Marcin Kupinski in 'La Sylphide' (© Costin Radu)


Marcin Kupinski on the visionary leading character in “La Sylphide”

Not everyone knows who are the most memorable characters of the dance world. About this, in every issue we talk with a dancer of a renowned ballet company to find out the who’s who amongst the most famous and iconic of ballet figures. A Column by Alessandro Bizzotto. 

James is confused, passionate, lost, under pressure, in dilemma”, Marcin Kupinski tells me, when I ask him to describe the male lead in one of the most iconic ballets of the Romantic tradition such as La Sylphide.

The Principal dancer at the Royal Danish Ballet, where August Bournonville mounted his own production of this classic, has danced James many times – a Scottish farmer who falls head-over-heels for a Sylph, and decides to turn his back on marriage and on a calm and safe future. “I think he is under pressure because he must marry a girl he doesn’t love, as he is engaged in an arranged marriage” he explains. “That’s why he falls in love with a creature even though she is not real, and it is beyond the bounds of sanity. So, he finds himself chasing some impossible dream, imagining something which doesn’t even exist”.

A role that represents a challenge. “Dancing James is really a big responsibility” Marcin reveals. “I mean, all the biggest stars danced this role before – Flemming Ryberg, Henning Kronstam, Erik Bruhn, Peter Martins, Nikolaj Hübbe. I was really nervous before approaching the rehearsals of La Sylphide, because I wondered if I would be able to fulfil the expectations for such a role”.

Marcin Kupinski is Polish. Not many non-Danish dancers danced James in Copenhagen before him. “I think I was the third or the fourth foreigner to ever perform this role in the Royal Danish Ballet history. Luckily, I found my way. With my coach Nikolaj Hübbe’s support, I was able to perform this role satisfactorily”.

The role is full of jumps, beaten steps and turns. “The part is both tricky and heavy” he says. “Everything hurts the day after dancing it! You cannot prepare La Sylphide in a short amount of time – it takes three or four weeks to be in shape enough to dance a leading role in a Bournonville’s ballet”.

As far as acting is concerned, it is not of secondary importance. “I think that the role requires versatile acting abilities. James goes through many different emotions, and a dancer has to be able to show different states of mind and heart throughout the performance”.

When I ask Marcin if he has ever felt like James, he answers, “I was once in that state of mind, finding myself in dilemma. I didn’t know what to do. So, I can relate to his story. As is obvious, that relationship didn’t work!”.

If Marcin Kupinski could meet James in real life, what would he tell him? “I would tell him, ‘Don’t fall for something that cannot be lived in a real and healthy way’” .