Five Questions With Niklas Walentin

The Danish Violinist reflects on his dance and music collaboration at Houston’s Dance Salad Festival

The world’s leading dance companies will soon be landing in Texas to participate in the 27th edition of the globally renowned three-day Dance Salad festival — Houston’s annual celebration of classical, modern and contemporary dance.

Originating in Brussels, Belgium in 1992 and exported to Houston in 1995, the Dance Salad Festival will run from April 18th to April 20th, promising a display of world-class performers, compelling choreography and signature musical arrangements.

Among the premiere artists slated to perform is Denmark’s own Niklas Walentin — the 25-year-old enfant prodige who has already graced the stages of Carnegie Hall and the Mariinsky Theater and thrilled audiences with his energetic interpretations of Bach, Paganini, Ysaÿe, Nielsen, Reger and Nørholm. In Houston, Walentin will be joined by his equally talented colleague, pianist Alexander McKenzie, and the dancers of the Royal Danish Ballet, as they perform UnRavel— their fantastic take on Maurice Ravel’s Pavane pour une infant défunte.

Denmark In New York caught up with Walentin to explore his inspirations and probe his thoughts on his upcoming Dance Salad debut.

Violinist Niklas Walentin

Denmark In New York: What is your background and how did you become part of this year’s Dance Salad Festival in Houston?

Niklas Walentin: Having grown up in the Danish countryside I started playing the violin at the age of six. Despite my family not being musicians, I showed talent and was encouraged to continue by my teacher at the local music school, even though our cat was protesting loudly. Today, after countless hours of practice and studies, I have the privilege of traveling the world, working both as a soloist and as a chamber musician with the ensemble Trio Vitruvi. Through the latter, I started with my colleagues last summer KAMMERBALLETTEN. It translates from Danish into Chamber Ballet, and presents chamber music with newly choreographed ballet. This is where UnRavel was premiered last summer.

You will be performing at the Dance Salad Festival as part of the duo Walentin & McKenzie. How would you describe your upcoming performance?

The duo that I have with my colleague Alexander McKenzie is based purely on our dear friendship and a shared passion for a certain style of playing and pieces of music that often these days are not practiced anymore. Through my work as a soloist I have been given the honour of performing with some of the greatest orchestras and famous conductors. But the energy that is between two best friends on stage is something I would never be without. To be able to experience this with dance through KAMMERBALLETTEN is a very special addition to a colourful career.

The Dance Salad Festival is part of the #DenmarkInArts initiative.

You will be performing Maurice Ravel’s Pavane pour une infant défunte along with dancers from the Royal Danish Ballet. What can the audience expect from the chamber ballet format?

An utmost intimacy and beauty in simplicity. When it is possible to create more from less, the outcome is very powerful and I feel this is what Kristian Lever has managed perfectly with his choreography. The music by Ravel is very powerful, and the arrangement from orchestra to violin and piano is made in period by the violinist Kuberlich who knew Ravel in person. His arrangement only adds to the already intimate atmosphere.

Dance Salad Festival in Houston.

What is the story behind this particular constellation of artists?

The dancers performing UnRavel in Houston were part of the first edition of the KAMMERBALLETTEN. Tobias Praetorius performed together with Alba Victoria Nadal, who’s also with the Royal Danish Ballet, and Stephanie Chen was dancing in various other choreographies. I think it is very special that it is the two dancers with whom we have worked so closely from the beginning that will present one of the choreographies and make the Chamber Ballet a reality.

What are you most excited about when engaging US audiences?

The American audience is always very supportive and welcoming. When I had my first recital at Carnegie Hall in New York it was with a significant amount of nerves that I went on stage. But the way that the audience welcomed me and the music was so calming and made way for a childhood dream to come true in the most magical way.

Ema Seferovic is the Press and Communications Intern at DenmarkInNY.