Royal Danish Ballet

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Denmark's national ballet company. Records of court ballets performed at Copenhagen date back to the second half of the 16th century. During the first half of the 18th century dance became popular at the Lille Grønnengade Theatre (built 1722), and a ballet company was established at the Royal Theatre at Kongens Nytorv (opened in 1748 as a stage for music, drama, and dance). This company was directed by various French and Italian ballet masters but did not particularly flourish until Galeotti's long reign. Between 1775 and 1811 he expanded the number of dancers as well as staging many popular ballets, although only one, The Whims of Cupid (1786), is still performed today. The school was founded in 1777. Antoine Bournonville came to Copenhagen in 1816 but under his charge the ballet declined, until his son August Bournonville took over direction of both company and school. His reign (1829–77) became a Golden Age, during which he radically overhauled the system of ballet education as well as choreographing around 50 works for the company. Several of these still survive, including La Sylphide (1836), Napoli (1842), Konservatoriet (1849), and A Folk Tale (1854). In their lively mix of classical and vernacular dance and their dramatic naturalism his works defined a new Danish idiom for ballet and in addition encouraged a new virtuosity in male dancers. His pupils Hans Beck and Valborg Borchsenius attempted to maintain his heritage but provided no new inspiration for the company. During the late 1920s and early 1930s both Balanchine and Fokine worked with the company but it was not until Harald Lander took over as director (1932–51) that it regained its vigour. Lander staged many Bournonville ballets and other 19th-century classics, as well as commissioning new works by Danish choreographers and creating several of his own ballets, most notably Études (1948). The company became internationally renowned, revealing the riches of the hitherto little-known Bournonville repertoire on its many trips abroad. After Lander left for Paris there was a succession of directors and a period of instability followed. However, the school continued (under Volkova) to sustain Denmark's fine dance tradition. Notable dancers during this century have included M. Lander, B. and K. Ralov, M. Vangsaae, F. Schaufuss, N. B. Larsen, T. Lander, E. Bruhn, P. Martins, P. Schaufuss, I. Andersen, A. Laerkesen, V. Flindt, J. Eliasen, Lis Jeppesen, L. Riggins, and J. Kobborg. During the 1950s and 1960s many guest choreographers, including Balanchine, Robbins, Ashton, Petit, and MacMillan, worked with the company and in 1966 Flindt was appointed director. He worked to restore the balance between the 19th-century classics (Bournonville, Petipa, etc.) and 20th-century dance works, both established and newly created. He added several of his own works to the repertory as well as those with a modern dance element, by P. Taylor and Tetley, among others. He was succeeded by Henning Kronstam in 1978 then by Frank Andersen in 1985. P. Schaufuss took over the company in 1994, also taking charge of the school and creating the full-length ballet Hamlet, but he left after two years to be replaced by Maina Gielgud (1997–9), Aage Thordal-Christensen (1991), and Frank Andersen (2002–7). New works have been brought into the repertory during this recent period from Neumeier, Brandstrup, and others as well as stagings of the non-Bournonville classics, such as Ratmansky's production of The Nutcracker. Leading dancers have included Kenneth Greve, Thomas Lund, Caroline Carvallo, Gudrun Bojesen, and Slija Schandorff. Nikolai Hubbe was appointed artistic director in 2007 overseeing a new production of Giselle the following year. The company performs at the three venues associated with the Kongelige Teater, the Old Stage, the Royal Danish Playhouse (opened in 2008), and the Opera House. Most of its dancers continue to be drawn from the associate school.


Subjects: Dance.

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