Lori and Michael Milken Artistic Director
The world of dance claims Thordal Christensen as one of its most respected citizens. Among his many credentials are an impressive performing career, successful leadership of one of the world's major ballet companies, critically applauded original choreography, and a proven commitment to dance education.
Born in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1965, Christensen received his ballet training at The Royal Danish Ballet School and at the School of American Ballet in New York City. This blend of Bournonville and Balanchine tradition would become one of the defining themes of his career, and would in large part shape the unique artistic vision that Christensen, along with his wife Colleen Neary, bring to Los Angeles Ballet.
After his schooling, Christensen danced in Europe and the U.S. with three of the world's major ballet companies. He began his performance career with the Royal Danish Ballet, moved to New York City Ballet, (where he danced a varied repertoire including the master works of George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, and Martins), and lastly became a member of Pacific Northwest Ballet under the artistic direction of Kent Stowell and Francia Russell. In less than a year, he was promoted to Soloist, and two years later rose to the rank of Principal Dancer, dancing a vast variety of roles including Franz in Coppelia, Jago in The Moor's Pavane, Prince in The Nutcracker, Romeo in Romeo and Juliet, Oberon in A Midsummer Night's Dream, Prince Siegfried in Swan Lake, as well as leading roles in Voluntaries, The Four Temperaments, Theme and Variations, Paquita, Sylvia Pas de Deux, and Bournonville Variations.
In 1992, Christensen was invited back to Copenhagen to rejoin The Royal Danish Ballet. During the next seven years, his many roles would include Prince Desire in The Sleeping Beauty, Prince in The Nutcracker, Oberon in A Midsummer Night's Dream, Prince Siegfried in Swan Lake, Danilo in The Merry Widow, Prince in Etudes, Death in Triumph of Death, Espada in Don Quixote, and leading roles in Theme and Variations, Apollo, Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2, Barber Violin Concerto, Fearful Symmetries, and Ash.
But soon after his return to The Royal Danish Ballet, it became clear that Christensen's roles would grow to transcend performance alone. In 1994, he choreographed his first ballet for the company, Behind the Curtain, with music by Kim Helweg. The same year, he followed this auspicious debut with a piece set to the music of Luigi Ceccarelli, Room 7. In 1995, the music of Kim Helweg again inspired Christensen to create a ballet entitled Something Like That. Later, Christensen choreographed a new version of Giselle after Coralli, Perot, and Bruhn. The year 2002 saw the debut of his Shaken with music by Ben Horn.
It was also during this period that Christensen emerged as an artistic leader, and in 1999, he became one of the youngest Artistic Directors in the history of The Royal Danish Ballet. It is widely acknowledged that during his tenure, the company thrived and flourished as never before. As Artistic Director of The Royal Danish Ballet, Christensen set and fulfilled extraordinary goals, and his accomplishments are many. He is credited with setting forth an active plan that resulted in the creation of many new ballets by such esteemed choreographers as Peter Martins, Lar Lubovitch, Lila York, Kevin O'Day, Alexei Ratmansky, Tim Rushton and Anna Laerkesen. Under his direction, the company also presented highly acclaimed performances of the Bournonville repertoire and other classics such as Romeo and Juliet, Swan Lake, Onegin, Sleeping Beauty, Nutcracker and masterpieces by Jiri Kylian, Jerome Robbins, George Balanchine, Mats Ek, John Neumeier and Nacho Duarte. Christensen attracted guest artists from The Royal Ballet in London, The Paris Opera Ballet and New York City Ballet to the company's annual galas. During his tenure, attendance grew and flourished, even attracting a record audience of 25,000 to the annual outdoor season kickoff performance in Copenhagen. As part of his commitment to new choreography, Christensen spearheaded an in-house choreographic workshop for the dancers of the company to experiment and develop their own choreographic talents. Under his leadership, The Royal Danish Ballet toured to China, Japan, Sweden, Spain and around Denmark with great success, financed with sponsorships secured above and beyond the company budget. In 2000, Christensen spearheaded the company's highly successful Bournonville Festival, drawing the attention of critics worldwide. He is also credited with the restructuring of the ballet administration, completing decentralization within The Royal Theater. In 2002, Christensen established an additional school in the city of Odense, enabling The Royal Danish Ballet School to draw talent from a broader geographic area of Denmark. He also held teacher seminars and provided special training to educate and develop skills within the teaching staff. Finally, Christensen created an outreach program to educate, inform and draw youngsters from the greater Copenhagen area, resulting in a dramatic increase of enrollment at The Royal Danish Ballet School. In 2002, he was made Knight of the Dannebrog by Queen Margrethe II of Denmark.
Christensen and his wife Colleen Neary reside in Los Angeles, California and are the proud parents of Erik Aage and Helena Patricia.