Ballet Stars

Alban Lendorf on Being Part of The Royal Danish Ballet & American Ballet Theatre (Plus, His Favorite Role at ABT)

Lendorf in Don Quixote. Photo by Rosalie O'Connor, courtesy ABT.

What do you enjoy most: performing, or being in the studio?
The moment right after performing. It's never a perfect show, but however you feel about it, there is a satisfaction, a sense of fulfillment.

What qualities do you admire most in other dancers?
Openness. We're all afraid of being ourselves: Like actors and singers, you're being judged all the time, and you know you're being judged. You need to let go and try to be honest with yourself, because that's what appeals most to the audience and other dancers.


Joining American Ballet Theatre was a big leap. What was the attraction?
ABT is an extremely attractive company. I guested there a few times, and I really liked the way they were working. Also, on a personal level, I really wanted to spread my wings and fly, to move away to another country.

What was RDB artistic director Nikolaj Hübbe's reaction when you told him?
He'd already told me years earlier, when we went on tour to the States: One day, if you want to leave and go here, it's okay. He gave me his blessing because he knows, more than anyone—he also went to New York to dance. He saw that what is good for me is good for Danish ballet.

Lendorf in 'Le Corsaire.' Photo by Rosalie O'Connor, courtesy ABT.

Are the audiences different in New York and in Denmark?
In New York, they can get very excited, which is really fun. It's more polite in Denmark: You're almost not allowed to clap, because people will turn around and shush you. As a dancer onstage, if people are applauding you, even if it's in the middle of a variation, they're still expressing gratitude or excitement, so I welcome it.

In rehearsal, are you more intense or relaxed?
I love to give everything in rehearsal—sometimes the coaches have to tell me to calm down because I don't need to do my variation full-out four times. I've learned lately that when you have seven hours of rehearsals, you also need to trust that you're a good dancer, to trust your technique.

Lendorf and Copeland in 'Giselle.' Photo by Gene Schiavone, courtesy ABT.

What's your favorite ballet so far with ABT?
I think Giselle, because I'd never done Albrecht before. It's one of the most iconic roles, and working with Kevin McKenzie and Irina Kolpakova was a big milestone for me. I got to dance with Misty Copeland, who was also learning it for the first time, so we had that experience together.

What would you be if you weren't a dancer?
Probably an actor or a pianist. I've loved the piano since I was 4. It was actually my piano teacher's idea to try dance because I needed to learn how to play a waltz by Chopin!

What's your favorite thing to cook?
I try to bake Danish rye bread— you can get rye bread here, but it's really boring and gray! In Denmark you get this really cool version with a lot of seeds, which I try to re-create.

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Karina González in Ben Stevenson's Coppélia. Amitava Sarkar, Courtesy Houston Ballet.

Are you more of a Giselle or a Juliet?

I've always said that my favorite role is Juliet, because of her vulnerability and maturity throughout the ballet. But now that I've performed Giselle, I find her so incredibly enjoyable, from being a village girl who falls in love for the first time to the most tender, almost weightless dancing in Act II.

Are you more at home in the studio or onstage?

I love the time in the studio. The process of starting from zero to getting better each day is so rewarding. My favorite phrase in rehearsals is "Let's do it again, so I can sleep in peace tonight." I need to feel so comfortable in the studio so that when I am onstage there are no bad surprises.

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