It's been just over three years since Nikolaj Hübbe retired from the New York City Ballet, where he'd been a beloved principal since 1992. His fans have almost recovered; meanwhile, Hübbe, a native Dane, has almost adjusted to life in Copenhagen, where he moved to run (and reinvigorate) the Royal Danish Ballet. "I don't know if I ever will be fully [adjusted]," he said with one of his great, deep rumbles of laughter.
How do you shake up a centuries-old institution? Carefully, but not too carefully. Hübbe has done a little of everything: hosting conceptual evenings in which ballet jostles with other art forms, commissioning works from big names like Christopher Wheeldon, even doing his own updates on the company's cherished August Bournonville ballets. "Some people felt, 'He's not meticulous about the tradition -- this is bad.' Other people said, 'He's trying to renew the tradition -- that's fantastic."
It's also a lot. Does running a behemoth like the Royal Danish leave any time for a personal life? Another laugh: "Very little ... very little."
The Royal Danish Ballet is performing at the David H. Koch Theater, Lincoln Center in New York City, June 14-19.
Nikolaj's Hot List
1. "I truly look forward to going out to Fire Island to my house there. It's been so long since I have been there and it's sheer bliss in the summer."
2. "Going to one of my favorite restaurants, Walls' in the West Village -- incredible food and wine from Austria."
3. "The Los Angeles Film Festival in June. Usually a broad array of amazing talents in the film industry."
4. "Dia:Beacon in upstate New York on the Hudson river. An always interesting and innovative place to visit for their stunning art projects and beautiful surroundings."
5. "Jacob's Pillow in Becket, Mass. You can always find new choreographic talent up there during the summer performances."