournonville ballet before and was blown away by the grace and beauty of it, though it was obvious from Row C that it's a style that requires tremendous physical effort and agility from both the men and the women. Not that any of the dancers showed the effort - it all seemed totally effortless, lighter than air. It was wonderful to see some of La Sylphide for the first time, and also wonderful having seen Francesca Hayward in Alice to see two more English dancers holding their own with the dancing Danes in the evening, namely Gregory Dean and Kizzy Matiakis. Dean was especially impressive as James with Gudrun Bojesen as the Sylph in La Sylphide.

 

Sorry I couldn't be more forthcoming on the technical merits of the the two performances but I'm still in learning mode as far as ballet is concerned, and today felt like I'd read an important new chapter!

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You'll be wanting to book a performance of the full Sylphide at the Coliseum in the summer, then, Chris :) One of my favourite ballets - can't decide, out of Bournonville, whether I like it or Napoli better. That's in "proper" versions of both, of course :)

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You'll be wanting to book a performance of the full Sylphide at the Coliseum in the summer, then, Chris :) One of my favourite ballets - can't decide, out of Bournonville, whether I like it or Napoli better. That's in "proper" versions of both, of course :)

Thanks for the tip! I'll have to make it down

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What a thing of joy this Bournonville programme as assembled/produced by Gregory Dean was yesterday.  I had just got off a plane from Munich that morning and my ears - it seems always to be the case when flying with RyanAir - were entirely underwater.  I watched both of yesterday's programmes - but the matinee was as if the sounds themselves were submerged.  Notwithstanding the dazzling buoyancy of the dance that Mr. Dean had so generously assembled allowed me to 'see the music; hear the dance'.  By the evening when my audible balance was blessedly restored I could fully share the rapture as had been evidenced by both of the near capacity audiences.  (I have, I have to admit, never - ever - seen the Peacock so full.  It was a joy to see ... and I pray that it wasn't due to an abundance of 'paper'.) 

 

I spoke last night to someone in the proverbial know as to the reason why there was no representation of this programme ANYWHERE outside the Peacock Theatre (or inside for that matter - short of the programme sellers with an independently produced programme).  This I was told was due to the fact that this was a 'straight Sadler's Wells rental'.  This independent company would have had to pay extra for a poster to be displayed not being under Sadler Well's official sanction.  What was it that Churchill said: 'Actions speak louder than words'.  For me this puts total pay towards Spalding's claim that his 'London' is a 'mecca or world dance'.  Well, surely it isn't for world ballet.  That's for current sure.  His actions - especially in light of the fact that this programme was being produced by a young - well, 30 year old - British chap - can surely speak for themselves.  Nothing more needs to be said and I only add this notation due to the obvious concerns - certainly shared by me - as evidenced above.  The Joyce in New York on the other hand HAVE officially embraced this programme; a celebration at core of the Royal Danish Ballet's traditions.  Of course you'll say that it may be be argued that our American neighbours have perhaps a closer association.  I do understand.  Still - and this from a purely practical perspective - not only does the Joyce - receiving a miniscule amount of public subsidy when compared with that proffered to the SW team - DOES clearly account on a specifically dedicated web page for ALL of the independent funding that has been secured in order to jointly produce their full week of celebration in New York.  It also acknowledges this programme as 'a highlight of the Joyce season'.  I would love to see the posters as they must now sit in the Joyce's frontage.  I pray that a certain Dane who you just know will be sitting in that audience probably more than once -- (Did anyone see Mr. O'Hare on Friday by any chance?  I looked but couldn't see him at either of Saturday's performances) -- might invite Mr. Dean to guest in Balanchine's extraordinary Bournonville Divertissements as staged by the legendary Stanley Williams the next time they do it.  Certainly such would be manifestly deserved as would any and ALL benefits this extraordinary young man receives as a direct result.  Well done YOU, Mr. Dean.  I, for one, thank you.  You served your country well in this dedicated slice of public service.  Bravo. 

 

I felt that Mr. Dean was the finest male dancer on the stage at both performances I saw.  HIs dramatic commitment and dazzling entrechats held all that he touched aloft.  I was thrilled to see elements of both versions of La Sylphide currently held in the RDB rep; the Hubbe take in the afternoon and the more traditional one in the evening.  The homoerotic kiss I did not find distracting.  Indeed I admired both Hynes' and Dean's dedication to it and appreciated that the construct of the original was not in large measure disturbed short of the final walk towards the curtain.  It was only that Hynes is an artist very young in his career and cannot of course be reasonably expected to be more than a shadow against the towering achievement of Sorella Englund's theatrical bombast.  She commands now as much as she ever did.  (It was lovely too to be able to get a taste of both sets of production costumes with their clearly differing pallets. Again, thanks be to Mr. Dean.) 

 

Gudrun Bojesen was a majestic Sylph in the evening radiantly responding to everything within her generous reach.  I adored Ulrik Birkkjaer in everything he did as well and am sorry I missed his James the evening before.  I also SO wished he could have performed the Flower Festival pas de deux with the extraordinary Diana Cuni at one performance.  She deserved a partner with that wealth of experience to match hers; one where she, herself, did not have to anticipate the partnering be it in that pas de deux or in a final variation in one performance of Napoli performances.)  Perhaps you'll laugh but I imagined Birkkjaer to be the very physical model of a Robert Helpmann.  The proportions of his body seemed similar (at least to my eye) from what I have have seen in early photographs and films of Helpmann.  Be it in the twist of his  contoured bonnet of svelte hair, his delightfully square smile and - without hesitation - the life enriching precision of his enchantingly pointed feet - Birkkjae embraced soul though wit.  I was delighted by his generous responses when in the Napoli's background as much as I adored the fact that Mr. Dean had seen that a slight alteration in variations was included in each performance of the Napoli extracts by his touring ensemble. For me Ms. Cuni was the outstanding delight amongst the women present.  Such a force of precise joy she is and oh, so rich in her ability to 'inter-phrase' as Williams once put it. 

In ALL it was thrilling.  As Dicken's Fagin might have sung:  'Be back soon'. .... PLEASE.   

 

i think it is clear, Mr. Dean ... the people WILL support you even if the Sadler's Wells umbrella cannot yet find it within their largess to do the same.  There too your instruction might be key and I have every faith it shall.  Bless you, Mr. Dean.  Bless you. 

Edited by Bruce Wall
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But I thought it was Ulrik Birkkjaer who was the prime organiser of the trip?

 

Oh, thank you, Jane, for letting me know that on both counts.  If it was the extraordinary Mr. Birkkjaer then he deserves our hearty thanks ... and then some.  BLESS THEM. 

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i think it is clear, Mr. Dean ... the people WILL support you even if the Sadler's Wells umbrella cannot yet find it within their largess to do the same. 

 

I don't think that's quite fair. The PR was handled by an independent company and I would assume the Danes had paid a fee for that (with support coming from Sad Wells - perhaps due to costs that they didn't do it all? - I couldn't say). In which case its wasn't up to Sadlers Wells people to produce publicity materials or adverts; and probably the RDB budget for this trip didn't extend to paying the PR people to produce such things, or indeed to produce such things themselves.

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Is it normal to engage a PR company for tours of this kind rather than expect the theatre to advertise visiting productions? Surely a few flyers aren't expensive to produce. Even my daughter's local ballet company has them (on shiny paper) for its productions. I can't think that a couple of posters is expensive either; obviously, they would have to compete for space with posters for all the other productions. I suspect that most overseas tours, even with a reduced company and no orchestra and sets, only cover their costs if they have sponsorship. Sometimes I have seen references to embassies in programmes. I fear that these tours may become a thing of the past if they lose money and are poorly attended. I suspect that overseas companies rather over-estimate the appetite for ballet in our so-called world capital.

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Trying to remind myself of RDB's last visit in June 2005 I looked back at the old Ballet.co forum discussion with interest. The programme was performed by a group of 17 with extracts from Le Conservatoire, Flower Festival, La Ventana, Jockey Dance, La Sylphide and Napoli – in other words a very similar offering to now, but at Sadler's Wells rather than in the subterranean gloom of the Peacock. The same wishes were expressed then that they should come again soon and the same worries about whether they had been adequately promoted, and the number of empty seats.

 

Short of their having some enthusiastic and very rich promoter it seems unlikely that we'll see the Royal Danes again any time soon and our Royal Ballet shows no sign of reviving La Sylphide. At least we Londoners have Queensland Ballet's Sylphide to look forward to in August but it's all rather sad.

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The Peacock is not a very enticing theatre, is it? It's rather utilitarian and soulless. I assume that it was built in the 1970s or 80s. It certainly doesn't have anything like the glamour or vibe of Sadler's Wells. In fact, going in there lowers rather than raises your mood, which is not a good start to an evening or afternoon out. I think that a newly built theatre today would have much more of a design aesthetic - at least, I hope it would.

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There is something depressing about going underground, although when you get to the auditorium you forget it, I was so surprised and pleased to read the theatre was full at both Saturday's shows as it certainly wasn't on Friday night.

 

How strange to do the new Sylphide in the afternoon, glad I saw the original on Friday, this was the highlight for me, Sorella Englund still magnificent as Madge, Gudrun Bojesen and Ulrik Birkkjaer also gave wonderful performances even in this abridged version, he was in the last 3 ballets so he had a busy evening.  My next favourite piece was the Jockey Dance, Sebastian Haynes is a real star in the making.

 

Sorry to have missed Alban Lendorf though not entirely surprised, really enjoyed this very rare treat though!

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Short of their having some enthusiastic and very rich promoter it seems unlikely that we'll see the Royal Danes again any time soon and our Royal Ballet shows no sign of reviving La Sylphide.

Well, given that it's Kobborg's production, and his comments on leaving the Royal Ballet, I'm not surprised. It would be a shame, though.

 

 

I was so surprised and pleased to read the theatre was full at both Saturday's shows as it certainly wasn't on Friday night.

Well, it wasn't exactly full - there were seats available on the sides - but I'd say that the stalls were over 80% occupied, and probably rather more than that. (And, Bruce, I've seen the Peacock full to bursting on numerous occasions).

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Three wonderful performances from the Danes, I relished every moment and like others wish their visits here weren't so few and far between.

 

It was a bitter sweet experience to see the lovely Diana Cuni dance for he last time as she has already given her final performance in Copenhagen and after the New York leg of the tour she will return to impart her skills to a new generation.  The Danish girls are the lightest on their feet of any dancers and their almost soundless footwork is a miracle to behold, however Ms Cuni's dancing is totally silent, literally like a piece of thistledown being blown across the stage.  In the Conservatoire pas de trois alongside Gudrun Bojesen and Ulrich Birkkjaer she, and they, showed us that absolute perfection can still be witnessed on the ballet stage.  I will  miss her.

 

The matinee gave us a glimpse of Hubbe's La Sylphide which substitutes the traditional witch for a stern young man in a frock coat who has clearly had amorous designs on James.  An interesting concept but I'm glad our local production stays with the more conventional approach.

 

I'm surprised there is any doubt as to who arranged the tour as the programmes states quite clearly that the organizer was Ulrich Birkkjaer. 

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I so agree about Diana Cuni - and also was very happy to see so much of Bojesen. The two of them together in Conservatoire were indeed wonderful.

 

I'd guess there are quite a lot of people in Copenhagen who'd be very happy to see this programme, too!

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Off-topic, but interesting (to me, anyway) - the casting for the RDB's new Swan Lake, which opens in March, has just appeared on their website - there are 6 casts, and the 6 Siegfrieds are the 6 men we would have seen at the Peacock if Lendorf had made it.

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I've just got home after a great weekend in London; a feast of wonderful ballet with the Royal Danish Company last night and Swan Lake at the Coliseum today. Contrary to everyone else's opinion I enjoyed my experience at the Peacock Theatre. I sat in one of the top 'boxes' and because no one else was in it I was able to get the seat nearest the stage (which was better than the one I'd booked at the other end of the box). Consequently I was overlooking the stage and had a wonderful view. it was great being so close to the dancers rather than being in the amphi and having to rely on binoculars to catch facial expressions. I don't like Sadler's Wells as a venue finding it rather soulless on the inside and rather a nuisance to get to. the dancing was wonderful and though I'd agree with those who would have liked a more imaginative backcloth (I thought when they paused it after 'Conservatoire' we were going to get some scenery for Napoli but it was not to be) it was the dancing that was the true star of the show. The quality of dancing (especially the men) was amazing and I saw details of the Bournonville style like the way the men bend their legs when they leap that hadn't really registered before. I thought I also saw Sir Peter Wright in the stalls so I hope he enjoyed it too. I was a bit surprised at the level of the  enthusiastic reception they got after every piece (wonderful though it was) but when I went to the stage door afterwards there were a lot of people there. I think there were from Arts Educational School to see Greg (possible mention of a bus) so that would explain it. he was certainly given a very enthusiastic reception there. He did say that the visit may possibly be a precursor to bringing the whole company so I hope possible lack of ticket sales won't put them off doing this. Saturday night the stalls were practically full but the circle only about a third full.

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The Royal Danish Ballet were here in 1968 and in 1995 when they brought Fleming Flindt's ballet Caroline Mattilde and his production of Prokofiev's Love for Three Oranges, neither of which were well received. Since then we have had two small groups of dancers visit London in 2005 and the group that have just completed their performances at the Peacock. I seem to recall that in 2005 there were suggestions that the visit might be the precurser to a visit by the full company which, as we know, turned out to be wishful thinking.

 

I know that the Danes do a lot more than dance Bournonville all the time.The last time they tried to show us what else they danced they performed Caroline Mattilde and while there was praise for the dancers there was at best polite acknowledgement of the pieces itself and a lot of discussion of its weaknesses.Perhaps it is the memory of that response that has dissuaded the company from returning here. It would be nice to think that Kevin O'Hare's presence at the Peacock is evidence of a renewed interest in Bournonville and his works. But much as we might like to see a revival of La Sylphide or a new Conservatoire I think it unlikely that they will be performed at Covent Garden in the foreseeable future by either the Royal Ballet or by the Danes.

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I first saw the Danes in London at the Coliseum in the early 70's in two programmes, one of La Sylphide and the other included Whims of Cupid and the Ballet Master, for some reason FLOSS fails to mention this  season.

 

Apart from the RDB we never see POB either, could it be that the proximity of Paris and Copenhagen somehow means we are expected to see their companies regularly under our own steam negating the need to go to the expense of regular tours?

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