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A Well-Trod Path

Sunday, February 1, 2009

A Well-Trod Path

Some of the names involved in passing on the Bournonville style and the ballet "La Sylphide" at the Royal Danish Ballet:

August Bournonville (1805-1879) developed Danish ballet into a clear, well-defined national art; he created his version of "La Sylphide" after seeing the original 1832 production by Filippo Taglioni in Paris.

Hans Beck (1861-1952) was Bournonville's choice to carry on his style and repertoire.

Harald Lander (1905-1971) performed in and staged Bournonville ballets in Denmark as well as at such companies as American Ballet Theatre.

Hans Brenaa (1910-1988), a dancer in the 1930s and '40s, studied the Bournonville style under Beck and staged Bournonville ballets for the Royal Danish Ballet and around the world.

Erik Bruhn (1928-1986), Denmark's most famous dancer, was trained by Lander; Bruhn's performances of James in "La Sylphide" were an inspiration to such dancers as Rudolf Nureyev.

Henning Kronstam (1934-1995), a singularly beautiful dancer whom many consider the defining James of his age; he learned the role from Brenaa.

Arne Villumsen (born 1952) was a principal dancer in the 1980s, then a coach; he learned the role of James from Kronstam.

Ib Andersen (born 1954) first danced in "La Sylphide" as a child (years later, Thomas Lund would inherit Andersen's little yellow costume when he became one of those lucky students).

Nikolaj Hübbe (born 1967) was coached by Kronstam and left Denmark to become one of New York City Ballet's leading artists (like Peter Martins and Ib Andersen before him), then returned in July 2008 as the Royal Danish Ballet's artistic director.

Thomas Lund (born 1974) is currently a leading dancer in the company, and learned the role of James first from Villumsen and then Hübbe.

-- Sarah Kaufman

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