The elements did all in their power to dampen the opening of Wolf Trap's summer season last night. Thunder, lightning and a torrential downpour delayed the performance for more than half an hour and continued intermittently throughout the evening. The temperature plummeted. All that was missing were the mosquitoes, who probably drowned.
Under such circumstances, it's amazing that the Soloists of the Royal Danish Ballet, hampered by a wet stage and leaky roof, managed to dance at all. But dance they did, and wonderfully, seemingly oblivious to what raged about them.
The Danish dancers are known for their classical technique, the zest with which they perform the works of their master choreographer, August Bournonville, and the dramatic power with which they invest modern works. Last night's program showed the 13-member company in a variety of ballets, ranging from abstract to expressionist to excerpts from 19th-century classics.
Hans van Manen's "Lieder Ohne Worte," a piano ballet that explores the relationships of eight dancers with one another and with the Mendelssohn score, was danced barefoot. It's a gentle, pleasant piece that tempers classical ballet with modern dance movements. The work has all the van Manen trademarks--flexed-footed endings to a classical phrase, men partnering men, women partnering men, solos that are individual without being quirky. The dancers gave a beautifully muted performance.
The program's other modern work was Inge Jensen and Mogens Winkel Holm's "Eurydice Hesitating." The title tells the story. It's another version of the Orpheus myth, with a very playful Orpheus and Eurydice scampering out of Hades. Eurydice constantly leaves Orpheus to dance solos, and he, wary of her final, long hesitation, turns to look at her. Although Niels Kehlet and Annemarie Dybdal danced dramatically and well, the ballet is not memorable.
Bournonville choreography is the Danish specialty and last night's pas de deux from "Flower Festival in Genzano" was special indeed. Heidi Ryom, a true coquette with lovely feet, and Frank Andersen danced the duet with all the delicacy and clarity one would expect and brought out its flirtatious charm.
The pas de six and tarantella from "Napoli," a collection of classical solos and balleticized folk dance that has stopped shows for well over 100 years, closed the program. The whole company danced superbly, but if there was a hero of the evening, it had to be Arne Villumsen, whose exciting technique and elegant dancing, with its controlled power and edge of danger, was astounding.