Performances by
The Royal Danish Ballet: 382

The Story   
Historical Background   
Musical Notes   



Historical Background    


The Story

A señorita enters her room. She fans herself and thinks of the señor she has met at the Alameda. She dances with her image in the mirror and shortly after, she hears sounds of guitars outside her window. It is the gentleman in question who is serenading her. She grabs her castanets and answers him rhythmically while she dances to his music. She approaches the window shade, looks out cautiously and throws down a bow from her hair.

The second part is a divertissement where the lovers dance with their friends. There is a solo for the señor and a pas de trois, which is one of Bournonville?s most elegant compositions. It is danced by three of their young friends before the ballet concludes with a festive seguidilla with the principal pair in the center. The ballet was created for Bournonville?s favourite ballerina, Juliette Price, and has kept its place in the repertoire as an attractive chamber ballet. Spanish dance was fashionable on all ballet stages in the world throughout the last century. Bournonville frequently found the Spanish dancers too provocative in their seductive sensuality. La Ventana is his way of showing how Spanish and classical dance can be harmonized to yield a graceful and charming unity.



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Historical Background

The Spanish Dance in the Mirror
By Alexander Meinertz

To a critical eye La Ventana is one of August Bournonville?s most modern? ballets in the sense that the story line is rather slight and gives way to an unusually large amount of classical dancing. Apart from the opening pas d?action, where the senorita dances first with her mirrored image - the original clou of the ballet - followed by a castanet dance, there?s a divertissement in the square with a pas de trois, virtuoso variations and an exciting sequidilla? for the principals and the corps de ballet. The structure of this 20-minute one act piece is tight, and it is a ballet that truly moves.

Bournonville had had a great success, when he choreographed Pas des Trois Cousines for the three cousins Juliette, Sophie and Amalie Price at Copenhagen?s Casino Theatre in 1849. In 1854 he was commissioned to create yet another piece of entertainment for the popular theatre and came up with the idea of a mirror dance for Juliette and Sophie Price.

The idea of self-images has haunted the arts from Narcissus to Oscar Wilde?s Dorian Gray. The Commedia dell?arte often used mirror dances, and Vincenzo Galeotti had capitalized on the same trick in his ballet, The Mountain Peasants? Children and the Mirror, in 1802. (Later Børge Ralov would use the same theme in his dramatic ballet, The Widow In The Mirror (1934), just as Harald Lander introduced the mirror as an image of transcendence in Etudes in 1948.)

But to Bournonville the prop has less complex connotations and is used rather more simply. In My Theatre Life, he notes his reservations of Spanish dancing in general. He was not blind to the beauty and particularity of the Spanish character, however, and was inspired by the quintessentially romantic scene from many a Spanish novel, where the young man declares his love for his chosen one by singing in front of her window.

In La Ventana, a señorita dances into her room. Thinking of the handsome señor, she met earlier on the Alameda, she waves her fan and "on seeing herself in the mirror" dances playfully with her own image. Perhaps indulging herself in a study of becoming poses and feminine qualities? On hearing the sounds of the señor playing a serenade from outside her window, she responds rhythmically by dancing with her castanettes. She looks out her window and throws him her bow as a token.

Bournonville found the scene so successful, that he restaged it at the Royal Theatre in 1856, and added an extra scene where the señor dances with his friends in the village square and is later joined by the señorita. "The Sequidilla of La Ventana was not entirely my own composition", notes Bournonville in My Theatre Life, "but an imitation after Paul Taglioni".

La Ventana was the last ballet Bournonville restaged for the new Royal Theatre in 1874. Its most recent staging was by Hans Brenaa for the Royal Theatre?s Bournonville Festival in 1979, and it was last performed in its entirety in 1984. At the II Bournonville Festival in 1992 only the mirror dance was seen at the closing gala, and students of the Royal Danish Ballet School performed also the mirror dance at a matinee for the Bournonville week in 2000.



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Musical Notes
By Ole Nørlyng

The popular composer H.C. Lumbye, who had his glory days in the pleasure park Tivoli, created the mirror dance, serenade and waltz, which constitute Scene I. The style is "non-lascivious Spanish", with characteristic syncopated waltz rhythms and the use of flute, guitar and castanets. Later, C.V. Holm composed and arranged Scene 2 for the ballet master. The Spanish local colour is somewhat reduced in the classical pas de trois, whereas the Spanish influence returns in strength for the final number, the dashing seguidilla, which includes a stimulating jaleo-variation.




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