Niels Bjørn Larsen (published 1982)
Larsen talks about becoming a dancer and the technique of miming. He discusses his debut in a Balanchine product of Boutique Phantasm as a young man. He also offers an in-depth analysis of the role of Dr. Coppelius in the classical ballet Coppelia.
Larsen was born in Denmark in 1913. He entered the school of the Royal Danish Ballet at age seven and graduated into the company in 1933 at age 20. Renowned for his gifts as a mime and comedic dancer in addition to his talent in classical ballet, Larsen was named a principal dancer in 1942. At the time of this interview, he had been associated with the Royal company for 60 years, back to his earliest training. In 1953 he began choreographing for the Pantomime Theatre in Tivoli and three years later became its artistic director.
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finger to your pursed lips to request silence you've tried your hand at mime. I wanted to find out how a mime dancer transforms nature into art, and logic led me to Niels Bjorn Larsen. Is there a living, breathing mime tradition anywhere in the world today? I asked myself. Yes, in the Boumonville repertory in Denmark. Who is the greatest mime in Denmark? Niels Bjorn Larsen. It was that simple. The day before he talked to me in New York, he and his daughter, Royal Danish Ballet dancer Dinna Bjorn, gave a lecture-demonstration about pantomime and Boumonville technique. In the course of playing many parts, often simultaneously, he said apologetically, "When I try to explain pantomime, it is for me as if I try to catch a sylphide. I cannot do it." He was quite wrong," Barbara Newman (1992).