My conversation with Frank Andersen didn't require getting up quite as early as had my phone call with Xuan Cheng-- only a six hour time difference between North Carolina and Copenhagen, vs. the 12 hour jump from here to Hong Kong-- but my talks with these two beautiful people were equally rich. The warmth, passion and generosity of both Xuan and Frank made my hunger to be in the studio with them, watching them in action, grow ravenous.
The reason for my call to Frank was an assignment to write a story about his staging of La Sylphide for Oregon Ballet Theatre. Frank's worked with OBT before, in 2018, when he staged another Danish classic, Napoli. As he told me (again, with such sincerity and without prompting that I didn't doubt it for a second), he LOVES working with OBT. "They are one of the most open, warm, attentive companies I've ever worked with-- everyone from the dancers to the directors to the administrators. We feel like part of the family here and are always so, so happy to come to Portland," he said, referring to himself and his team of Danish ballet experts, who go around the world staging Bournonville ballets.
I'd heard a lot about Frank from those very people he loves at OBT--the admiration is mutual. Without ever having met this person who's legendary in ballet circles, I already wished I'd had the chance to learn from him myself, when I was still performing. Talk about passion! And as I learned a fair bit about his process for teaching the ballets, the fundamentals underlying Bournonville's work, and the lasting effects of being immersed in it, I saw that his principles-- and those of Bournonville-- completely align with my own. I would have relished the hours he spends helping the dancers create magically vivid mime sequences. It's through the way they use their eyes, fingers, body angle, foot placement. Every minute gesture has intent and effect. The so-called 'details' are anything but.
Here's the piece that resulted from our interview. There was so much more I wanted to put in, but if you read it you'll get a great sense of the man, the ballet, and why he believes-- as do I-- that a ballet made in 1836 still matters.