Beautiful Ballet at the Kennedy Center

Classic Arts Features   Beautiful Ballet at the Kennedy Center
 
The 2010 _2011 Kennedy Center Ballet season comes to a close with two world-renowned international companies each known for their unique style: Ballet Nacional de Cuba and The Royal Danish Ballet.


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The dancers with Ballet Nacional de Cuba are trained in the Russian classical style, but exude a unique flavor all their own. When Artistic Director Alicia Alonso and Ballet Nacional de Cuba return to the Opera House May 31 _June 5, they bring two programs that join refined taste and pure entertainment. The UK's Guardian says, "The Cubans are famously a company of virtuosos and wherever you looked on stage there were other star turns."

Accompanied by the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra Ballet Nacional de Cuba performs The Magic of Dance (May 31 & June 1), a program that was received with great praise last year while on tour through England. This collection of ballet highlights spanning the classical anthology includes in order of performance, Hilarion's death and the second act pas de deux from Giselle; the Polonaise and Grand pas de deux from Sleeping Beauty; and the Waltz of the Flowers and the Grand pas de deux from The Nutcracker before the interval. The second half includes the Mazurka and Grand pas de deux from Copp_lia; the Matadors' dance and Grand pas de deux from Don Quixote; the dance of the two swans and the white act pas de deux from Swan Lake; and ends with the Creole Party movement from Alicia Alonso's Gottschalk Symphony.

The company also presents their acclaimed version of the three-act classic Don Quixote (June 2 _5). "Those looking for passion, Latin or otherwise, will find it in this idiosyncratic 1988 version of the 19th-century Don Quixote...a production filled with dramatic motivation," says the New York Times. Danced to music by Ludwig Minkus, Don Quixote by Alicia Alonso is known for its technical and conceptual richness, and distinctive and expansive interpretation of the work's central themes.

This Cuban company has embraced a tradition of romantic and classical excellence since it was founded by Alicia Alonso in 1948. The troupe, which regularly tours Europe, Asia, and South America, brings its beautiful footwork, strong dancers, and impeccable technique for a long-awaited appearance before Washington audiences for the first time since 2001. The UK's Express says "Ballet Nacional de Cuba: to die for," while the Brisbane Times lauds their "infectious lust for life [and] sense of pure joy."

One of the oldest and most respected ballet companies in the world returns to the Kennedy Center for the first time since 2004. The Royal Danish Ballet, now under the artistic direction of Nikolaj H‹bbe, perpetuates the traditional style of August Bournonville developed from the classical French school where he studied. The Boston Globe applauds the dancers' "near-seamless fluidity. Split leaps and spinning turns seem to spring fully formed into the air."

The company's engagement in the Opera House includes Nikolaj H‹bbe's new production of Bournonville's beloved comic ballet Napoli (June 10 _12), an Italian adventure and love story that follows charming Teresina and poor fisherman Gennaro, whose romance is challenged by a seductive sea demon. The local hoodlums lust after the beautiful Teresina, but she is hopelessly in love with Gennaro. Together they run away to sea, but a thunderstorm capsizes their boat and only Gennaro manages to make it back to land. Teresina sinks to the bottom of the sea, and in a fairytale universe a seductive and dangerous sea demon elicits unfamiliar emotions in the young girl's heart. This new staging is set in the Naples of the 1950s: the stomping grounds of Fellini's camera crews and Mafioso types: bringing a modern twist to a fairy tale story. The Financial Times declares it "a triumph...pure enjoyment!"

In tribute to their former ballet master, the company will perform a re-staging of Bournonville's A Folk Tale (June 7 _9). The story of young nobleman Ove, in love with Hilda, a girl brought up by the Trolls, the ballet contains the Romantic juxtaposition between the world as we know it and a dangerous, yet fanciful underworld. "Bournonville's whimsical fantasy is considered something of a national treasure...now we know why," says the Los Angeles Times. "It is lovely."

A Folk Tale from 1854 is a very Danish ballet. With music by two of the most prominent composers of the time, Niels W. Gade and J.P.E Hartmann, and inspired by old Danish folktales and folksongs, the ballet has a Danish intonation like no other Bournonville work. The interesting aspect of the choreography is that A Folk Tale features many mime scenes and is not only confined to conveying happiness and frivolity in the sweeping pas de sept. In the portrayal of the troll girl Birthe, Bournonville reveals himself as a modern choreographer able to convey a person's psyche through choreography and mime.

through choreography and mime. Don't miss these programs from a company that carries on the grand European tradition but refuses to rest on its well-earned laurels. Performances are accompanied by the Opera House Orchestra.

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Jeremy D. Birch is the writer/editor of Kennedy Center News.

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