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Dutch National Ballet New Moves Music Theatre, Amsterdam, 26 June 2017 20:15
I have been following the Dutch National Ballet for several years now and have seen some great shows such as Ted Brandsen's Mata Hari and Coppelia (see Brandsen's Masterpiece 14 Feb 2016 and Brandsen's Coppelia 12 Dec 2016) and Natalia Makarova's La Bayadère (see Dutch National Ballet's La Bayadere 14 Nov 2016), but never have I admired that company more than I did last night. New Moves is a gala of work by some of the company's most talented young choreographers. All of those pieces were good and several were outstanding. I cannot think of any other company that stages galas like New Moves every year and I struggle to think of another that would be capable of doing so.
New Moves is intended to close the Amsterdam ballet season just as the gala in September, which I attended in 2015 and 2016, opens it (see The best evening I have ever spent at the ballet 13 Sept 2015 and Dutch National Ballet's Opening Night Gala - Improving on Excellence 6 Sept 2016). As on opening night, there was "a swinging afterparty in the foyers of the theatre" where it would have been possible to meet the choreographers and dancers.
The programme began with Clotilde Tran-Phat's In Limbo. This was a work for 8 dancers choreographed to a score by Nicholas Robert Thayer. The title and programme notes suggest that the choreographer was inspired by the following words of Dante:
"Heaven, to keep its beauty, cast them out, but even Hell itself would not receive them for fear the damned might glory over them" (The Divine Comedy, Hell Canto 8).All but one of the dancers appeared in what seemed to be surgical gowns. That other dancer was in a tight fitting skin coloured costume. It ended with all the dancers in similar costumes and some words spoken in English which I believe to be those of John E Visitc. Having read the programme notes after seeing the piece and having once read Dante I guess the white gowns perhaps represented spirits trapped in a region from which they could not escape. It complemented the last work of the evening which was also about a sort of limbo.
Chanquito van Hoewe was the only choreographer with two works in the show. He is a talented singer-songwriter as well as an accomplished dancer and choreographer and he took to the stage with a guitar in his second piece. A woman just behind me in the auditorium whooped with a piercing ululation the moment he picked up the instrument. The first of his works was a solo for Daniel Robert Silva whom readers will remember was my outstanding young male dancer for 2016 (see The Terpsichore Titles: Outstanding Young Dancers of 2016 28 Dec 2016). It was called Echoes Through Time and the programme notes indicate why:
"As we all take our journey on this planet of lifeIt was danced beautifully by Silva. As he took his applause he appeared at one point quite overawed by the audience's response. He thrust his head no his hands as though he was about to burst into tears.
Life will always seem to change
Life will always die
Life will always be born
Life shall always seem to be cruel
Life shall always and forever be beautiful
As life travels through the echoes of time in our own minds."
Bruno da Rocha-Pereira, who, like Silva, is from Brazil danced Pages without End (which he had created in collaboration with Robin van Zutphen) with yet another compatriot. Priscylla Gallo. This was a beautiful duet to the music of Max Richter When she came back. Gallo is one of several hugely talented artists who began their careers in the Junior Company and whom I follow closely. It was one of my favourite performances of the evening.
The only ballet to require a dramaturge was Bastiaan Stoop's Brighter than Gold. It was also one of the few works for which the choreographer had commissioned costumes from a designer rather than relying on the company's wardrobe. Thr dramaturge, in this case, was Fabienne de Vegt and the designer Dieter de Cock. The work was a solo for Nathan Chaney dressed in a hoodie. Above him was a single light bulb which was explained as follows in the programme notes:
"In an abandoned windowThe music, Jon Hopkins's atmospheric Abandon Window, seems to have been the inspiration for the work.
Light vs darkness and vice versa a never ending battle.
Like the endless times she told me to leave, knowing I would stay. Left alone, the same own non-goodbye ...... Choosing between nothing and emptiness, either way, just me. My energy and my prode hoping that door will one day open once again."
Van Hoeve's second work, Hopeless Romantics, was a solo for the talented Canadian dancer Theo Duff Grant whom I first saw in Ballet Bubbles last year. Van Hoeve sang his own composition Shame on Me. In the programme notes, van Hoeve stated that he had created a new wave ballet for the "hopeless romantics" such as the characters in Swan Lake and Tristan and Isolde and perhaps even members of the audience. It was a very popular piece and earned deafening applause.
The first half was rounded off with Christopher Pawlicki-Sinclair Voyagers which drew its inspiration from the NASA probes through interstellar space carrying images of life on earth. This was an upbeat piece for eight dancers to Peter Gregson's Held and Time. The audience loved it and so did I.
During the interval, I met Remco van Grevenstein who had very kindly reviewed the company's Onegin for me earlier this year (see (see Onegin 2 April 2017) and another of my Dutch Facebook friends who teaches ballet in IJsselstein some 30 miles south of Amsterdam. My teacher friend was accompanied by two of her students. I asked whether I could attend one of their adult ballet classes next time I am in the Netherlands and was told that I could. I warned my friend that I was hopeless at pirouettes but I enjoy jumping to which one of the students offered to jump with me. One of my teachers refers to her teachers and students as a "family". I think that is right but I would go so far as to say that there is such a thing as a "worldwide adult ballet family".
Sebastian Galtier had created Step Addition to the music of René Aubry's Steppe for the Noverre workshop in Stuttgart some tears ago and had brought it back to Amsterdam to see how a Dutch audience would take to it. Danced beautifully by Daniel Carmargo, one of the company's principals, and Nancy Burer, one of my favourite young dancers, it went down a treat with the crowd. He said in the programme notes that he hoped that the audience reaction would give him inspiration to do some more. He should now have all the inspiration that he needs so we can look forward to more work from him.
As well as coordinating the whole event (see Principato moves to a Bigger Stage 30 May 2017), Cristiano Principato created, and danced in, my favourite work of the evening. He based his work on the music of Herny Purcell, our first great composer. This was a work for four dancers and his casting was impeccable. He chose Silva to accompany him in the first and last movements and Khayla Fitzpatrick and Fabio Rinieri to dance the others. Della Lo' Milano dressed Principato and Silva in 18th-century century wigs and jackets. They turned and travelled in complete unison. Fitzpatrick appeared in a mask which Rinieri lifted. In his programme notes Principato remarked:
"this ballet wants to explore the essence of being an artist and performer. It shows how we 'wear' a different identity on stage and how demanding it is to completely become another character and forget whatever has been going on in our personal life, the moment we take out mask off."I was reminded of the scene in Kenneth Tindall's Casanova where Casanova meets Bellino. The removal of the masks charts the development of trust as I described in Casanova Unmasked on 16 Feb 2017. Like Tindall, Principato shows what some critics call musicality. I prefer to use the term "sensitivity to music". Principato's teacher Ernst Meisner shows that quality in all his work as does Tindall. It is odd that Purcell's work is not used more often as it works well in ballet. José Limón used Purcell's music in The Moor's Pavane which Birmingham Royal Ballet dance so well (see Birmingham Royal Ballet brings Shakespeare to York 18 May 2016).
The most dramatic work of the evening was Thomas van Damme's Convergence which he created for Skyler Martin and Clara Superfine to music by Gorecki. Superfine is yet another dancer whose career I follow closely (see Thank You Ernst 17 March 2016). Through superb use of lighting reminiscent of cinema, he seemed to force the dancers together. They seemed to approach each other but not as lovers, more like predator and prey. It seemed like a gripping narrative though the programme notes suggest something gentler:
"1. Independent development of similar characters often associate with similarity of habits or environment.As he has mastered the technique of building suspense, I look forward to seeing whether van Damme will use that technique in his future work.
2. Moving toward union or uniformity."
Passing Shadows by the company's principal, Remi Wörtmeyer, was another gripping work though more for the choreography than the staging. There was an explosion of applause before the curtain began to fall as Wörtmeyer spun his fellow Australian Juliet Burnett of the Flanders Ballet inches from the floor. This was a work for four dancers to Rachmaninov's Cello Somata in G Minor Op 19 Slow. This was a work for four dancers the other two being Jingjing Mao and Clemens Fröhlich. Wörtmeyer is credited with painting the sets and designing the costumes though they were sourced from the company's wardrobe and props departments.
The finale was Milena Siderova's Withdrawn. Siderova had created Full Moon for Bart Engelen who is now with the Norwegian Ballet. In that work, Engelen struggled with a pillow to the Dance of the Knights from Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet which impressed me greatly when I first saw it (see The Dutch National Ballet Junior Company's best Performance yet 8 Feb 2015). I expected much from her next work and I think that we got it. Withdrawn was a work for 10 dancers to the music of Emilie Satt's Butterfly. It appears to have been inspired by a passage from Carol Becker's essay Thinking in Place, Art, Action and Cultural Protection of a dystopian future in which human social interaction is replaced by the interaction of electronic devices. Each of the dancers carried a torch which I guess was reminiscent of the screen of a mobile phone. They seemed to wander in a sort of limber rather like the lost souls in surgical gowns in Tran-Phat's In Limbo that launched the show.
The audience rose as one as soon as the curtain rose and we stayed on our feet through all the curtain calls. There were bouquets for all the dancers, the men as well as the women. And such original bouquets too. They seemed to be arranged around gladioli. We clapped until our palms were sore and cheered until we became hoarse and rightly so for we had seen something wonderful.
I would dearly have loved to have congratulated Principato and his team of dancers and choreographers in person at the party that followed the show. I know from the opening night galas of 2015 and 2016 that the company knows how to celebrate and the company had given me a voucher for the bar. But I had a plane to catch in the morning and it was already late. In order to be sure that I would make my flight, I had booked into an hotel near the airport. I found to my cost after last September's opening night gala that the underground and suburban railway services in Amsterdam close down very much earlier than those in London and that taxis fleece their fares mercilessly at night. Even Uber is expensive after dark. I could not afford to be caught out a second time.
Throwing a party for the audience on special occasions is a lovely idea for it cements the relationship between the company and its patrons. The Dutch National Ballet seems to cherish its patrons and they, in turn, support the company. Too often in England, I often get the feeling that the audience is almost an irrelevance. I suspect that may be because companies here rely so much on Arts Council England for their funding. It is different in Wales, or at least in Newport, where I detect a similar bond between Ballet Cymru and its audience to the one that subsists between the Dutch public and their National Ballet. That may be one of the reasons why I warm so much to the national ballet companies west of Offa's Dyke and east of the North Sea.