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The life of Karen Blixen, the storyteller, in a ballet. Moving and impressive

The Danish Royal Ballet’s newest addition to its large repertoire is a ballet created by Gregory Dean based on the life of the iconic Danish female writer Karen Blixen.

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By Bente D. Knudsen   Pictures: Det Kongelige/Henrik Stenberg

Much acclaimed Meryl Streep played against Robert Redford in the great 80’s movie, Out of Africa, and it is actually an advantage to have seen the movie, or read Karen Blixen’s book of the same title, when watching this magnificent ballet.

Its storyline, although true to the life of Karen Blixen, also stays loyal to the story telling ballets in continuation of the Bournonville tradition of the Royal Danish Ballet.

Bournonville was firmly founded in the cultural tradition of the period of the Danish Romanticism and he maintained that art should be positive.

Harmony was to be found not only in the stories told and the happy endings of his ballets (which in this one must be seen as the incredible success Karen Blixen had late in life as a story-teller), as well as in his style of beautiful proportions and delicate musical timing.

Gregory Dean has created a ballet which holds dramatic pas de deux scenes, a great deal of mimic and acting, and beautiful joyous scenes with festive dancing and wonderful music much as many Bournonville ballets contain.

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The costumes designed by Jon Morrel are impressive and strikingly true to the era of the different scenes, and they thus play an important part in sending the audience back in time to the world of Karen Blixen.

The aged and older Karen Blixen’s costume is so true to the one she wore, and in which she is portrayed in all pictures and movies; it feels as though she is really  standing there and not a dancer playing her role.

The ballet dancers are accompanied by the house orchestra who play the expressionistic and romantic music by Claude Debussy with great talent and feeling.

It is a long ballet, almost three hours with two intermissions, and as a spectator remarked, her story is really rather sad, however, she also lived life to the fullest, almost in spite of what if offered her, taking from the people around her what she needed and wanted.

Not a bad ballet to start with if you are not a ballet expert, however, make sure to refresh your knowledge of Karen Blixen’s life story before going, or buy the programme which clearly describes the life sequence each scene represents.

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Blixen is played on what the Royal Danish Theatre calls the old stage, Gamle Scene, which with the recent reopening of the square at Kongens Nytorv allows the audience to stand on the balcony overlooking this beautiful square during intermissions.

Make sure to get a seat in the middle or not to far to the sides of the theatre, as this ballet uses the full stage, and therefore to get the best vantage point of the different scenes, you need to view the full stage at all time.

Blixen runs until April 2020.

More information here:

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