Somewhere in the world there may be a company that possesses the same perfect proportion of virtuosic dancing and superb pantomime as the Royal Danish Ballet, but it hasn't been discovered yet. Last night at Kennedy Center's Opera House, the company repeated its opening night Bournonville program of "Kermesse in Bruges" and "Napoli Act III." Both ballets, one a comedy, the other a celebration of classical and character dancing, are well over a century old and both are still fresh and irresistible. The Danes take the guilt out of being entertained.
Bournonville ballets are not built around a central pair of characters with the rest of the company on stage for window dressing. Each character, each solo, requires a strong dancer or dancer/mime; what would be "bit parts" in other ballets are fascinating cameo roles, and the Danes have been extremely generous with their stars. Last night, Benedikte Paaske danced a charming, though tentative, Eleonora and Bjarne Hecht was more relaxed than on Tuesday night as her suitor, Carelis. But it was the whole company--Frank Andersen as the bumpkin Gert, Johnny Eliasen as the would-be swashbuckler Adrian, Fredbjorn Bjornsson as the narcissistic butler, Kirsten Simone as the overwrought rich widow and a host of others--that brought this gently slapstick tale of magic, social climbing and young love bubbling to life.
As Bournonville sustains a charmingly bourgeois fairy tale through an hour-and-a-half of dancing and mime, each blending into the other (and sometimes existing simultaneously. If you just watch the dancing, you'll miss all the fun going on on the sidelines), so he constructed the third act of "Napoli" out of pure dancing. It begins almost softly with a delicate pas de six, builds through an assortment of virtuosic soli and pas de deux to the rousing tarantella finish. The choreography--neat footwork with surprising changes of direction, small jumps from side to side and endless entrechats--is so different from the Russian-style virtuosity of pirouettes and turning jumps that it looks recently invented.
The Danes put their best dancers in "Napoli" and it hardly seems fair to single out individuals. Last night, Arne Villumsen and Linda Hindberg in the classical solos and Andersen, Eliasen and Anne Marie Vessel in the tarantella were particularly outstanding.