Copenhagen through a new lens, no filter

I am sitting in a small cafe on Østerbrogade in Copenhagen, not far from my apartment. Since I sat down with my Cappuccino and Danish rye bread, the clear blue sky has been interrupted by clouds. Sheets of rain are pouring down. Typically, Copenhagen summer means that you should always be prepared for three different types of weather. Because, you never know. But I couldn’t be happier. What a nice place to sit and write.

It has been an intense month since moving from Germany. I have resumed life in Copenhagen for my second season at the Tivoli Ballet Theater. Most of the colleagues are back from last year, and it is wonderful to be working again. The dancers and character artists at this theater are amazingly talented and versatile. I have been so inspired to watch them in shows whenever I get an evening off. Right now we are performing a series of traditional Danish pantomimes and ballets, which are carefully preserved and revived by a dedicated artistic staff.

So far we have had a re-premier of The Steadfast Tinsoldier, which meant working with the lovely choreographer Dinna Bjørn and meeting with our set and costume designer, Queen Margrethe of Denmark. It is an extraordinary feeling to stand in front of the Queen wearing a peacock showgirl costume that she designed. She looks into your eyes and tells you it looks exactly as she had imagined it. You can’t really tell her that you never could have imagined this moment in a million years, but it is pretty wonderful. You just stand there dumbfounded, smiling back at her.

Rehearsal days are spent staging August Bournonville’s classic La Sylphide. I am so excited to be working on this piece in Denmark, where it was originally created. I will perform a number of different roles in the show, the most remarkable of which is Madge, the witch. There is a long history of this role and the people who have performed it at the Royal Danish Theater. I find it a particularly interesting role because Madge is more than an ugly old lady. She is a woman who resents being mistreated, and seeks to protect others who would also be taken advantage of. I am fascinated by the task of creating a character who is convincingly old and feeble, while at the same time remaining assertive, powerful, and even compassionate. As my sister said once when she was very young, “there’s a little bit of good and bad in every person.” I am looking forward to finding my own way in this role. Not to mention, I’ll probably get to wear an amazing witch nose!!

Being back in Denmark makes me feel so grateful for the last year in Germany. I have learned so much about myself. I know more about what I want to achieve through my dancing. I am more sensitive toward how to connect with and listen to people. I have a better understanding of what is important to me in my life. On language learning, I am afraid of losing all of the German that I learned. But, I do my best to make opportunities to keep speaking. Amazingly enough, the German really helps me to understand some Danish! Many words, especially verbs, are similar. So, there’s more of a liklihood that I have the faintest idea what is going on around me.

While I was sitting on the ICE high speed train that brought me from Oldenburg to Copenhagen, a woman pointed out the unique Copenhagen street lamps. I couldn’t believe that in the year that I previously lived here, I had never noticed them. Old-fashioned metal lamps hang every 10 meters or so from the typical electrical wires that run along the streets. I am amazed by how completely Copenhagen embraces its fairytale persona, even in its lighting fixtures. Similarly, my boyfriend pointed out how he always felt the sky was higher in Copenhagen. And he is right. It really is higher. And, I am reminded to look up.

(first posted on 6/29/2014)

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