Ballet Stars
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."

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Ballet Stars
Ida Praetorius photographed by Nathan Sayers.

This is Pointe's February/March 2014 Cover Story. You can subscribe to the magazine here.

It's 10 am on a cool fall morning in a Royal Danish Ballet studio, and only one dancer is wearing pointe shoes at the barre as company class starts: Ida Praetorius. The 20-year-old performs tiny, fast ronds de jambe and expansive fondus with rapt, relentless dedication. At the end, barely pausing for breath, she squeezes a few more minutes in the studio and throws herself full-out into Balanchine's fouettés for Dewdrop, which she will dance in the company's upcoming production of his Nutcracker. It's October and the rehearsals are still some time away, but she is visibly itching to tackle the role.

A product of the Royal Danish Ballet School, Praetorius joined RDB when she was 16. Four years later she has already become one of its major faces under Nikolaj Hübbe, who returned to his alma mater as artistic director in 2009. Her breakthrough came in 2011, when she was still an apprentice, in a dark Danish classic, Flemming Flindt's macabre The Lesson. Her debut as the Student and subsequent performances showed raw talent, her sunny exuberance and coltish limbs an ideal match for the role of the pert young girl at first eager, then terrified by her ballet teacher. “It was perfect because she was really a teenager," says Hübbe. “She was like a spring flower, excited and bubbly, and it made the story immediately tragic."

Three years later, Praetorius has proved that it wasn't beginner's luck. Aided by the work ethic she displays in the studio, she looks poised to break the mold of the traditional Danish ballerina. Blessed with a slender frame and long legs, she seems the opposite of the compact body type and quicksilver footwork demanded by Bournonville, and far from merely pretty. Just as Hübbe is opening up the RDB with quirky productions of the classics, new work and imports from abroad (including a number of American dancers), his protégée's uncanny ability to make characters seem modern and real stands out. Vivid and instinctive as she plays the awkward Student or falls on the stairs on her way to the ball as John Neumeier's Juliet, she has poured her vitality into strikingly natural performances.

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