Yesterday Mads Blankstrup as Wilhelm in "Far from Denmark" flirted with disaster and came close to dropping his fiancée for an exotic beauty. Tonight as James in "La Sylphide" he went over the edge. The depth and the despair that were only hinted at in the lighter piece came full front tonight and demonstrated Blankstrup's gifts for big, passionate, dramatic dance acting. Tonight he was also spot on in his dancing, strong, elegant and high-flying. Acting and dancing on such a high level is a joy to watch.
Blangstrup's interpretation of the role differs totally from Thomas Lund's. There is no reason to discus which is the better James, because it is part of the allure of "La Sylphide" that you can interpret the roles very differently. Blangstrup's interpretation links backs all the way to Henning Kronstam's over Arne Villumsen's and Nicolaj Hübbe's version's. It is easy to say that Blangstrup, with his height and striking appearance, has been given a lot, but it is the details and the total absorption of the character that marks this as a truly great James.
It is great to see the confidence boost that this festival has given the Royal Danish Ballet and it brings the best out in all the dancers. I do not think that I have seen either Jette Buchwald as Madge, Marie Pierre Greve as First Sylph or Morten Eggert as Gurn better than tonight.
During the season, Blangstrup had danced alternatively with Silja Schandorff and Caroline Cavallo as the Sylph. It is a big pity that the international audience did not get the change to see Schandorff as the fatal Sylph. Her acting and dancing matches Blangstrup's in intensity and drama. Caroline Cavallo is a strong dancer with a very soft phrasing, but she tends to dance with very little tempo changes or attack, creating a constantly flowing, but never rising, stream of movement. Dramatically she is a Middle of the Road Sylph opting for neither the dramatic nor the sweet option. I would like to se more definitive interpretations from her, see her go out on a limb and really invest herself in the drama.
Luckily we did get Silja Schandorff in "Kings Volunteers on Amager." (She had cancelled other announced performances during the week). "Kings Volunteers" is based on the musician, singer and composer Eduard de Puy, whom Bournonville knew and who was the first Danish Don Juan in Mozart’s opera. That this was type casting unfortunately became clear when he some years later was exiled for being too intimate with the crown prince's wife. De Puy was also an officer in The Kings Volunteers during the battle with Britain in Napoleon's time, and Bournonville has combined this figure with his own childhood memories of spending time with the Dutch farming colony at Amager, an island outside Copenhagen.
At the matinee introduction for "Kings Volunteers" a couple of months back, it became clear that neither the director Anne Marie Vessel nor the scenographer had full faith in the material. This has prompted the scenographer into creating scenery and costumes that oversimplifies the style and character of the ballet. The former design by Bjørn Winblad was very colourful and noisy but it had one strong point: the décor managed to convey indoor and outdoor in the same setting. The solution chosen this time is clumsy and meaningless, as one character enters through the door and another through the wings.
In order to make the piece "more relevant," Anne Marie Vessel has added a dream sequence, done in Cranko's style, to show the audience that Eduard is a Don Juan. But there is not one scene in the original ballet that could lead you to think otherwise. The new section adds nothing save confusion and a style change, and with a very fine cast, led by Silja Schandorff as Eduard's wife Louise, who teaches him a lesson, and Peter Bo Bendixen as the philandering Eduard, no interpolation is needed at all. The material is strong as was the acting and very fine dancing from Kristoffer Sakurai, Susanne Grinder and foremost Diana Cuni in one of Bournonville's best pas the trois. But the heart of the piece is Silja Schandorff as the wronged wife, having to suffer the embarrassments and knowledge of her husband’s betrayal and yet find it in herself to forgive him.
The piece is full of character vignettes and as usual Flemming Ryberg—this time as the crossest man in town—came out on top.
It is great to see the dancers really believe in the material and enjoy the performances. If the directors could provide the same belief in the Bournonville heritage, we would not only be spared interpolations like the one mentioned but see more performances that simply would reflect the true Bournonville work and style. You cannot do better than Bournonville himself.
by Martin Mydtskov Rönne:
3, No. 21