I posted the following on alt.arts.ballet this morning. I thought there might be some ballet.coers who not see that, and would perhaps be interested:
A friend from Denmark told me this morning that the Danish ballerina and excellent stager of Bournonville ballets Kirsten Ralov died in Copenhagen at her home Sunday evening. She was 77.
Kirsten Ralov was born Kirsten Gnatt, in Baden Austria in 1922. She was the sister of the late Poul Gnatt (also a Danish solo dancer). She was a solo dancer with the Royal Danish Ballet in the '40s, '50s and early '60s. She was their first Aurora, also an excellent Myrthe in "Giselle" and Birthe in Bournonville's "A Folk Tale."
Ralov began staging Bournonville ballets ("Napoli," "A Folk Tale") when Hans Brenaa was gone from the company for a short time in the late 1970s. It was her version of "A Folk Tale" that Americans fell in love with at the first Bournonville Festival in 1979.
She was Assistant Balletmaster when Henning Kronstam became director of the company in 1978 and retained that position for about 18 months into Frank Andersen's directorship as well (1987). She taught the Bournonville and mime classes at the Royal Danish Ballet School for years. She was a superb Bournonville teacher, one of the very last dancers to be completely formed by the old Bournonville Schools.
She was married Borge Ralov (one of the rare First Solo Dancers of the Danish Ballet) for a time, and later married the wonderful dancer and mime, Fredbjorn Bjornsson, who died right after Christmas in 1994. She had been fighting throat cancer since 1992. She was one of the strongest, most determined people I have ever had the privilege to meet. During the last few years of her life she rarely spoke (because of the pain), and occupied herself by playing bridge and going to the theater, any theater, as often as possible.
I watched Ralov conduct rehearsals several times in the early 1990s. A dancer I interviewed once called her "The most professional person in the Theatre," and I would echo that. She was military in her precision (many dancers were a bit afraid of her) and her no nonsense call to arms -- "Damer, Herrer" (Gentlemen, Ladies) rather than the ubiquitous "boys and girls" -- when she needed their attention to start a rehearsal was refreshingly adult and Old School in the company at a time its traditions began to crumble.
In 1995 she and Niels Bjorn Larsen staged the complete (two-act) version of Bournonville's "The Conservatoriet" during Peter Schaufuss's brief directorship. She had danced the little girl who wants to be a ballerina in that production the last time it had been in repertory in the 1930s.
She was one of the very last links to a great tradition and she is irreplaceable.