About 4½ years ago, I witnessed a magic night at The Royal Theatre in Copenhagen. Nikolaj Hübbe, principal dancer of the New York City Ballet, had returned to Copenhagen to become artistic director of the ballet company he grew up in. And he would be wrapping up his career by dancing James in La Sylphide – an absolute masterpiece and my favorite ballet! Needless to say, it was a night I will never forget.
After the performance, the man (who has recently become the fiancé – more about that in another post) and I were walking the dog. We lived right down the street from the stage door of The Royal Theatre, and running into dancers and actors while walking the dog was nothing unusual – albeit still exciting. And lo and behold, while walking along and minding our own business, I realized that the slender man with the ridiculously turned-out feet who was walking in front of us was none other than the man we had been applauding a few hours earlier – Nikolaj Hübbe. Now, 4½ years ago, I was still at university. I had begun doing internships in the dance world, and had met a few people that would later become close colleagues, but The Royal Danish Ballet was still a closed world to me. I didn’t know any of the dancers personally, and still found myself giggling quietly when I spotted one of my favorites in the street. And Hübbe wasn’t just a favorite – he was a superstar. Strongly encouraged by the man, I decided to be bold –I caught up with Nikolaj, introduced myself and told him what an honor, what an unparalleled experience, it had been to witness his last performance. He was very sweet, thanking me and saying that it meant a lot to hear that. I thanked him again, and skipped back to the man and the dog – probably with a rather stupid smile on my face.
A few weeks ago, I got to experience another one of those nights. As I mentioned in this declaration of my undying love for La Sylphide, Thomas Lund, principal dancer extraordinaire, retired from dancing on September 29th. And boy, did he go out with style! So much style – and emotion – that his Sylph, the superb Gudrun Bojesen, forgot to bring the conductor onstage during the curtain calls… Definitely a night that will go down in ballet history. And not only was I there to witness it – I was fortunate enough to be able to interview Thomas a few days before the monumental performance. During the interview – in between taking notes, asking new questions and anxiously eyeing the flashing battery light of my recording device – I had to remind myself to appreciate the moment. Because I was in a situation that I wouldn’t have dared dreaming of when I caught up with Nikolaj Hübbe in the street that night 4½ years ago – not only was I backstage at The Royal Theatre, I was interviewing one of the best ballet dancers in the world!
Now, my work won’t ever make me rich. And I will never have a normal 9-5 career. But working alongside the idols of my youth and childhood is something I will never get tired of. And after Thomas Lund’s monumental farewell performance, as I was having a drink and a chat with Nikolaj Hübbe – much more relaxed, now that I actually know him – I considered telling him about that night after his own final performance – that I was the star struck girl, trying to put into words my admiration for him. Did I? Nah… Some things are better left unsaid.
PS. Head over to The Ballet Bag to check out my interview with Thomas.