August Bournonville’s ballet ‘A Folk Tale’ is currently enchanting audiences at Det Kongelige Teater with its 160-year-old tale of changelings, bare-chested wood nymphs, grotesque trolls, and other magical and human creatures.
From the moment the curtains lifted, my imagination was engulfed by the well-crafted stage design. It changed regularly – from an aristocratic playground frequented by brightly-dressed humans frolicking in their wealth, to a hauntingly beautiful wood inhabited by fairy-tale creatures, to the troll underworld – as the story of a human changeling finding her way back to her world with her human lover unfolded, finally ending with a cheerful wedding congregation and a Bournonvillian ‘happy ever-after.’
Teething issues for this Bournonville newbie
Given that this was my first Bournonville, the thought that crossed my mind perpetually until the end of Act II was: “Well there’s not a lot of dancing in this is there?”
More familiar with technically challenging ballets, I needed to be assured that one doesn’t go to see Bournonville for the neverending fouteé en tournants, but for the love of ballet.
And truly, the plot development, narrative motion, balletic mime and all-round artistry of ‘A Folk Tale’ are superb, and the costumes were nothing short of mesmerising.
Some superlative dancing
This modern production by choreographers Nikolaj Hübbe and Sorella Englund’s has added solos and a tenderly romantic pas de deux in which Hilda cures Ove from a spell (Act III).
The latter was so beautifully executed by lead dancers Susanne Grinder and Marcin Kupinski that it took my breath away. Furthermore it puts the troll world into context as it symbolises the darker side of the human soul by having human and troll counterparts mirror each other in the way they dress.
Grinder gave her dancing a wonderfully airy feeling, although she was wobbly at times and failed to lend her goodie-two-shoes character the feistiness it needed for some interesting edge.
Kupinski’s effortless performance was a pleasure to watch from beginning to end as he entirely epitomised the role of a tortured young intellectual bohemian.
And Kizzi Matiakis as Froken Birthe, the troll baby swapped at birth and brought up as a nobel woman in place of Hilda, is delightfully comic and convincing in her ferocious, stomping dances marked by temper tantrums, interspersed with moments of near complete grace as she tries to hide her trollish nature.
The dancers then dressed in deep red for the famous Pas de Sept during the Act III wedding celebrations. They didn’t disappoint and kept everyone spellbound until the curtain fell.
A Folk Tale (Et Folkesagn)
Gamele Scene, Kongens Nytorv, Cph K; ends Dec 21, performances at 15:00 on Dec 14 & 21, 19:30 on Dec 16, 18, 19 & 20, 12:00 on Dec 20; tickets: 95-695kr; kglteater.dk