Interview with Thomas Lund
Principal Dancer, Royal Ballet, Copenhagen
Q/ In Nureyev's choreography, to give only one modern example, there's an accumulation of difficulties. This makes it virtually impossible to play your role while you are dancing.
THOMAS LUND: Let's take Nureyev's Don Quixote. In telling a story, its important not to drop out of your character. I do not think Nureyev would have been especially happy if you lost your hold on your character totally. But the problem arises, somewhat, in arriving at Act II of Don Quixote, because there, the soli (the solo variations) are bravura dancing, only shewing technique, and how many turns one can spin. This means it might be difficult to maintain one's character. In a Bournonville ballet, one would never really get into that problem, because it is not composed, such that a solo appears for the sake of the solo. On the contrary, it springs out of a joy, because you have gone through the unfolding of the story. For example, if you take Napoli. You have gone through fire and water to get your Teresina. Now, in the Third Act, you are married to her. It is the happiest day of your life, and you simply can, you soar on the clouds of joy.
Q / Is it true, as Hans Brenaa used to say, "if you can dance Bournonville, you can dance anything ?"
THOMAS LUND: I think that if one can dance Bournonville really well, and with the surplus it demands, one is well-equipped to "have a ball" in other styles. I am from the period where one had begun to structure the Schools again. I have had all of Bournonville's schools, from the "Monday" School, to the "Saturday" School. They expose one to some really difficult and demanding technical steps. And it's clear, if one survives that, during one's period as a student, then that is a really good thing to bring along in the "backpack', before throwing oneself into the difficult soli. And that will be a part of developing new styles of dance.
As you know, Bournonville made a School for each day of the week. Hans Beck, his successor, wrote down the steps. Then it happened, that we turned away from this. For many years, we only hand-picked a few of the steps. Then, when Frank Andersen became Ballet Master, they were brought back into the ballet school, so that during one's years as a student, one had all of the schools.
Q / What choreographers, apart from Bournonville, have you most enjoyed to work with ?
THOMAS LUND: It has been very interesting to work with some more modern choreographers. I have worked with Kylian, with Christopher Bruce for example. There, it is a question of gravity. The fact that in the classical, one may sometimes become too light, it has been very worthwhile to be forced to feel gravity, because gravity gives authority. Often, when one is nervous within the classical repertoire, one can become too light, and thereby lose authority. I have tried to bring that with me into the classical.
Q / Could you say something about Henning Kronstam ?
THOMAS LUND: If one looks back, at Denmark, I cannot get round, without speaking of Henning Kronstam. I was the last pupil who had the opportunity to work with him before he died. It was a great experience, one can't help but think whether there was not a higher purpose in that.
Anyway, I felt that with a personality like Kronstam, I cannot remember every little detail he told me, how I should do, in the meaning of, do this or that, but I can see HIM before me, HIM as an instructor in a studio, his whole charisma, his authority. The minute he entered the studio, one knew that one was dealing with a man who knew what HE was dealing with. That straightaway gives another kind of respect; and towards oneself, one dares to open up, because one knows beforehand, that one will not be told anything that might be completely off. There may be people here and there, that one would not dare to trust, and I want to say that when one suddenly has to deal with persons of this calibre, like Kronstam, one becomes very secure. And this I have to say about Henning, even though I did not have the opportunity to work with him that long, I felt this incredible, great security.
Q / What about the French tour in 1999 ?
THOMAS LUND: For me, personally, it was a great experience performing at the Paris Opera, one senses the tremendous atmosphere. Sitting in one's loge, it was like in the Phantom of the Opera, one thought a mirror might slide open, and down, into the secret chambers.....Seriously, though, it was quite an experience for us all, to dance on a raked stage.
I was given a lovely keep-sake by one of the French dancers, a member of the POB, who had seen the Conservatoire, and had appreciated how very difficult that dance is. One did not get that sense from the public, no doubt because they found it hard to relate to. It was very nice, to get another dancer's view of that !