Among the many charms of the Royal Danish Ballet is its ability to present several casts in the same work, each giving very different, but equally valid, interpretations. On Saturday at the Kennedy Center's Opera House, two completely different sets of principals danced the leading roles in the vibrant and enchanting production of "Coppelia."
Linda Hindberg, a tall, classical dancer, is not an ideal Swanilda, but she made the role work for her by making the character high-spirited and slightly tomboyish. Hindberg is a strong technician whose secure balances, fast and perfectly centered turns and light high jumps can be breathtaking. But, as with all the Danish dancers, her technique is always subordinate to her characterization.
Her Frants this night was Johnny Eliasen, whose sweet, clear miming was as fascinating to watch as his virile dancing. Niels Bjorn Larsen repeated his extraordinary performance as Coppelius, a villager made eccentric by confusing magic and technology.
At the matinee, Heidi Ryom and Frank Andersen danced Swanilda and Frants. Ryom's Swanilda was mischievous and curious and, for a few brief moments when tormenting Coppelius in his workshop, a positive monster. Andersen was an endearing Frants, the kind of boy who's always in some kind of trouble but never quite understands how he got there. Fredbjorn Bjornsson gave a very touching performance as Coppelius.
"Coppelia" lets the Danes show why they are a great company. Their character dancing is more exciting than that of most European folk dance troupes. And each role, no matter how small, is performed with skill and humanity.
One hopes they won't wait another six years before visiting us again.