In contrast to Wednesday evening, the music for last night's program by the Soloists of the Royal Danish Ballet was performed live, by Wolf Trap's house orchestra under the direction of Danish conductor Peter Ernst Lassen. It was definitely an invigorating touch, and it felt in keeping with the enlivened spirit of the evening--the dancers also seemed to have recaptured a full measure of vivacity.
The program was not only the last of three the Danes presented at the Meadow Center, but also the finale of their four-week U.S. tour, and the performances had an air of celebration about them. All told, it was a feast of exuberant and eye-catching dancing, prompting the crowd to extended cheers and bravos.
For this valedictory event, the Danes chose an all-Bournonville program. August Bournonville (1805-1879) was born in Copenhagen to a French father and Swedish mother. From Paris, where he danced as a young man, he brought back to his native land the novel traits of French Romantic ballet, filtered them through his own individual genius, and proceeded to create more than 50 full-length ballets, plus a much larger number of incidental and occasional pieces, during his 47-year tenure as the Royal Theatre's ballet master. This legacy has been passed on by generations of successors, making the Bournonville repertory the world's oldest ballet tradition.
But time has taken its toll--today, only nine full ballets are extant. With the renaissance of interest in Bournonville begun in the 1940s by Harald Lander, much scholarly and artistic effort has been put toward expanding the Bournonville treasury, using such resources as Bournonville's own notational records, along with his diaries and letters, as well as pictorial evidence and even films. Two items on last night's program--the Gipsy Solo from "The Troubadour" (i.e., Verdi's "Il Trovatore") and the Jockey Dance from "From Siberia to Moscow"--were reconstructed from primitive movies made by a court photographer in the earliest years of this century.
Reconstructions from a dead past inevitably stir controversy--there are those who believe that absolute authenticity must be the primary goal, and others who think that such reproductions can only be given life by translating them into contemporary terms. Dinna Bjorn, cofounder of the Soloists who was largely responsible for last night's restagings, holds with the latter view; hence what we saw wasn't the way things might have looked in the 19th century, but the way these dances might have appeared had Bournonville had today's dancers--and their toes shoes--at his disposal.
The program began with "Bournonville-Etudes," demonstrating the technical and stylistic fundamentals of the Bournonville style, and progressed through eight assorted gems spanning the whole of the choreographer's career. Especially prominent were the many folk and national idioms Bournonville absorbed from his travels, manifest not only in the dirndls, lederhosen and boots the dancers wore, but in the folded arms, clicking heels and other folk-derived postural and step elements.
If this miniature sampling left out of the picture Bournonville's formidable prowess as a dramatist and storyteller, it gave a rounded image of his choreographic signature--his equal treatment of the sexes, the speed, filigreed lightness and aerial freedom of his step combinations, and the very special openness of line and stance that he cultivated.
The program, like the two that preceded it, ended with a sparkling account of the Pas de Six and Tarantella from Act III of "Napoli."