by Anne-Marie Elmby

The Peacock Theatre in the Tivoli Gardens presented Tivoli Ballet Theatre’s new Cinderella over the summer season. The charm of the theatre with its slanting floor, trapdoors and pantomime tradition was perfect for this witty and modern fairy tale choreographed by Yuri Possokhov. Copenhagen is well known to Possokhov, since he came from the Bolshoi Ballet to dance as a principal with the Royal Danish Ballet from 1992 to 1994, before moving to San Francisco Ballet. In 2012, he created Narcisum for the Royal Danish Ballet; also of note is that, last May, he received the prestigious Prix de Benois de la Danse for choreography for his Bolshoi Ballet work, A Hero of Our Time.

Having previously created a full-length Cinderella to Prokofiev’s score, Possokhov had a fresh starting point with newly composed music by Nanna Øland Fabricius, also known as the Danish, electro-pop singer Oh Land. For the seventh time, our colour-loving Queen Margrethe II created costumes and scenography for a Tivoli ballet. With Possokhov based in San Francisco, Oh Land in New York and the Danish queen in Copenhagen, the collaboration started on Skype.

Oh Land recorded and edited real birdsong that accompanied the funny, rhythmic head movements of three men in light blue unitards. They flew around and carried the simply dressed Cinderella, who disappeared down a trap door only to reappear in a fine dress to enter the ball, flying from a swing into the prince’s arms. Elsewhere, the music underlined waggling hips in the corps and the pas de deux with daring lifts between Cinderella and the prince. The prince even had some hip-hop moves.

Highlights included the two evil sisters posing like cut-out dolls as they chose screaming green and pink dresses for the prince’s ball. When they later tried to fit into Cinderella’s shoe, oversize cardboard scissors were brought on.

The annual visit by Verdensballetten (World Ballet) in July increased to five locations around Denmark, including for the first time the island Sylt on the German side of the Danish-German border. Again artistic director Steven McRae brought star colleagues from London’s Royal Ballet: Roberta Marquez, Lauren Cuthbertson, Marcelino Sambé and Federico Bonelli as well as Xander Parish from the Mariinsky Ballet. For the first time the married couple Iana Salenko and Marian Walter from Berlin State Ballet joined the group. To allow the dancers time to catch their breath, musical interludes were organized by opera tenor Jens-Christian Wandt.

The dancers delighted audiences with classical pas de deux from Sleeping Beauty, La Bayadère, La Péri and Don Quixote, and two excerpts from Wayne McGregor’s contemporary Chroma. Marquez and Sambé acted out Nancy Sinatra’s Bang Bang in Kristen McNally’s new duet, One Said to the Other, with a Latin temperament (she is Brazilian, he is Portuguese). Walter danced a varied solo, Berlin, made for him by Ludovic Ondiviela, and McRae openly enjoyed performing his virtuoso tap solo to a special version of Gershwin’s I Got Rhythm.

The ninth Copenhagen International Choreography Competition took place August 5 in Dansehallerne (the Dance Halls). First prize and the audience award went to British choreographer Botis Seva for 60 Sec, a fiery work for six dancers with a taste of hip-hop that visualized Ezio Bosso’s music Thunders and Lightnings.

Jury member Caroline Finn, the artistic director of National Dance Company Wales, bestowed her Production Award for the 2017-2018 season to Spanish choreographer and dancer Mario Bermudez Gil, who also won second prize for his duet Buscando to Sephardic music.

French choreographer Mathieu Geffré received third prize for his emotional duet What songs may do to Nina Simone’s captivating voice. The prize for outstanding performer of the evening went to Chinese Li Xing in his co-created duet with Xie Xin, Touch, which had a feeling of moving through water. Last year’s winner, Taiwanese Po-Cheng Tsai, premiered Innermost, featuring an impressive male duo with mutual responsiveness around a red pole.

Jury member and artistic director of Danish Dance Theatre, Tim Rushton, invited Tsai to reprise Innermost at the annual Copenhagen Summer Dance in the round police headquarters yard. Under a beautiful evening sky, recorder virtuoso Michala Petri accompanied Rushton’s Kindred Spirits, a new duet for two men from his company. In Rushton’s DRUMS, the dancers were inflamed by Chilean Paulo Vargas’ inciting rhythms.

A former dancer with the company, Wubkje Kuindersma, created a fine trio, Mahl3, for members of John Neumeier’s BundesJugendBallett to a dramatically played Mahler piano quartet. Stefanos Bizas danced his sensitive love duet, A Naked Feeling, with Alba Nadal, and the evening closed with Alessandro Sousa Pereira’s KRASH, a fireworks piece for Royal Danish Ballet dancers. More crossover collaboration may be expected, as Danish Dance Theatre is taking over the smaller Takkelloftet stage at the Royal Danish Opera House.

Choreographer Birgitte Bauer-Nilsen’s company, Yggdrasil Dance, borrows its name from the world tree, or tree of life, in Nordic mythology, whose roots symbolize the different cultures that meet in the tree trunk and branch off influenced by one another. In Siku Aappoq (The Ice is Melting), the small stage in Dansehallerne became an arctic landscape, where a huge piece of organza was turned into a shimmering and breathing iceberg as the Greenlandic dancer Alexander Montgomery-Andersen stood hidden under it, while Norwegian Thomas Johansen lay resting below.

Aviaja Lumholt’s initial whispering in Greenlandic seemed to caution against stirring up nature, while Carsten Dahl’s evocative soundscape included sounds of cracking ice. Jesper Kongshaug’s lighting design captured the northern colours of clear, green-blue water and the glowing red light of an Arctic sun, as the organza ice “melted.” The dancers embodied the changes in nature and man with both serenity and heated reaction. This important environmental statement was rendered in a convincing artistic form.

The opening scene of Danish-Spanish choreographer and flamenco dancer Selene Muñoz’s Presence revealed her in a Spanish dress with glittering bodice and a long, frilled train that moved like a spiky snake; it split into two pieces to reveal her fellow performers underneath, ballet dancer Teele Ude and modern dancer Jonas Örknér. On the black, glossy floor, each one brought their particular talent into play, sometimes in interesting duets or passages where the dancers performed the same movements. They would also dance to the same music in their personal style.

Three sets of vertical, silvery screens, wheeled around the stage, reflected the spotlights. In front of each one, the dancers focused on their bodily appearance. Ude, small in stature, put on pointe shoes with lengthened pointes that made her walk as if on stilts; Muñoz put on extra hips and Örknér, large shoulder pads.

Flamenco guitar and song satiated with duende ignited Muñoz’s Spanish heritage and cast her into cascades of intricate stamping rhythms, while her expressive arms coiled in the air. Halfway through, percussionist Stephan Jarl entered to conjure fascinating sounds out of instruments of all kinds of material and even joined the dancers in exploring body percussion. Presence was full of magnificent images; in the final serene moments, all four united in drumming, echoing the heartbeat of life with the added sound of life-giving water.

DI WINTER 2016

TIvoli Ballet Theatre’s Fenella Cook (Cinderella), Robert Thomsen (Prince), Nadia Dahl (Stepmother) and corps de ballet in Yuri Possokhov’s Cinderella |  photo: Annett Ahrends
TIvoli Ballet Theatre’s Fenella Cook (Cinderella), Robert Thomsen (Prince), Nadia Dahl (Stepmother) and corps de ballet in Yuri Possokhov’s Cinderella |
photo: Annett Ahrends