DANCE reports 2014

Danish American Nationals Cultural Exchange

The first thing my fellow dancer and travel companion, Dammiel, and I noticed as

we stepped off the airplane into the Copenhagen airport, was the giant florescent sign that

read “Welcome to the World’s Happiest Nation”. At first, we chuckled a bit and believed

it to be an over-exaggerated advertisement. However within minutes we were proven

wrong. On our way to baggage claim, we were smiled at by multiple passersby and

warmly welcomed by the airport’s staff. We picked up our bags and hopped into a taxi.

The cabbie spoke perfect English. And after learning that we were new to Copenhagen,

he suggested sights and eateries we should visit. As Dammiel continued to talk with the

cabbie, I realized that I hadn’t heard any shouting or honking, not even tires screeching as

we came to a red light. Coming from New York City, that ride may have been the

smoothest I have ever taken in a cab! The pleasant conversation with the cab driver ended

at the hotel where we would stay the first night.

The Hotel Babette Guldsmeden is quaint and comfortable. We checked in, and were

shown to our European-sized hotel rooms. I immediately lay down on my bed and fell

asleep. Trying to become accustom to the time change, I awoke a couple hours later and

decided to take a walk and have dinner. Dammiel and I found our way to Nyhavn, where

we ate along the Christianshavns Kanal, which is lined with colorful houses and

restaurants. The food was fresh and delectable. Because the weather was 10 degrees,

Celsius that is, the restaurant provided us with cozy blankets to keep us warm as we sat

outside and enjoyed the Danish culture around us.

The following day, Dammiel and I walked to the dormitories located across the

street from the Det Kongelige Teater where the Royal Danish Ballet performs and where

we would spend the majority of our days taking classes. We met the dormitory ‘parents’

and the other exchange students from Joffrey Ballet School of Chicago and Pacific

Northwest Ballet. The dorms were well organized and especially clean and tidy. The head

of the dorms gave us a tour of their facilities and introduced us to the apprentices and

students of the Royal Danish Ballet School.

Our classes for the next two weeks included ballet technique, variations, acting

class, and Bournonville technique. Dammiel and I were nervous when we discovered that

our first class of the day was with the Royal Danish Ballet Company! But when we

arrived at the studio, several company members came over to say hello and introduce

themselves and we immediately felt at ease. The next two classes, variations and

technique, were taken with the apprentices. Currently a class of all girls, the energetic

Danish apprentices were fun to be around and beautiful to watch. Either instruction in

Bournonville technique or an acting class followed variations class.

Our teachers included Eva Draw, Adam Lüders, Mogens Boesen, Nikolaj Hubbe

from the Royal Danish Ballet and guest artist Florence Clerc from the Paris Opera Ballet.

I learned so much from each teacher. I received many helpful tips and corrections that I

still use in class at the School of American Ballet. Although all the classes were

challenging, Bournonville class was especially difficult due to my lack of knowledge of

the technique but in spite of this, I enjoyed watching the apprentices and learning

Bournonville variations from our teacher.

After each day of dance, we returned to the dorms where I iced my swollen feet

and got ready for dinner. Every evening all the dorm residents met in the dining room for

a meal served family style. The meals prepared by the chief were different every night

and always delicious. As we ate, Dammiel and I talked with the students about their days

at school, ballet classes, and their lives around the dorms. After dinner, we helped clear

the tables, wash dishes and listen to the Danish radio stations (which often played

American music)! For the first few days, we were too exhausted to go out after dinner,

but by the first Thursday, my roommate and I ventured to the famous pedestrian street,

Strøget. Its long stretch of stores and restaurants extends for over a kilometer. On our day

off, we ventured even a bit further to the King’s Gardens surrounding the Rosenborg Slot

castle, the 17th century spiraled ramp observatory known as the Round Tower, and of

course to the statue of the Little Mermaid. We often visited our favorite cafe, Café

Norden located close to the theater and dormitory, where we began to feel like locals!

The 2014 Danish American Nationals Cultural Exchange Scholarship was a dancer’s

dream come true for me. Two weeks with the Royal Danish Ballet in picture-perfect

Copenhagen broadened both my dance and personal perspective. What an enriching

experience to meet dancers from other countries and understand dance from a historical

point of view! I truly appreciate The Danish American Society making this opportunity.


Leah Terada & Dammiel Cruz