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Danish writer intrigues choreographers.

COPENHAGEN--Danish writer Karen Blixen, best known by her nom de plume of Isak Dinesen, is an obvious source of inspiration for a choreographer. In addition to her strange skinny appearance, the author of such classics as Out of Africa considered herself foremost a storyteller, and her description of her own life in Kenya at the beginning of this century is a fascinating tale.

Two years ago Danish choreographer Flemming Flindt made a ballet about Blixen called Daughter of Lucifer, and now Warren Spears of New Danish Dance Theatre (NDDT) has made a piece about her that will have its premiere at the new Dansescenen, in Copenhagen, on April 8. Spears's title is simply Tanne, which was Blixen's family nickname.

Spears was born in Detroit, attended the Juilliard School, danced for Alvin Ailey and Joyce Trisler, and created his own company, the Spears Collection, before he came to Denmark in 1981. Here, together with choreographer Anette Abildgaard, he soon became artistic codirector of NDDT, which has grown into the largest and most international of Denmark's modern dance companies. Among its most popular pieces is Spears's Skagen (1990), which also has been performed in Norway, Germany, and Spain. Last year he made his own version of Sacre du Printemps, simply called Stravinsky.

"I wasn't born in Denmark and raised in the Danish culture, so [I] hope I'll be able to portray Blixen with the fresh curiosity of a foreigner," says Spears. "My intention with Tanne is not to show all her literary achievements but to focus on the feminine part of the myth that she has become. Her fights against the old-fashioned view of women and her struggle against a deadly illness [syphilis] must have been of major importance to her life as a woman and as an artist. I think that the audience of today will see the parallels to our huge problem with AIDS and also to the constant attempt of every artist to improve."

In Tanne Blixen will be portrayed by three different dancers, showing her development as a woman. And, of course, she will be surrounded by the men in her life--including her adventurous lover, Denys Finch-Hatton.

Lin Utzon, a designer for Royal Copenhagen porcelain, has created sets and costumes for the piece; and the commissioned music is by Fuzzy, one of Denmark's most versatile composers for dance, theater, and television. Tanne is their first collaboration with Spears.

Spears has called Blixen "a delicate bird, quivering with expectation." A Danish audience is waiting curiously to see her take flight.
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Title Annotation:American choreographer Warren Spears' new work about Danish writer Isak Dinesen
Author:Christensen, Anne Flindt
Publication:Dance Magazine
Date:Apr 1, 1994
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