"Bournonville Divertissements" and “La Sylphide”
The New York City Ballet
JFK Center for the Performing Arts
March 6, 2016 (Sunday matinee)
by Alexandra Tomalonis
copyright 2016 by Alexandra Tomalonis
An all-Bour- nonville program isn’t what one expects from the New York City Ballet, but Bournon- ville, along with Petipa, is an artistic ancestor of George Balanchine. Both Bournonville and Petipa studied with Auguste Vestris, the magnificent late 18th century star and great teacher in Paris at the beginning of the 19th century. One of Bournonville’s pupils, Christian Johansson, came to St. Petersburg and was an honored teacher there. Johansson died in 1903, just before Balanchine was born, and his influence must have still been felt.
Balanchine himself had a connection to the Royal Danish Ballet, the company whose aesthetic and style was formed by August Bournonville. Balanchine worked there briefly in the 1930s and again in the 1950s. He invited Stanley Williams, a noted teacher with the RDB, to come to New York, and while Williams was not a Bournonville teacher per se, he brought much of what he had learned at home. Balanchine was quoted, to explain why he felt that “ballet is woman,” that one reason was because “boys don’t have a speedy leg.” But Danish male dancers do, and Balanchine coveted it, inviting several noted Danish men to dance at the NYCB. One of whom, of course, is Peter Martins, now the director of the NYCB.
Lauren King and Anthony Huxley in August Bournonville’s Bournonville Divertissements. Photo credit: Paul Kolnik