It has been ten years since The Royal Danish Ballet’s last visit to Sadler’s Wells. They are certainly a very popular company to catch as evidenced by the the bouts of contented cheers from the audience, throughout their peformance. This time its a delightful mixed bill featuring twelve principal dancers and soloists from the Royal Danish Ballet performing excerpts from August Bournonville’s repertoire. Whilst disappointing that Alban Londorf (the Dane’s answer to Carlos Acosta) is replaced, the essence of Bournonville is none-the-less alive and dancing.
The programme open with the very energetic pas de sept from Folktale. The joyful energy throughout this dance resonates with the audience. It is here that Bournonville’s impressive male choreography is first seen: how they leap and jump across the stage, whilst the upper body remain ‘held’ and tight is extraordinary!
The pas de deux from The Flower Festival in Genzano is a calmer affair: sweet and playful. The two dancers demonstrate natural grace that contrast their quick footwork with ease.
The playful theme continue with the next work Jockey Dance. This highly comic dance is a crowd pleaser; the colourful characterisation from both dancers is kept even whilst taking their bows. It is impossible to watch without a huge grin on your face, possibly underscoring that Bournonville’s Jockey Dance is devised to depict something which is close to quintessential ‘Britishness’ (our love of horse riding) and thats what keeps you smiling.
La Sylphide provide a complete contrast to this happy work. This piece is notable as it does not conform to Bournonville’s usual formula of a happy ending. We are treated to Act Two, the dramatic finale that sees both Sylph and James die in this tragic love story.
The second half of the mixed bill contain the beautiful pas de trois from The Conservatory. This is, as a member of the audience seated next to me declare, ‘simply gorgeous’. The warm smiles from the dancers present the kindness that Bournonville wanted his dancers to exhibit; their eyesight is often lower than other Ballet styles as he did not want his dancers to appear proud. This pas de trois is the epitome of harmony and grace.
The finale of Napoli with its pas de six and tarantella is the perfect choice of a finishing number. The happy, celebratory dance; full of light and quick steps provide an opportunity for all dancers to showcase their skillset in a combination of small solos and duets, as well as high impact unison sections.
The Peacock Theatre with its smaller setting enables its audience to have an intimate experience with the performers. This compensates for the absence of live orchestra for the dancers to respond to.
The Royal Danish Ballet are certainly worth the wait!
Reviewd by Sara Daniels
(Sara is a freelance dance teacher and lecturer in dance education)