Danish Ballet, revamped, takes fresh U.S. tour

Fri Jun 17, 2011 7:28am EDT
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By Richard Chang

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The Royal Danish Ballet, one of the world's oldest dance companies, is showing a fresh face during its first U.S. tour in 23 years.

Nikolaj Hubbe, the former New York City Ballet star who took over as artistic director three years ago, is the man behind the makeover. Although the company is 250 years old, Hubbe said it didn't need a facelift.

"But you need to adjust the spirit so that there is still a sense of youthfulness and freshness about the face," he added.

The procedure was radical. Hubbe, fresh from his farewell performance at NY City Ballet in 2008, returned to Copenhagen to shake up the company that had nurtured him and which critics said had become stodgy after he moved to the Big Apple 16 years earlier.

Hubbe said discipline was lacking, dancers skipped daily classes, and an abundance of teachers led to a decline in classical technique.

"I just don't believe 24 different teachers in one year is conducive to any deeper understanding of classical technique," Hubbe said during an interview after a rehearsal at New York's Lincoln Center where the tours ends on Saturday.

Hubbe imposed full daily classes, stressed pointe work for women dancers and whittled down the teaching staff to less than 10 to create consistency.

On stage, he revamped venerated mid-19th century works by August Bournonville, the choreographer whose genteel Romantic style is most identified with Danish ballet.   Continued...

<p>Members of the Royal Danish Ballet perform during the opening of the 121st session of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in Copenhagen October 1, 2009. REUTERS/Keld Navntoft/Scanpix</p>