Min danske äventyr (‘My Danish adventure’) — part one

The Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art in Helsinki, Finland. “I would like to emphasize that in Europe, dance — as well as all art forms — is a far more regarded and respected profession than in the United States and, therefore, much more prosperous.” — Suzee Belles (Photo by Suzee Belles)

Editor’s note: Following is part one of a two-part series.

By Suzee Belles
Contributing Writer

Imagine a city. A city with red-tiled rooftops, cobblestone roads that are filled with speeding bicycles. Every so often, the road must end because of the many canals. The sea bordering the city is dotted with numerous large, white, power-generating windmills. The streets lined with an array of old buildings, palaces, but also some of the most contemporary buildings in the world. This is a shred of an idea of what Copenhagen, Denmark, is like.

Having grown up as a Swedish-American in Rockford, I learned to appreciate the Scandinavian culture from a young age and have always felt drawn there. But it wasn’t my love for the culture that brought me there, it was my art: ballet.

This fall, I had the opportunity to travel to Copenhagen, Denmark, as an exchange student on behalf of my school, Ballet Chicago. I traveled there with my two classmates, Molly Brown and Emma Berry. We stayed there for six weeks to study with the Royal Danish Ballet.

The Royal Danish Ballet (RDB )is the third-oldest ballet company in the world. They also have a reputation of being one of the best companies in the world, with an especially remarkable corps de ballet.

In Denmark, as with much of Europe, dance is a much respected art form, as well as profession. This was greatly reflected in the operation and facility of the Royal Danish Theater. This single building is where the ballet company rehearses, performs and operates, and where the students of the school live.

More than 80 dancers are in the company. All of the dancers get a dressing room in the theater that they share with one other dancer. Much like any other larger company, the dancers receive pointe shoes, ribbons, elastics and even pointe shoe glue and toe tape.

Inside the theater is a gym and sauna for the dancers’ use, as well as a massage therapist and two physical therapists who are there daily.

The costume shop at RDB looked to me like a tutu factory, and I never saw fewer than 10 seamstresses working at a time. I would like to emphasize that in Europe, dance — as well as all art forms — is a far more regarded and respected profession than in the United States and, therefore, much more prosperous. However, I suppose it doesn’t hurt having the royal family as your sponsor, either!

While we were there, we usually took class with the six apprentices of the Royal Danish Ballet, making a class size of nine, unless we had a girls’ class, which made it a class of five.

A couple times a week, we got to take class with the company girls, and at least once a week, took class with the entire company. One day when we had class with the whole company, Nikolaj Hubbe, the artistic director of the company, taught class. During that class, he gave me three corrections. Getting a correction means you have been noticed, so it was pretty exciting to have that happen. And you better know that I’ll be working hard on those things until I return!

From the Nov. 28-Dec. 4, 2012, issue

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