What defines the Dutch school of ballet is not centuries of history or a distinctive training style, but an enviable choreographic lineage. Born in the 20th century with the likes of Hans van Manen, it has been thoughtfully sustained in recent years by Dutch National Ballet, which celebrates it this winter with “Made in Amsterdam”.
Its two programmes put creativity to the fore, with eight ballets either new or made in the past 12 years. The first evening was distinctly Dutch in mood and aesthetics, culminating in a masterpiece by Van Manen, Frank Bridge Variations. His cerebral musicality and deliberate sense of architecture, with mature relationships that simmer just below the abstract surface, have shaped Dutch ballet, and younger choreographers are now building on them.
Juanjo Arqués, who danced with the company until 2012, opened the proceedings with a breakthrough, Homo Ludens. In this creation, he plays abstract games with an urgent flute concerto by French composer Marc-André Dalbavie. In the lead role, the virtuosic Young Gyu Choi directed the flautist (Sarah Ouakrat) and five couples like a puppet master — before turning into a puppet himself. The dancers, appearing and disappearing on swings, engaged in a taut dialogue with the orchestra, and it is encouraging to see choreographers tackling complex music by living composers.
Ernst Meisner, a former Dutch soloist with the Royal Ballet in London, modelled his own creation, In Transit, after an eponymous score by Amsterdam-based composer Joey Roukens, full of texture and variety. The interaction between group and individuals was correspondingly sophisticated, and showed promising craft on Meisner’s part.
The second “Made in Amsterdam” programme focused on Dutch National Ballet’s collaborations with international choreographers. Alexei Ratmansky’s Souvenir d’un lieu cher, a miniature gem infused with Russian soul, was revived for the first time since 2012. Christopher Wheeldon’s Concerto Concordia tackled Poulenc’s Concerto for two pianos and orchestra, which has proved very popular with choreographers recently. The central pas de deux, danced by Anna Ol and Jozef Varga, is a set-piece of melting elegance, but the work as a whole doesn’t erase the memory of Liam Scarlett’s attempt, Asphodel Meadows.
David Dawson, one of Dutch National Ballet’s resident choreographers, provided the third creation of the weekend. Citizen Nowhere, loosely inspired by The Little Prince, is a 23-minute solo for Edo Wijnen, who spun his way through Dawson’s circular choreography with astonishing élan. Both the piece and its commissioned score by Szymon Brzóska lacked a strong dramatic arc, however.
Krzysztof Pastor’s Moving Rooms, a work of sustained sculptural tension danced in constantly moving squares of light, completed the bill. The Schnittke and Górecki concertos selected by Pastor completed a musical tour d’horizon over the two programmes, refreshing for its quality and vividly contrasted by the orchestra. It’s a welcome move on the part of Dutch National Ballet, with choreography that is richer for it.
To March 4, operaballet.nl
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