Bournonville technique exemplifies modest grace without apparent effort.
It emphasizes brilliant petit and medium allegros but never in a showy, bravura
style. It is rounder and softer –kind, not proud. It has a dancy quality that
never compromises the integrity of the lithe, seamless phrases for the sake of
a flashy step.
Its famous elevation, ballon, and batterie are virtues born of cramped
studios and cluttered stages: there was scarcely any room to travel, so the
dancers had to go up instead. The distinctive port de bras is clean and low,
often more in front of the torso than in other styles –a remnant of the old
French School. The arms may look somewhat held but they are never rigid; they
breathe and the bras bas position has a swingy quality that, along with the use
of the head, helps the dancer’s momentum.
Limiting the contribution of the arms in jumping means that the legs
must be especially powerful and the plié particularly efficient. To this end
Bournonville training includes long, hard endurance-building exercises that
repeat not just left and right but in all orientations. The plié gets enormous
attention, with fine distinctions made among various types, not just demi and
grand. The grand plié as a landing from big jumps.Vestiges of Bournonville’s mind
mid-nineteenth-century origins are still apparent in the low position of the
working foot in the pirouette –the skirts were too long for turning in retiré-
and in its emphasis on brilliant jumping rather than on brilliant pointework.
Bournonville technique formed the basis of Danish training for many
decades and is still taught in Denmark, but the Danes have now incorporated
other teaching methods as well.
By Eliza Gaynor Minden – The Ballet Companion
Claudia's Note: Here is a video of some barre exercises of the Bournonville School: