Danish, Dutch, Canadian and Cuban ballet companies are dominating the midsummer dance season in New York and the biggest of them all, Moscow's Bolshoi, is expected next month. With the Joffrey Ballet as its sole representative in the major league, America seems to have ceded Manhattan to the United Nations.
The situation is partly the result of scheduling, with hometown subscription series tying up theaters and keeping companies off the road at other times of the year. Partly it is a matter of costs. Visiting companies' appearances are paid for with the help of their own funds, even though it may be in the hidden form of a new production premiered at home and then featured on tour. This type of indirect subsidy by others is accepted year-round in Washington, which enjoys a great quantity of dance without supporting a major troupe of its own.
Undoubtedly the glamor of foreign names also contributes to America's underrepresentation. Joffrey, as well as our neighbor Canada's National Ballet, is able to afford New York seasons only by being packaged as a backup for this year's Rudolf Nureyev marathon. Nureyev still retains his international box-office appeal.
Artistically, the companies seen here are distinctly different - even those wrapped in Nureyev posters. Joffrey dancers are like big-city children, and the Canadians like county cousins.
The Danes were not the complete company from Copenhagen but a group of soloists presently or formerly associated with the Royal Danish Ballet. This is the centennial year of the death of Denmark's August Bournonville - one of the world's few old masters whose choreography has been kept alive - and the Danish soloists' programs consisted entirely of his work.
Bournonville's pas are bright, buoyant and fleet. Patterns and dynamics are intricate, yet seem spontaneous. Men, more than women, star. Frank Andersen, the group's organizer, was dancing with an injury but Ib Andersen's vigorous line, Arne Villumsen's velvet speed, Peter Schaufuss' dynamism and Biarne Hecht's meticulous phrasing were splendid despite the poor stage floor last week at Temple University's Music Festival, just after the troupe had left New York. Dianna Bjorn was the one woman who matched the men most often.
Rarely seen character dances such as "Jockeys" and "La Lithuanienne" showed that Bournonville treated this genre, as well as ballet, with much more humor that his French contemporary in Russia, Marius Petipa. To see the non-dance side of Bournonville's art, the richly humanistic storytelling in pantomime, one will have to travel to Copenhagen for Bournonville week at the end of November.
While the Danes were being delightful, the Dutch were controversial. Jiri Kylian, the new director and principal choreographer, of Nederlands Dans Theater, is a Czech but his ballets are mostly within the Dutch company's tradition of gloomy themes and bodies that seem ashamed to unfurl. Apparently, with the Dionysian presence of Maurice Bejart next door in Belgium, sensuality is something to be avoided. Even is a piece in which the woman dance en pointe and there is humor about sportive, dance and courtship maneuvers - Kylian's Haydn "Symphony in D" - a brusqueness of motion permits scant body pleasures.
Despite the tone, Kylian's craftsmanship is his own. He over-choreographs, but his interest is movement itself and not just its efforts. Dancers are dangled like broken puppets or susupended like curled embryos near the floor, yet their impetus is smooth and incisive. A few leaps or turns high into the air are triumphs of the will rather than eruptions of joy.
Only two of these troupes are being seen in Washington. The Cubans were already at Kennedy Center and the Joffrey Ballet will be at Wolf Trap at the end of July. For the others, Washingtonians will have to travel. CAPTION: Picture, no caption