The children and the character dancers are a vital part of Bournonville's world, where rich and poor, pious and venal, old and young mingle. The older dancers have a wealth of experience. No young performer could be as convincingly fussy and vain as Poul-Erik Hesselkilde in Le Conservatoire or as powerfully vindictive as Jette Buchwald, playing Madge the witch in Sylphide. Like little Ida Praetorius, beguiling as the hopeful young ballet student in Le Conservatoire, and her brother, Tobias, who was the impish slave in Abdallah, these dancers started out as children and passed through the company; some who were once major stars, like Kirsten Simone and Flemming Ryberg, turn even tiny roles into multi-dimensional characters (a single gesture of Simone's can say worlds, Ryberg is a master comic). As Diderik, the uncouth, foul-tempered troll brother who hopes to marry A Folk Tale's Hilda, Peter Bo Bendixon (about to make the transition from solo dancer to character dancer) creates a subtly hilarious number off to one side as he practices make-nice strategies to offer Hilda the engagement ring he's made.

The dancers may have repertory in which they can show their contemporary chops, high-noon extensions, and sleek, athletic bodies, but they'll rarely look more endearingly human than they do in these perennially fresh ballets.

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