"Bournonville Dances," the latest, thoroughly delightful segment of the "Dance in America" series, airing tonight at 8 on Channel 26, has a coincidental relevance to the current dance scene in Washington. August Bournonville, as co-host Peter Martins explains on the program, is the 19th-century choreographer who gave the Royal Danish Ballet its unique style and repertoire. The show presents a medley of his work as performed by members of the New York City Ballet. The Washington connection is simply that the "real thing," that is, the Danish troupe itself, will be appearing at the Kennedy Center Opera House for two weeks starting June 1.
The Bournonville excerpts have been staged for the NYC Ballet by Stanley Williams, who was Martins' teacher in Copenhagen and later in this country, both having joined the American troupe after a career with the Royal Danes. Interspersed with the dancing are stills and film clips showing, among other things, classes in Denmark and, under Williams, at the School of American Ballet (the NYC Ballet's school); prints of Bournonville as a dancer and of dancers from the Danish troupe performing Bournonville in the early years of this century. Informative running commentary is provided by Williams and Martins. Noted dancer Edward Villella, who makes his "Dance in America" directorial debut with this program, maintains the series' high standard with his successful integration of the program's various elements.
The charm, buoyancy, lightness and virtuosity of the Bournonville idiom are handsomely illustrated in the dancing. Inevitably, the several principal males of the NYC Ballet who were Danish-trained--Martins, Ib Andersen and Helgi Tomasson, most notably--stand out for their finish and authority in this style. On the whole, though, the dancers--who include such NYC Ballet eminences as Merrill Ashley, Darci Kistler, Robert Weiss and others--give their Bournonville a distinctly American accent, particularly in the carriage of the upper body and arms. Perhaps only connoisseurs will take note of such things, but you can see for yourself the genuine difference it makes if you catch any of the live performances by the Danes in the coming Kennedy Center engagement.