Ballet and dance

Romanian National Ballet: La Sylphide

Date: March 30, 2014
Company: Romanian National Ballet
Choreography: Johan Kobborg, after August Bournonville
Location: Bucharest National Opera House, Bucharest.

Choreography by Johan Kobborg, after August Bournonville

Romanian National Ballet

Romanian National Opera (orchestra)
Ciprian Teodoraşcu (conductor)

When Romanian ballerina Alina Cojocaru signed on to be director of Romanian National Ballet, there was little doubt that the talents of Johan Kobborg would soon follow. The pair has enlivened the stage of Covent Garden for many years, before they controversially “retired” together from the Royal Ballet last year. The move allowed the pair more freedom to experiment and pursue guest gigs elsewhere. It was therefore soon after Cojocaru decided to offer her services to her homeland’s top company, Kobborg would follow. The Dane’s first project in the Romanian capital was a revival of La Sylphide, one of the oldest surviving romantic ballets in the entire repertoire and one that the pair was famously known for. The project was based on the 19th century work of Kobborg’s compatriot, balletmaster August Bournonville for the Royal Danish Ballet. Kobborg left the work untouched but added an Act I pas de deux for James and Effie which, by placing more dramatic importance on James and his psyche, seemed to suggest that the whole concept of the sylph was merely his own dreamy concoction. When this project premiered last December, Cojocaru caused a sensation in Bucharest by guest-starring. Kobborg also made news when it was announced after the prima that he agreed to sign on as co-director of the company. In this spring evening, company dancers took the stage, with principal Dawid Trzensimiech as James and Rin Okuno, in her role debut, as the sylph. Trzensimiech, solid the entire evening, showed why the Royal Ballet’s loss was the Romanian company’s gain. (Trzensimiech too defected from Covent Garden late last year.) His fouetté sauté always landed with crisp acuity, while he moved about on stage with brisk fluidity. Okuno demonstrated high arches and danced like an airy origami wind mill. Her point foot felt at times overly pushed forward, but if her intention was to be faithful to the point development of the 19th century, she was indeed a performing genius. The production, set appropriately in the Scottish highlands, had everything one would expect from La Sylphide: a chimney in Act 1 where the sylph actually disappeared before James and Gurn were able to find her; some stage trickery that allowed the sylph to disappear from the chair to embarrass Gurn and reassure Effie (danced by Diana Tudor); and a sylph that actually flew across (using wires!) the stage just as James collapsed to the ground, knowing that he has lost both Effie and the sylph. The orchestra was not what one would consider world-class, but they did their duties by going through Herman Severin Løvenskiold’s music from start to finish with no serious objection.

La Sylphide in Bucharest.

La Sylphide in Bucharest.

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Ballet and dance

Romanian National Ballet: La Bayadere

Date: April 11, 2013
Location: Bucharest National Opera House, Bucharest.

Choreography by Mihai Babuşka, after Marius Petipa

Romanian National Ballet

Romanian National Opera (orchestra)

The first brick for the Bucharest National Opera House, which currently houses Romania’s national ballet company, was laid in the early 50s. By then, however, Romania’s ballet foundation has been set. In 1929, Vera Karalli, formerly of Ballets Russes, took over as ballet mistress and instilled its free-flowing vocabulary into Romania. La Bayadere is not a product of Ballets Russes, but the dancing reveals some of those roots. Bianca Fota seemed occasionally troubled by the precise steps of Nikiya, especially the difficult pique turns and multiple pirouettes. But her dancing was sensual and free-flowing, and when she arched back, as if to receive the sky, her body would curve like a silk scarf flying in mid-air. Gigel Ungureanu’s steps were confident and brisk, but neither the lascivious body curvatures of Fota nor the sweet smiles of Mihaela Soare’s Gamzatti seemed to engage him dramatically. In general, the ballerinas outshined the male dancers, as is the case for Romania’s another prized asset: gymnastics. The showcase triplets executed with good rhythm and smooth finish, but one wonders why the entire country of Romania, with its endless streams of fine gymnastic Olympians, had to rely on a Japanese trio of Rin Okuno, Sena Hidaka and Maki Shirase, good and dependable as they may be, to stage a ballet as quotidian as La Bayadere.

La Bayadere, Bucharest

La Bayadere, Bucharest.

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