‘Out of Denmark’
by Johan Kobborg
‘Festpolonaise,’ excerpt from
‘From Siberia to Moscow,’ pas de deux from ‘William Tell,’ ‘Afsked,’ ‘The
Lesson,’ excerpts from ‘Napoli’
2003 – Queen Elizabeth Hall, London
"Out of Denmark" had many
positive features, including the innovative, underlying concept of an
evening of Danish choreography in London. The superlative dancing of Johan
Kobborg and Alina Cojocaru graced the evening, and with top price tickets
at £20, the programme was a great bargain for ballet lovers despite the
often-bare stage and inadequate quality of much of the recorded music.
Ricardo Cervera and Bethany Keating brought much style to their Bournonville
dances and we saw the premiere of an excellent new duet, "Afsked," by
Kim Brandstrup. The parting of two lovers provided the frame for this
distinctive and sensuous modern dance work, which you can easily imagine
appearing at vasrious galas. Brandstrup’s choreography gave Zenaida Yanowsky
the material to weave sad magic, ably supported by Dylan Elmore.
However, I found Flemming Flindt's "The Lesson" a problematic treatment
of an abusive dance teacher-student relationship. I have no difficulty
with dark ballets in general and Cathy Marston's "Facing Viv" and Christopher
Bruce's "Swansong" resonate with psychological insight and compassion.
Whether the abuse and murder of a girl student can ever be satisfactorily
presented in dance is a debatable point, but this work impressed me as
as a gratuitous use of the material for dramatic effect and little else.
This is in marked contrast to the treatment of a similar theme in the
film “M,” where Peter Lorre also portrays a child killer. However, Lorre
underplays the role and the film’s Director, Fritz Lang, explores society’s
reactions and prejudices and finally makes us sympathetic for the plight
of the obsessive central figure. “The Lesson’s” crude dramatics provide
no equivalent underpinning and a tendency to caricature magnifies the
hollowness of Flindt's approach. If Cojocaru, Yanovsky and Kobborg cannot
make it work I doubt anyone can.
It’s only fair to report that many admired the work and the performance
received loud applause. In addition, Debra Craine in The Times praised
the ballet, together with the majority of the critics. If it seems that
I have dwelt too long on this section of the programme, my antipathy to
“The Lesson” dominated the evening and the charming lightness of touch
of the excerpts from Bournonville’s “Napoli,” which followed, did little
to soothe my anger.
I certainly hope for more evenings of chamber ballet in London with a
similarly imaginative format and I would see this programme again if it
returns. Nevertheless, in future “The Lesson” will always find me propping
Edited by Jeff.
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