Backstage with ballet dancer Magnus Christoffersen at The Royal Danish Theatre
Since 1748, the Royal Danish Theatre has resided on the King’s New Square in Copenhagen, and was built as the King’s theatre with public access for all citizens.
I managed to catch ballet dancer and soloist Magnus Christoffersen 48 hours before his return to Los Angeles. Magnus is on his third year working as a soloist at the Los Angeles Ballet, and is an envoy of Denmark we have every right to be proud of.
“My goal is not only to dance ballet, but also to promote ballet,” the experienced star tells us. Magnus Christoffersen knows what he is talking about and has literally walked with his “childhood ballet shoes” in pretty much every room in the Royal Danish Theatre.
Magnus tells us that he is not a fanatic, but cares about living a healthy and balanced lifestyle, so fastfood is not on the top of the menu.
The World is calling for Magnus Christoffersen
“After more than 15 years with the Royal Danish Theatre as my workplace and second home, I felt a desire to look overseas, and I chose Los Angeles in the US. It was a natural choice, since I had already been in contact with my current artistic director, Aage Thordal-Christensen. He offered me a contract with him, which I accepted. This is something I have not regretted. After two years with the company, I have danced in their classical productions. Examples are the Nutcracker, Swan Lake, La Sylphide, and for the upcoming season, the grand Balanchine programme is on the agenda.” Magnus expresses a rare sense of humility, which we don’t see a lot these days. He radiates a kind of mutual respect. Respect towards other people, and towards his profession.
Training takes place every day. Often from early morning until the show in the evening. Magnus tells us that male ballet dancers wear down a pair of ballet shoes within a few weeks, whilst female ballet dancers often have to replace their pointe shoes after each evening’s show.
“It is my responsibility to give it my all to provide people with a good experience when they go to the theatre – for that reason, I practice and train for 8 hours every day, pretty much like every other ballet dancer.”
Is ballet on its way out?
Being a writer with joking tendencies, I tell Magnus that my idea of ballet is just a bunch of people bouncing around on a stage. So I ask him to explain what exactly it is ballet can do, and whether theatre and ballet are not on their way out of fashion in our digital age where everyone is glued to their smartphones?
“Theatre is magical! If as a six-year-old you went to the theatre with your parents to see a ballet or another theatre piece, it would often give you lasting impressions – theatre is ‘the real thing!’ You get captivated and remember the big stage, you remember the audience, you remember the bottle of soda in the break. The combination of living people on stage, perhaps accompanied by a big orchestra is not something you can just shake off like that. It is an experience for life! Theatre also gives you food for thought, whether it is ballet, a play or something else. Even if you get bored or provoked, you need to reflect upon it” Magnus says, and from my own personal recollection I would have to agree.
“In Los Angeles, we at the ballet have also visited regular schools and performed in front of students who wouldn’t necessarily have the opportunity to go to the theatre with their parents. These students are allowed to dance around with us and get a chance to familiarize themselves with the exciting world of dance”.
A call from Moscow to Director, Nikolaj Hübbe
For ballet dancers, legs are as important as the computer is for the writer. I ask Magnus if he has experienced injuries during his career so far:
“Yes, indeed, I have!” he says with a grin and goes on: “Almost 6 years ago when I worked here at the Royal Danish Ballet in Copenhagen, I took part in a production, The Lady of the Camellias choreographed by John Neumeier and with Nikolaj Hübbe as the artistic director. A lot of training and practice had been taking place in preparation for the performance. A trip to Moscow where I visited a friend who was a principal dancer at the Kremlin Ballet proved to be quite unfortunate. My friend and I trained together in a ballet studio in the Kremlin. I landed badly and broke my foot! This was just prior to returning to Copenhagen to continue the shows there.
Magnus sips his tea and then continues: “I instantly called Nikolaj Hübbe back home, and he was very understanding”. Hübbe replied: “Get well soon, I will have the instructor assign the role to someone else and don’t worry, there will always be another opportunity knocking on your door!”. “This made me feel happy and relieved. So I flew home from Moscow with crutches and my leg in a cast. When I returned to Copenhagen, I was instantly back at the Royal Danish Theatre to be examined by the ballet doctor and to say hi. It is never fun to see your ballet colleagues in that condition – a ballet dancer with crutches. Most ballet dancers have experienced injuries themselves at some point in their career, so they were familiar with my situation and my frustration. Friendship and laughter are the best forms of medicine in that situation. After eight weeks, I was back in business!” says Magnus Christoffersen.
“Here have I walked with my childhood ballet shoes’, and I have lots of great memories from here. I started here when I was seven years old and enjoyed being here – it is a magical place, especially for children and anyone with childlike minds. Days went by dancing and receiving normal education before we had to dance again. The schedule was tough, but once in a while, we children found some free time where we could take a nap before we had to go back on stage!”
Towards new horizons with the ballet
What is awaiting you in Los Angeles?
“Aside from continuing at the Los Angeles Ballet, I take acting classes. I also have a couple of upcoming projects with a production company in San Diego where the goal is to move the ballet out of the theatre and into people’s lives in new ways. We will be recording a dance video to the music of the rock band ‘Disturbed’ and we are looking at the possibility of going into pediatric hospitals to give a nice experience to sick children. We are also thinking of expanding the concept to incorporate e.g. terminally ill patients at hospices. You never get bored in the US and it would be nice to make a little difference for someone!” he says with awe in his voice.
Magnus Christoffersen with our Danish national poet Hans Christian Andersen (1805-75).
Homesickness or Turèll
“I love living and staying in the US, but I also know what it feels like to be homesick. Aside from my family and friends, I especially miss the clean air, bicycles, and the taste of pure tap water in Denmark. If I get too homesick, I have an ‘emergency ration’ of poems by the Danish poet Dan Turèll lying ready on my nightstand, and then we stroll through the cosy streets of Copenhagen together!” Magnus Christoffersen concludes.
The curtains of the Old Stage are tapestries produced and presented by the Golden Age painter Johan Ludvig Lund (1777-1867).
Good to know
Photographer: Johan Deckmann/Jens Lindhe
Indlægget er skrevet af gæsteskribent: Jesper B. Hillestrøm. Skribent, Forfatter & Foredragsholder.
Se hans andre indlæg på kulturformidleren.dk her…