While dancing excerpts of August Bournonville's Napoli this summer at the Massachusetts-based Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival, the artists of the Royal Danish Ballet were in perfect sync. The dancers exuded pure cheer, from their buoyant, clear footwork to the precise angle of their épaulement. This seemed fitting for a national company where most members train in the Danish style from age 7 and feed in from the school. Yet three of the principals onstage—Amy Watson, J'aime Crandall and Holly Jean Dorger—are in fact American.
Corps member Andreas Kaas and soloist Ida Praetorius rehearsing The Flower Festival in Ganzano. Photo by Kyle Froman for Pointe.
Before Balanchine and Petipa, there was Bournonville. A key figure of ballet's Romantic era, August Bournonville directed the Royal Danish Ballet for 43 years during the 19th century, choreographing around 50 ballets. After his death, his successors codified his teachings into a formal pedagogical method that's still used at the Royal Danish Ballet School today. Bournonville's distinct style—highly intricate petit allégro, low and rounded port de bras, a head that follows the leading leg—aligns with his credo, in which he states that “the height of artistic skill is to know how to conceal the mechanical effort and strain beneath harmonious calm."