Choreography: Harald Lander (1905-1971), Knudåge Riisager (1897-1974) inspired by Carl Czernys Etudes
Premier at the Royal Theater, 1948 Se kort

By Lone Nyhuus, journalist, former dancer and choreographer, 2006

Dancing across the black and white keys 

There they are. The ballerinas. With their white legs against a black background, they resemble inverted, white notes on a black sheet of paper. And after the introductory music of Czerny’s Etudes adapted by Knudaage Riisager, the many legs - the many notes on the score - begin to move. 

The logic of the music 

Etudes means exercises, and this is what Etudes is. Exercises that shape up more and more and become faster and faster. From the first movements of the ballet school, the simple warm-ups of the foot joints to small, fast step combinations; from slow, high leg lifts, giant leaps and large pirouettes on tiptoe, to the lifting of graceful women by strong men and their large jumps like flying elegant elephants.

The dance is like the dance of black and white keys across a piano keyboard. Everything, each measure and each step, is perceived and performed in precise keeping with the logic of the music. 

Ambitious director 

In 1932, a young Harald Lander was charged with the responsibility of the Royal Danish Ballet. He was an excellent dancer and, in addition, a musician. He was, for instance, a competent saxophone player. And he had ambitions. Both for himself and the Ballet.
Inspired by Russian directors and the American show tradition he brought the Ballet forward, and in 1948 the Royal Danish Ballet reached the heights of its culmination in the era. The Bournonville tradition was intact, and at the same time a group of young dancers was blossoming. They mastered everything: the old, classical, graceful ballet as well as the Russian ballet with all its virile virtuosity. And they believed in the justification of ballet - as an art form in its own right. 

Ready to dance 

Ballet is aesthetic beauty and musicality. This is already obvious from the first scene of Etudes in which the ballerinas are lined up, one next to the other. Ready. To dance. To let the music unfold - through their well-trained bodies. 

The Royal Ballet's performance of Etudes in the 2004/2005 season. Photo: Martin Mydtskov Rønne.
Heidi Ryom in The Royal Ballet's performance of Etudes in 1987. Photo: John R. Johnsen.
Performing Arts

Did you know?

In the context of classical music, the term "etude" is used for pieces of music that allow the student or professional musician to practice certain techniques. The genre evolved from pure technical exercises to independent works that can be enjoyed for their own sake, as is the case with the ballet Etudes. In this way The composer Chopin has written many beautiful pieces.

The committee's justification

By The Committee for Performing Arts, 2006

Harald Lander’s and Knudåge Riisager’s Etudes from 1948 contains both the brilliant and the romantic. The music is based on Czerny’s classic piano etudes, and the idea behind the ballet is the same; from everyday exercises towards magnificent art. Etudes does not have a plot; however, it has a clear line when it follows the dancer from the five positions of the feet and daily training to the ballerina’s virtuoso steps and variations on stage beneath the huge crystal chandeliers. Etudes is an apotheosis of classical ballet. It is in every way an energetic ballet that ends in a swirl of dance that beguiles the audience and creates joy and liberating lightness on both sides of the footlights.

In 1948, with Etudes, Harald Lander employed a corps that he had resurrected from the time he was ballet master at the Royal Danish Theatre in 1932. He led the Royal Danish Ballet to an international level, and Etudes holds a central place in contemporary Danish ballet history. Etudes is also greatly appreciated in an international context. In 1952, Harald Lander took Etudes to the Paris Opera, and since then the ballet has remained a triumph throughout the world as the most frequently performed Danish Ballet from the 1900s. Etudes is an international ballet classic, and is performed in St Petersburg, Tokyo, Sydney, Paris, New York and Beijing. When the Opera at Holmen was opened in January 2005, Etudes was on the programme. Etudes is the touchstone for every ballet company. Both in terms of technical knowledge and discipline. However, the secret is that technique is transformed into spirit and dance into flying dreams within space.

Etudes was first performed on 15 January 1948 at the Royal Danish Theatre.


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