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Frank Andersen: perpetuating his family and Danish ballet heritage.

Ballet master, entrepreneur, and cultural ambassador Frank Andersen--artistic director of the Royal Danish Ballet--receives a new title this month: Denmark's Man of the Year. It's the first time that the distinguished award has gone to a ballet master. The award's presentation caps a successful United States company tour that reminded audiences how essential the August Bournonville repertorv is to ballet. Presented by the Danish American Society to recognize outstanding efforts in promoting Danish-American relations, it's a milestone for the art form. The Danes' admiration and respect for ballet is apparent in naming Andersen for this tribute.

Copenhagen's "old stage," the Royal Theater, houses one of the oldest classical ensembles in Europe, along with a distinguished tradition of training and performance, currently under the patronage of Margrethe II, Queen of Denmark. Sonja Andersen, Frank's mother, was a student at the Royal Danish Ballet School (RDBS) and. under the direction of Poul Huld, enjoyed a career at Tivoli's Pantomime Theater, where she partnered young Erik Bruhn in his teenage debut. As a seven-year-old, Andersen enrolled at the RDBS and met his future wife, Eva Kloborg, there.

Like many Royal Danish Ballet dancers, Andersen made his official debut with the company when he was very young. In 1961, aged nine, he danced in Roland Petit's Cyrano de Bergerac with Marianne Walther and other youthful roustabouts. Important in Andersen's training were classes with Vera Volkova, leading proponent of Vaganova training in Western Europe, studies in Paris with Nora Kiss, and work in New York with Stanley Williams at the School of American Ballet. He joined the Royal Danish Ballet in 1971 and, six years later, became a principal dancer who was noted for buoyancy wit, and remarkable performances in such roles as Puck in A Midsummer Night's Dream, Frantz in Coppelia, and Gennaro in Bournonville's Napoli.

Andersen's first appearances in the United States occurred in 1975, while studying with Williams. Fellow countryman Peter Martins, then a principal with New York City Ballet, asked Andersen to replace hint on a Bournonville program al Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival. Besides thrilling audiences with technique and insouciance, Andersen came to two pivotal conclusions. Following his entrepreneurial bent, Andersen decided to form a small touring company: The Bournonville Group was established with soloists of the Royal Danish Ballet, making an American debut at Jacob's Pillow the following year. He also realized how much he missed Kloborg, whom he promptly brought to New York.

Daughter of a banker, Kloborg had also entered the RDBS as a child and joined the Royal Danish Ballet as an apprentice in 1964. Two years later, she danced Calliope in George Balanchine's Apollo with Peter Martins in his last performance of the ballet in Copenhagen.

"I love Bournonville," she stated, "but my great pleasure has been to dance the full range of ballet." Kloborg has held a gamut of positions in the Danish ensemble, including principal performer, character dancer, ballet mistress, and teacher in the RDBS. Kloborg and Andersen were married in 1983.

While the pair seldom danced together, the couple has performed, laugh I, and staged ballets all over the world. Andersen served as artistic director of the Royal Danes for nine years (1985-1994), and also held that position for the Royal Swedish Ballet (1995-1999), demonstrating his ability to develop dancers, producing brilliant festivals and leading both troupes on international tours. He has been an artistic adviser to the National Ballet of China and to Japan's Inoue Ballet, and was artistic director for Nina Ananiashvili and International Stars (1993-2002).

The most earthshaking family news, however, was delivered by the Andersens' only child during a trip to Japan in 1999. Sebastian Andersen, born in June 1986, made the decision to pursue a professional dance career. "I had been traveling with dancer friends, and we were close, like my family," he said. Sebastian became a Royal Danish apprentice in summer 2002, adding a third generation to the Andersen ballet dynasty'. He says his present dream is to remain and to grow in the company. Asked if he is a potential ballet prince, Sebastian replied, "Maybe. Time will tell."

Appointed in September 2002 for a second stint as the Royal Danish artistic leader, Andersen extends the family metaphor to the atmosphere he has fostered in the company, a fact confirmed by the dancers. In the eight years before his return, the company had five different directors.

"We needed to identify our values and to establish a dialogue," Andersen attested, "and to come together in mutual respect and love for Danish ballet." Andersen says his aims are to keep the Royal Danish Ballet in the top tier of international companies. "I want to give company members freedom to do what each does best--to fly as high as possible--while providing ongoing challenges and a safety net."

Like Diaghilev, Andersen is a curator as artistic director, con> missioning new hallets from contemporary choreographers, extending the range of worldwide masterpieces and classical productions, while caring for the Bournonville crown jewels.

"I must take the responsibility to secure continuity for the future," he declared. " I want to prepare the next generation to perform and to pass on this wonderful style, with dancers working inside and outside the company." Consequently, major steps have been taken.

The present roster of teachers at the RDBS were all principals in the renowned Bournonville Festivals of 1979 and 1992. Andersen has arranged for Royal Danish Ballet alumni to return to stage works for the third Bournonville festival in Copenhagen June 3-11, 2005. Nikolaj Hubbe, principal with New York City' Ballet, has staged a production of the choreographer's La Sylphide.

Being Denmark's Man of the year crowns many tributes to Andersen. When presenting him with a 2002 Dance Magazine Award, John Neumeier, artistic director of Hamburg Ballet, described Andersen as "the greatest entrepreneur in the dance world today." Despite global performances, productions, and competition Wry appearances, Andersen is Italy at home in Copenhagen's Royal Theater.

"This house is my life," he confessed.

THE ROYAL DANISHBALET is a public company, supported by state funds and under royal patronage. Such budget security provides an atmosphere of stability, assuring long-range plans and lifetime careers. At age 40, dancers retire, assume character roles that can be played for decades, or teach, thus sustaining the nation's classical tradition. Since most are trained at the Royal Danish Ballet School, many in the seventy-five-member ensemble have been together since childhood, perforating in the Royal Theater--House of Bournonville where the motto is "Not for pleasure alone." Michael Christiansen serves as general director. A new opera house opens in 2005, and the curtain in an additional theater for drama goes up to 2008, at which time the Royal Danes will have six local stages on which to perform.

Camille Hardy is a dance critic and historian. She worked on sixteen of the Popular Balanchine productions.
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Author:Hardy, Camille
Publication:Dance Magazine
Geographic Code:4EUDE
Date:Apr 1, 2004
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