By Megan Anderson
Danish dancer and choreographer Harald Lander (1905–71) created more than 30 ballets during his career, including his most enduring work—Etudes –and was artistic director of the Royal Danish Ballet for almost two decades.
Lander was a true product of the Danish ballet tradition. Lander trained at the Royal Danish Ballet School and joined the Royal Danish Ballet in 1923. But while the Royal Danish is committed to preserving the legacy of previous director August Bournonville, Lander was also open to new influences. In a break from tradition, he moved to New York in 1926 to study with choreographer Michel Fokine, best known for his work with the innovative Ballets Russes.
In 1929, Lander returned to the Royal Danish Ballet and was appointed artistic director in 1931. During his 20-year tenure as director, Lander cultivated a diverse repertory. He restored many of Bournonville’s ballets, including Napoli, La Sylphide, and Flower Festival in Genzano. He restaged several of Fokine’s pieces including Les Sylphides, Petrouchka, and Le spectre de la rose. And he choreographed several ballets of his own. From 1953 to 1963, Lander was ballet master for the Paris Opéra.
Lander’s most well-known piece is Etudes, a one-act ballet he created in 1948 that pays homage to classical ballet training. Etudes begins with dancers at the barre, then quickly transitions into a exhilarating performances that showcase intricate choreography and romantic lyricism.
Header photo: SF Ballet in Lander’s Etudes.