Erik Bruhn


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(b Copenhagen, 3 Oct. 1928; d Toronto, 1 Apr. 1986)

Danish dancer, choreographer, and ballet director. He studied at the Royal Danish Ballet School (from 1937) and joined the company in 1947, promoted to soloist in 1949. Although he remained closely associated with the Royal Danish Ballet for the next fifteen years, he performed extensively as a guest artist with the English Metropolitan Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, New York City Ballet, the National Ballet of Canada, the Royal Ballet, the Harkness Ballet, and the Ruth Page Ballet. At ABT he partnered Markova and Fracci. and his debut with the former in Giselle (Metropolitan Opera House, 1955) created a sensation. Bruhn was one of the finest male dancers of the 20th century, possessed of a pure classical technique and a striking nobility, his commitment to the drama and artistry of his roles never sacrificed to self-promoting virtuosity. As a foremost exponent of the Bournonville style, he was an outstanding James in La Sylphide. In later years he became a celebrated character artist, giving exceptionally detailed and moving interpretations of Madge and Dr Coppelius. He also excelled in more modern roles, including Jean in Cullberg's Miss Julie and Don José in Petit's Carmen. He created roles in Taras's Designs with Strings (1948), MacMillan's Journey (1957), Cullberg's Lady from the Sea (1960), Cranko's Daphnis and Chloe (1962), S. Hodes's The Abyss (1965), and in a pas de deux, choreographed specially for him and Makarova, in Ailey's The River (1971). He was director of the Royal Swedish Ballet (1967–71), resident producer of the National Ballet of Canada (1973–6), and director of the National Ballet of Canada from 1983 until his premature death three years later. He re-staged many of the classics for companies around the world, including the Royal Danish Ballet, the Royal Swedish Ballet, the Bavarian State Opera, the Harkness Ballet, and the National Ballet of Canada for whom he staged La Sylphide (1965), Swan Lake (1966), and Coppélia (1975). He won the Nijinsky Prize in 1963 and became a Knight of Dannebrog in 1963. Author (with Lillian Moore) of Bournonville and Ballet Technique (London, 1961).

Subjects: Dance.

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