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The Royal Danish Ballet.

The Royal Theatre Copenhagen, Denmark September 25-27, 2003

This season's splendid and completely reconsidered staging of La Sylphide, with new scenery and costumes by Mikael Melbye, is by a prodigal son temporarily returned--Nicolaj Hubbe, now of New York City Ballet but once one of the great interpreters of the work's hero, James. Hubbe's recension clings closely to the traditional choreography--he was assisted here by Heidi Ryom--although a very significant libretto change is made in the character of Gurn, James's rival for the hand of Effie. Gurn can now no longer actually see the Sylphide, and thus interprets James's action in chasing this invisible phantom as sheer madness. It's a real improvement-making the story more logical, removing the camp comedy from Gurn's character, and thus making him a more acceptable suitor for Effie. This is the final rehabilitation of Gurn, which started in the 1970s when he was allocated the ballet's first male solo, originally danced by an anonymous gentleman. Hubbe also adds a short solo for Effie to music I didn't recognize but doubtless was archive material by the original 1836 composer, Herman Lovenskjold.

Melbye's scenery is perfect for the first act, giving James's family home an appropriate baronial grandeur--but the woodland scene of the second is rather too lush for a Scottish glen. The first cast, which I missed, was the promising Gudrun Bojesen, that superb Bournonville stylist Thomas Lund, and Lis Jeppesen, a one-time Sylphide who has now translated into Madge the Hag. The trio I saw was a splendid Silja Schandorff as the Sylphide, who only needed some extra degree of ethereality: Mads Blangstrup, already an outstandingly forthright and tragic James: and Mette Bodtcher as Madge, a little tentative in a debut performance. Morten Eggart, a shoug dancer with a good presence, impressed as Gurn.

The program was completed with a so-so performance of Lander's Etudes with American Carmen Cavallo, New Zealander Andrew Bowman, and French Jean-Lucien Massot leading the disappointingly muted revels (no Toni Lander, John Gilpin, Flemming Flindt, this present decently adegnate trio!).

I saw two other programs while I was a guest in Copenhagen visit--first a mixed bill of Jean-Christophe Maillot's Vers un Pays Sage, Jacopo Godani's Digital Secrets, a creation for the Danes, and, what still remains William Forsythe's best ballet, his popular In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated. All three works were enthusiastically danced, and even though only the Forsythe has much in the way of real dance value, the program revealed a new willingness on the part of the Danes to explore the often-barren terrain of contemporary European choreography.

The other program featured a production, introduced last season, of Kenneth MacMillan's full-evening Marion, given new, and perfectly effective, designs by Mia Stensgaard. The detailed background acting required by MacMillan--which looks somewhat like a blank canvas when the ballet is danced by, say, the Kirov Ballet or the Paris Opera--fits exquisitely on the Danish company accustomed as it is to the verismo acting demanded by Bournonville. It also has one of the best Manons of my experience in Rose Gad (very sexy, innocent-style), a romantic Des Grieux in Bowman, plus a neatly calculating Lescaut in Massot and an amusing Amy Watson as Lescaut's mistress.
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Title Annotation:La Sylphide; Marion
Author:Barnes, Clivef
Publication:Dance Magazine
Article Type:Dance Review
Date:Jan 1, 2004
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