Dinna Bjørn is one of the few distinguished Bournonville specialists in today’s ballet world. After private studies in Copenhagen with Edite Frandsen, a former ballerina with the Riga Opera Ballet, she joined the Royal Danish Ballet in 1964. In 1966 she made her solo debut as the young girl in Jerome Robbins’ Afternoon of a Faun, and in 1969 she won the bronze medal at the International Ballet Competition in Varna, Bulgaria, dancing Bournonville’s Flower Festival in Genzano, pas de deux.
Her signature role became Clara, in Nutcracker by Flemming Findt, who created the role for her in 1971. She danced it for several years and the piece was broadcast on Danish television in 1972.
Early on she showed a particular talent for the Bournonville style, and she danced most of the major roles in this repertoire, in Sylphide in La Sylphide, Eleonora and Joahanna in Kermes in Bruges, the cadet Edward in Far from Denmark, the Pas de Sept in A Folk Tale, the Pas de Six in Napoli and the Pas de Trois in La Ventana. From 1975 she gave Bournonville dance classes and lectures on Bournonville and in 1976 she formed the Bournonville group “Soloists of the Royal Danish Ballet” with Frank Andersen and toured the world with them offering Bournonville workshops, classes, transmissions and lectures every summer until 1989.
In 1987, she left the Royal Danish Ballet to pursue a career as an independent Bournonville teacher and in 1990 accepted the position of Artistic Director of the Norwegian National Ballet in Oslo, a role she held for 12 years, followed by 7 years as Artistic Director of the Finnish National Ballet in Helsinki.
Since 1987, she has directed numerous Bournonville productions, creating seminars and teaching courses around Bournonville for companies and schools around the world, including: Bavarian State Ballet, Boston Ballet, Milwaukee Ballet, Hong Kong Ballet, Mexico City Ballet, Capitole Ballet Toulouse, Universal Ballet, Bulgarian State Ballet, Het Nationale Ballet, Ecole de Ballet de l’Opéra de Paris, Royal New Zealand Ballet, Australian Ballet, English National Ballet School, Ballet du Rhin, Ballet Nice Méditerrannée, Ural Ballet, Vaganova Ballet Academy and Accademia di Danza Rome.
For the second Bournonville Festival in Copenhagen in 1992 she performed the entire second act of Napoli, and in 1995 she collaborated with her father Niels Bjørn Larsen and Kirsten Ralov in the revival of the entire ballet Konservatoriet eller Et Avisfrieri. From 1997 to 2000 she was “Bournonville Consultante” for the Royal Danish Ballet and in 2000 she directed a new production of Kermes in Bruges for the company with Anne Marie Vessel Schltiter.
She collaborated with Frank Andersen on the productions of Napoli for the Finnish National Ballet and for the Stanislavski Ballet in Moscow, and on the revival of From Siberia to Moscow in Tbilisi in 2009. Their last collaboration was for their revival of Ponte Molle for the Royal Swedish Ballet in 2016 in Stockholm.
Dinna Bjørn is also a choreographer, making her debut as a young choreographer at the Royal Theatre in Copenhagen. Her piece is called “8+1” and she composed the music herself. In 1971 she created a piece to the music of the Danish composer Per Nørgård, Anatomic Safari, which was danced by the Danish Ballet Theatre in Copenhagen. This piece led to a long collaboration with the composer, including choreography for his opera The Divine Tivoli (Jyske Opera 1982) and Siddhartha (Stockholm 1983). She founded her own company, “Dinna Bjørn dancers”, which existed from 1976 to 1982 and for which she created several pieces based on works by Per Nørgård.
For the Royal Danish Ballet she created two other ballets: The Butterfly Mask (1975) and Hat-Trick (1985). For the Norwegian National Ballet she choreographed Den Røde Blusen (based on the Norwegian painting Oda Krohg) for the opening of the Winter Olympics in Lillehammer in 1994, and her own version of Nutcraker, which remained in the repertoire for 23 years and became a popular Christmas ballet. Alongside Queen Margrethe II (as designer) Dinna Bjørn created five Andersen fairy tale ballets for the Pantomime Theatre in Tivoli: Love in a Dustbin (2001), Thumbelina (2005), The Tinder Box (2007), The Swineherd (2009) and The Steadfast Tinsoldier (2013).
From 2009 to 2014 she directed the Bournonville Summer Academy in Biarritz, and currently heads the faculty of Bournonville summer seminars in Amsterdam, Tokyo, and the United States. She is also a Bournonville Consultant at the Vaganova Academy in St Petersburg, and is a regular Bournonville teacher at the National School of the Arts in Oslo, the Hochschule für Musik und Theater in Munich, the National Ballet Academy in Helsinki, the Accademia di Danza in Rome, and the English National Ballet School in London.
She is a juror at major international dance competitions in Varna, Paris, Helsinki, Shanghai, Jackson, Austin and New York. She has been awarded the Order of Dannebrog in Denmark, the Norwegian Order of Merit by King Herald and the Order of the White Rose in Finland.