Many people say, that the greatest pleasure lies in the anticipation. And these days, as spring has made a lovely and sunny appearance in London, I for one am happily anticipating an upcoming trip to Copenhagen – the lovely city that I called home for 6 years. The official purpose of my trip is work – I have been involved in a performance with the Royal Danish Ballet and will be joining the cast and crew for the final of three shows. I will also be celebrating the birthday of a very dear friend – always a happy occasion, even as the double-digits have gone from 20’s to 30’s. My trip will also take me to Dansehallerne, northern Europe’s largest centre for contemporary dance – located in the old buildings of the Carlsberg Brewery – where I will be seeing two different performances and meeting with former colleagues and new collaborators. However, professionally speaking, I am most eagerly anticipating the part that is actually going to be the most work – making a performance happen together with the lovely artists of the Royal Danish Ballet.
The Royal Danish Ballet is one of my happy places. I attended just about every performance there when I lived in Copenhagen. Many of the dancers I’ve watched on stage are my childhood idols – Nikolaj Hübbe, the current artistic director and former principal dancer with the New York City Ballet, is one of them – and I still can’t quite believe that I now know many of these people personally, and have been fortunate enough to work with them. Being backstage and helping make a performance happen in that wonderfully magic theatre, full of red velvet seats and golden carvings, is one of my favorite things in the world. And even though I am now only a bus ride away from a ballet company that is arguably in the top five in the world – The Royal Ballet – I don’t quite have that fond connection with it yet. I haven’t really decided on my favorite dancers and the repertoire is still new, and sometimes strange, to me. However, I am sure we’ll get there, The Royal Ballet and I.
As some of you will know, I am a freelance kind of person. Well, technically I am now a self-employed kind of person, but in this case, there is no difference. The important thing is that I have never been a permanent member of staff anywhere. And even though this way of working has its downsides, I find that for me the ups outweigh the downs. One of the most important positive aspects is that I’ve never had to deal with the internal problems, or even hostilities, that tend to develop when people work alongside each other for years and years. Projects don’t usually last long enough for those kind of issues to come up, and even if you return to a working place for consecutive projects, the fact that you’ve been away, working on something else and with somebody else, makes a world of difference.
The reason I’m telling you this, is that those of you who follow the Danish press might find it strange that I refer to the Royal Danish Ballet as one of my happy places – the company has been given quite a rough ride in the press lately. There seem to be a lot of internal problems – and according to some sources, artistic director Nikolaj Hübbe is one of the main causes of those problems. Whether or not that is true is not the point – because I don’t know that. All I know is that the Royal Danish Ballet is a magic place. It is one of the oldest ballet companies in the world, it has a unique style and a remarkable heritage, handed down directly all the way from the founding father of the company, August Bournonville, who died in 1879. It is without a doubt one of the most important elements of the Danish cultural heritage and basically, it rocks my socks off. And Mr. Hübbe? He is a world-class artist. I feel privileged to work alongside him and all the other amazingly talented people of the Royal Danish Ballet and I look forward to once again finding myself at the Old Stage of the Royal Theatre in Copenhagen on Friday night – in my magic happy place.
PS. If you would like to know more, here is a lovely blog post about life in the Royal Danish Ballet from a dancer's point of view, written by corps de ballet dancer Carling Talcott.