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The Bournonville School.

The Bournonville School The DVD, The Dance Programme, The Music. Copenhagen: The Royal Danish Theatre, 2005.2 discs. 225 pp. 139 pp. Illustrated. Hardcover, $84. www.kgl-teater.dk, www.dancebooks.co.uk

The Bournonville School Pianist Jorgen Andersen with notes by Kirsten Ralov Box of 4 CDs, and booklet. Copenhagen: The Royal Danish Theatre, 2005. $49.95. 800.523.0960 or www.stagestep.com

What could be a better bicentennial tribute to the great Danish choreographer August Bournonville (1805-1879), than documenting his teaching legacy? The recently issued The Bournonville School, a set of two DVDs, complete with a book of verbal descriptions of every exercise and a book of music accompaniment, is a welcome gift for all of us fans of Terpsichore.

The Royal Danish Ballet has recorded on film the original Bournonville enchainements, a series of classroom combinations designed by the master himself. These exercises, called "schools" in Denmark, were arranged into a Monday-through-Saturday sequence by RDB ballet master Hans Beck (1861-1952) more than 10 years after Boumonville's death. They were a daily routine for RDB dancers and students until 1932, when newly appointed director Harald Lander began to introduce other styles of training.

In the old days, children would learn exercises by imitating older students, eventually mastering them by graduation. Steps were passed down in this way from generation to generation until Kirsten Ralov, prima ballerina and later the company's director, collected and published them in 1979 along with the music for each enchainement. This music combined popular dancing tunes with compositions by L. T. Schmidt (1850-1924). It is played by Jorgen Andersen and, together with Ralov's original notes, it has just come out on four CDs available from Stagestep.

Today the Royal Danish Ballet has a very diverse repertoire, but the ballets of Bournonville are still very much the cultural core and the spiritual foundation. The schools allow students to learn traditional technique and absorb the aesthetics. Four complete Bournonville classes are given at the company each week (in addition to "regular" ballet), while elements of the classes are gradually introduced at the school.

The video recording of Bournonville's schools has been a longstanding wish of RDB artistic director Frank Andersen. It eventually became a collaborative effort involving RDB school director Anne Marie Vessel Schluter, Bournonville specialist Dinna Bjorn, historian Erie Aschengreen, and many company veterans.

The result is astounding. Paraphrasing Frederick Ashton, who exclaimed after seeing The Sleeping Beauty, "I just had a private lesson in Petipa," I would say we are having a private lesson in Bournonville! Intricate combinations are superbly executed by principals and soloists of RDB (coached by Vessel Schluter) with modern precision, finesse, and proper demeanor. The dancers live up to Bournonville's description of ideal dancing in his Etudes Choreographiques: "noble simplicity [which] is always beautiful ... conceal[ing] the mechanism through the calm harmony which is the foundation of true grace."

The growing popularity of Bournonville ballets in companies worldwide has led to a lamentable loss of authenticity through proliferation. Few dancers outside Denmark can master the fleeting fluidity of transitions and effortless ease of presentation required for his dances. Musicality is often neglected in favor of personal or "comfortable" timing. Head and arm positions are reminiscent of other schools. The acting becomes affected.

The DVDs' menus guide viewers through all aspects of this unique choreography: arms and feet positions, port de bras, 6paulement, characteristic steps and transitions, and directions for head--and even eyes. An invaluable resource on Danish style, this collection leaves no question that intelligent use of Bournonville's exercises will enhance and enrich any training.
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Title Annotation:The Bournonville School: the DVD, the Dance Programme, the Music
Author:Kulnikova, Elena
Publication:Dance Magazine
Article Type:Video recording review
Date:Jan 1, 2006
Words:595
Previous Article:2006 summer study guide.
Next Article:Bournonville and Ballet Technique.
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