August Bournonville

August Bournonville

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August Bournonville was a Danish
Denmark
Denmark is a Scandinavian country in Northern Europe. The countries of Denmark and Greenland, as well as the Faroe Islands, constitute the Kingdom of Denmark . It is the southernmost of the Nordic countries, southwest of Sweden and south of Norway, and bordered to the south by Germany. Denmark...

 ballet master
Ballet Master
Ballet Master is the term used for an employee of a ballet company who is responsible for the level of competence of the dancers in their company...

 and choreographer. August was the son of Antoine Bournonville
Antoine Bournonville
Antoine Bournonville was a French ballet dancer, actor, singer and a choreographer, active in the Royal Swedish Ballet and the Royal Danish Ballet and eventually ballet master in the latter. He is considered to have played a great role in the development of the ballet in Scandinavia...

, a dancer and choreographer trained under the French choreographer, Jean Georges Noverre, and the nephew of Julie Alix de la Fay
Julie Alix de la Fay
Léonne-Julie Alix de la Fay, also known as Julianne Bournonville and Madame Alix , was a Belgian ballet dancer and dance pedagogue, who was to play an important part in the development of the Royal Swedish Ballet...

, née Bournonville, of the Royal Swedish Ballet
Royal Swedish Ballet
The Royal Swedish Ballet is one of the oldest ballet companies in Europe. Based in Stockholm, Sweden, King Gustav III founded the ballet in 1773 as a part of his national cultural project in response to the French and Italian dominance in this field; he also founded the Royal Swedish Opera and the...

.

August was born in Copenhagen, Denmark, where his father had settled. He studied under the Italian
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 choreographer Vincenzo Galeotti at the Royal Danish Ballet
Royal Danish Ballet
The Royal Danish Ballet is one of the oldest ballet companies in the world. Based in Copenhagen, Denmark, it originates from 1748, when the Royal Danish Theatre was founded, and was finally organized in 1771 in response to the great popularity of French and Italian styles of dance...

, Copenhagen, and in Paris, France, under French dancer Auguste Vestris
Auguste Vestris
Marie-Jean-Augustin Vestris, known as Auguste Vestris was a French dancer.Born in Paris as the illegitimate son of Gaëtan Vestris and of Marie Allard, he was dubbed "le dieu de la danse", , a popular title bestowed on the leading male dancer of each generation...

. He initiated a unique style in ballet
Ballet
Ballet is a type of performance dance, that originated in the Italian Renaissance courts of the 15th century, and which was further developed in France and Russia as a concert dance form. The early portions preceded the invention of the proscenium stage and were presented in large chambers with...

 known as the Bournonville School
Bournonville School
The Bournonville method is a ballet technique and training system devised by the Danish ballet master August Bournonville.-Overview:August Bournonville trained with his father Antoine Bournonville and other notable French ballet masters...

.

Following studies in Paris as a young man, August became solo dancer at the Royal Ballet in Copenhagen. From 1830 to 1877 he was choreographer for the Royal Danish Ballet
Royal Danish Ballet
The Royal Danish Ballet is one of the oldest ballet companies in the world. Based in Copenhagen, Denmark, it originates from 1748, when the Royal Danish Theatre was founded, and was finally organized in 1771 in response to the great popularity of French and Italian styles of dance...

, for which he created more than 50 ballets admired for their exuberance, lightness, and beauty. He created a style which, although influenced from the Paris ballet, is entirely his own. As a choreographer, he created a number of ballets with varied settings that range from Denmark to Italy, Russia to South America. A limited number of these works have survived.

Bournonville's work became known outside Denmark only after WWII. Since 1950, The Royal Ballet has several times made prolonged tours abroad, not the least to the United States, where they have performed his ballets.

Bournonville's best-known ballets are La Sylphide
La Sylphide
La Sylphide is one of the world's oldest surviving romantic ballets. There were two versions of the ballet; the version choreographed by the Danish balletmaster August Bournonville is the only version known to have survived....

(1836), Napoli
Napoli (ballet)
Napoli, or The Fisherman and His Bride is a ballet created in 1842 for Denmark's Royal Ballet by Danish choreographer and ballet master August Bournonville. The ballet tells the story of Teresina, a young Italian girl who falls in love with Gennaro, a fisherman. The tale culminates in the marriage...

(1842), Le Conservatoire
Le Conservatoire
Le Conservatoire, or A Marriage by Advertisement is a two-act vaudeville ballet created by the Danish choreographer and ballet master August Bournonville in 1849 for the Royal Danish Ballet. The ballet's setting is a dance studio at the Conservatoire de Paris...

(1849), The Kermesse in Bruges
The Kermesse in Bruges
The Kermesse in Bruges, or The Three Gifts is a burlesque ballet in three acts created in 1851 by the Danish balletmaster and choreographer August Bournonville for the Royal Danish Ballet. The ballet tells the story of three brothers who receive magic gifts from an alchemist. The music is by Holger...

(1851) and A Folk Tale
A Folk Tale (ballet)
A Folk Tale is a ballet in three acts created in 1854 for the Royal Danish Ballet by the Danish balletmaster and choreographer August Bournonville. The music was composed by Johan Peter Emilius Hartmann and Niels W. Gade. Set in the Middle Ages, the ballet tells the story of a changeling living...

(1854).

Early years


Born in Copenhagen August 21, 1805, August Bournonville was the son of the French
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 ballet master, Antoine Bournonville
Antoine Bournonville
Antoine Bournonville was a French ballet dancer, actor, singer and a choreographer, active in the Royal Swedish Ballet and the Royal Danish Ballet and eventually ballet master in the latter. He is considered to have played a great role in the development of the ballet in Scandinavia...

, who had settled in Denmark
Denmark
Denmark is a Scandinavian country in Northern Europe. The countries of Denmark and Greenland, as well as the Faroe Islands, constitute the Kingdom of Denmark . It is the southernmost of the Nordic countries, southwest of Sweden and south of Norway, and bordered to the south by Germany. Denmark...

, and Lovisa Sundberg, a Swede. At the age of eight years, August entered the Royal Ballet School at the Court Theatre in Christiansborg Palace
Christiansborg Palace
Christiansborg Palace, , on the islet of Slotsholmen in central Copenhagen, is the seat of the Folketing , the Danish Prime Minister's Office and the Danish Supreme Court...

 under the tutelage of his father and Vincenzo Galeotti, ballet master and principal choreographer of the Royal Danish Ballet
Royal Danish Ballet
The Royal Danish Ballet is one of the oldest ballet companies in the world. Based in Copenhagen, Denmark, it originates from 1748, when the Royal Danish Theatre was founded, and was finally organized in 1771 in response to the great popularity of French and Italian styles of dance...

 from 1775 to 1816.

On October 2, 1813, August made his first stage appearance in a small part as the son of a Viking king in Galeotti's Lagertha, the first ballet on a Nordic theme. Less than a year later, he received his first personal applause for dancing a Hungarian solo at the Court Theatre. In addition to dance, August was a voracious reader, learned French at home, played the violin, sang in a boy soprano voice, and studied declamation with the actors Michael Rosing, Lindgreen, and Frydensdahl. His many talents were brought together on the Queen's birthday, October 29, 1817, when as a twelve year old he played the role of Adonia to royal acclaim in a music-drama, Solomon's Judgment and sang a romance, "The Mother with Her Drooping Wings".

Family


Bournonville had five siblings. He was the only one in out of the children who showed any interest in dancing. His father was Antoine Bournonille. His mother was Lovisa Sundberg August. He married Helena Fredrika Håkansson on June 23, 1830. He had seven children with Helena but sadly both of their sons died as toddlers.

Paris


In 1820, Antoine Bournonville received a grant from his sovereign to briefly study ballet in Paris. August accompanied his father to Paris, and, although he studied solely with his father during the Paris sojourn, he was exposed to the latest trends in ballet and watched the illustrious teachers, Gardel and Vestris
Auguste Vestris
Marie-Jean-Augustin Vestris, known as Auguste Vestris was a French dancer.Born in Paris as the illegitimate son of Gaëtan Vestris and of Marie Allard, he was dubbed "le dieu de la danse", , a popular title bestowed on the leading male dancer of each generation...

 in action. Upon returning to Denmark, August became a member of the Royal Theatre, dancing in repertory that was less interesting to him after his exposure to Paris ballet.

In the spring of 1824, August returned to Paris for final studies and examination preparations at the Paris Opera
Paris Opera Ballet
The Paris Opera Ballet is the oldest national ballet company in the world, and many European and international ballet companies can trace their origins to it...

. The expected fifteen month sojourn would stretch to five years, during which time Danish ballet would approach near-disastrous decline. In Paris, August met his father's old friend, Louis Nivelon, in Paris who provided him with friendship, meals, and entree into society. August hoped the master Gardel would accept him but Gardel's studio was no longer in existence and he was directed to Auguste Vestris for training in his weakest areas — "balance, pirouettes, and arms." Vestris accepted Bournonville. August wrote his father:

Bournonville danced from 1820 to 1828 with the noted dancer Marie Taglioni and the Paris Opera Ballet.

Death


Bournonville stopped teaching adult classes in the spring of 1877. On returning from church on November 30, 1879, he was stricken and taken to a hospital. August Bournonville was interred near Asminderød Church near Fredensborg.

Legacy


Bournonville's work remains an important link with earlier traditions. He resisted many of the excesses of the romantic era ballets in his work. He is noted for his egalitarian choreography, which gave equal emphasis to both male and female roles, at a time when European ballet emphasized the ballerina. Many of his contemporaries explored the extremes of human emotion, while Bournonville, using enthusiastic footwork and fluid phrases in his work, portrayed a more balanced human nature.

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