Harald Lander was in love with ballet. Unfortunately, he was also in love with the ballerinas. He was a celebrated and admired ballet master, first in Copenhagen, then in Paris. But his legacy is as much sensation and scandal as it is ballet.
Harald Lander was born on the 25th of February 1905 in Copenhagen. He enrolled in the Royal Danish Ballet School, and became a solo dancer as twenty four-year old, and ballet master only three years later. In the almost twenty years before his exile, he was the main creative force that once again elevated the Royal Danish Ballet to the heights it enjoyed during Bournonville. At the height of critical acclaim, in 1951, scandal struck.
Now, Harald Lander was married five times. His fourth wife was Toni Lander, a ballerina, as was his second, Margot Lander. Both became stars, Toni Lander the most brilliant, under the tutelage of their husband. He most certainly was attracted to the ballerinas. However, other danseuses felt neglected, and rumours began to fly that he was acting "inappropriately" towards the female dancers of the corps.
When newlyweds Toni and Harald arrived home from a holiday in August 1951, they were completely unprepared for the tempest awaiting them. Accusations of sexual harassment dominated the media for months, and even though the allegations were never proved, the Landers were forced to leave the Royal Danish Ballet. They moved to Paris where they were welcomed in the Paris Opera.
Though the scandals were never forgotten, Lander's grace was eventually restored, and he was knighted and decorated by Denmark, France, and Belgium.
Artistically, his magnum opus, still popular Études, was created with composer Knud-Aage Riisager in 1948 to great acclaim. In Copenhagen he introduced Fokine and Balanchine, and, most importantly, revived and restored Bournonville and the Royal Danish Ballet to the world stage. In Paris, he continued to enjoy triumphs as ballet master of the Paris Ballet for more than a decade.
In 1971, Harald Lander returned to Copenhagen, in which he died shortly thereafter.
Erik Aschengreen Mester. Historien om Harald Lander. Copenhagen: Gyldendal, 2005