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.

Ballet and dance

Royal Ballet: La Bayadere

Date: April 5, 2013
Location: Covent Garden, London.

Choreography by Natalia Makarova, after Marius Petipa

Royal Ballet

Orchestra of the Royal Opera (orchestra)

The Royal Ballet opens its spring season with La Bayadere, Marius Petipa’s Indian-themed gem. Alina Cojocaru, originally headlined as Nikiya, was forced to withdraw due to an unspecified injury. In her replacement was Roberta Marquez, the Company’s principal who appeared with a hint of nervous hesitation and the unease of a school child in her maiden school bus ride alone. Her physical body exposed more of that unpreparedness, especially when she was going from double to single pointe during the basket dance. But her sensual expressiveness saved her, and whatever the physical imperfections might suggest, her face seemed genuinely ready to receive Solor with an uninhibited abandon. As the evening wore on, the liberty with which Marquez afforded her body movements was in striking contrast to the picture-perfect but emotionally more subdued lines that Cojocaru is known to achieve. Opposite Marquez was Federico Bonelli, who attained exceptional forward speed in elevation without compromising the fluidity of his movements. As Solor, Bonelli seemed smarter and more calculated than the sort of man who schizophrenically flip-flopped between his two love interests. That leads to Marianela Núñez’s Gamzetti. Núñez was an incredible dancing wonder, who let loose her swelling stage influence with fiery pirouettes and confident jetes. Yet it was her sweet and radiant smile that won over the audiences, never mind any inkling of her as a potential steward of malice. The drum routine filled with energy, and showcased just how good the male corps at the Royal Ballet can be. The 24-strong shades moved gracefully and in unison, though as the evening moved to a perfect close, one wonders what if the Royal Ballet followed Bolshoi’s lead to file 32 dancers in an even more  luxurious rendition of the shades?

Roberta Marquez, in Royal Ballet's La Bayadere

Roberta Marquez, in Royal Ballet’s La Bayadere.