Royal Opera House, Stockholm
November 8, 2016
Distinction, the new double bill in Stockholm contrasts ancient (in ballet terms) and modern: a Bournonville reconstruction and a repeat showing of Sharon Eyal’s Bill. In Ponte Molle, Bournonville returns to his beloved Italy for a light-hearted love story and, naturally, an excuse to dance. The ballet created in 1866 and last presented in 1911 has been given new life by Dinna Bjørn and Frank Andersen. With Bournonville in their DNA, the pair represent Danish ballet pedigree of the highest order. Even in a world noted for high energy and passion their ebullience is infectious, reflected in a joyous performance.
August Bournonville was a true democrat valuing male and female, old and young equally. The plot may be predictable but the mime, simple and eloquent, speaks from the heart. He tends to look for the good in human nature (something of a rarity in these interesting times) but while the characters are kind hearted, the technical challenges are fierce. The variations come thick and fast: duets, trios, quartets, that fizzle with energy punctuated by firecracker batterie.
Working from an original Bournonville manuscript that Dinna Bjørn’s father’s Niels Bjørn Larsson had preserved, she and Frank Andersen have recreated the choreography preserving the style while introducing select modern touches to challenge the dancers. The costumes, designed by Marie í Dali, similarly reflect the folk dress of the period with a dash of Danish style in the occasional modern asymmetry of an apron or blouse.
The first scene tells the story of artists in love, while the second is the natural corollary of the weddings, as paintings are sold, the money for dowries is found and the village celebrates. The dancing was a joy, the musicality and effervescence in the performances masking the occasional imperfect finish. Nathalie Nordquist excels in this style creating a lively portrait of Camilla, and giving of her best in the variations. Luiza Lopes, as sister Annina, complemented showing a particularly melting plié, so right for the style and so seldom seen. Annina’s lover, Chauvin, a soldier and model for the portrait of Achilles, is no sluggard in matters of love and Vahe Martirosyan gave the role a hefty dose of virile passion. Dmitry Zagrebin, unsuccessful as a painter, compensates with virtuosic dance and together with Martirosyan, he danced up a storm notably in their Roman soldier duet – a painterly joke carried over from the first scene.
Dawid Kupinski as Alfred, the Danish artist, has a fiancée back home. A kindly benefactor, he is a more introverted character, separated from the crowd and wistfully dreaming of his love. However, his dancing, elegant and unforced, proved his Danish training. Not to be left out, the older generation team up eventually as mother, Fulvia, danced by Jeannette Diaz-Barboza is paired with Pauluccio, Gunnlaugur Egilsson in two delightful character studies replete with Bournonville humour.
There are so many dance opportunities in the final festivities and the company rose to the occasion with a number of young dancers coming to the fore in small roles. Ponte Molle is a welcome addition to the Bournonville repertoire and I hope it enjoys the afterlife it deserves.
Bill, by Sharon Eyal, is about movement: liquid, vibrant, and relentless. The score from regular collaborator, DJ Ori Lichtik, is the pulse of the rave scene reverberating through the theatre’s very foundations. Designer, Gai Behar, partner and another long-time collaborator creates a world of anonymity: the dancers whited-up and working in an untrammelled, smoke-filled emptiness.
In a series of solo variations, the dancers explore the philosophy of gaga, Ohad Naharin’s new movement, which has captured the imagination of contemporary dancers across the world. Gaga aims to improve body awareness, training strength and flexibility while developing creativity and sensual exploration. Probably what dancers and teachers have been working on since Bournonville and before. However, this is not to underestimate the sheer pleasure of watching Jérôme Marchand in the first solo, then stepping in to also dance the ‘Bill’ solo. He traverses a range of movement from powerful to softly sensual and is utterly spellbinding. The following solos were also impressive, including Ross Martinson, thrusting and dynamic, Daria Ivanova, with eloquent shoulders and willowy length. Backgrounded by edgy, twitching ensemble movement: a sort of controlled aggression that grounds the piece, it remains a mesmerising work.