Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Ernst Meisner’s Work with the Dutch National Ballet

The Dutch National Ballet
Photo Robin DePuy
(c) Dutch National Ballet 2014
Reproduced with kind permission of the Dutch 
National Ballet

In this interview, I asked Ernst Meisner what he has done since leaving the Royal Ballet. My questions and comments are in italics and Ernst Meisner’s replies are in plain text.

“Although you are a Dutch national and were trained at the National Ballet Academy of Amsterdam before coming to London we still like to think of you as one of our own and English audiences have a great deal of affection for you. How did you find working with continental choreographers such as Pastor and Millepied after leaving London?"

“I had a wonderful time at The Royal Ballet, and am still happy going back there anytime and seeing everyone. I learned so much there. I spent most of dancing career there and was lucky to work with some great choreographers. It was nice, however, also to have some other influences in the last years of my dancing career and to work with different choreographers. I think it is important for any artist to have as much variety as possible and always to broaden his or her horizons. And having the opportunity to work in different choreographic languages with makers like Pastor, Millepied, but also Ratmansky, Brandsen and Van Manen was a great challenge as a dancer and has also helped me a lot as a choreographer.”

You joined the Dutch National Ballet as a "grand sujet" which is a term with which British audiences are not familiar. I see from the National Ballet's website that it fits between ‘soloist’ and ‘coryphée”. Can you give me some examples of the roles that you would have danced?”

“I danced some nice roles like Hilarion in Giselle, pas de six in Rudi van Dantzig’s Swan Lake, 5 Tangos by Hans van Manen and Zuniga in Ted Brandsen’s Carmen. It was great working with Chris Wheeldon (whom I of course knew well from The Royal Ballet) and creating one of the Fates in his new Cinderella. I loved working with, and dancing in, ballets by Alexei Ratmansky.”

“I am intrigued by your remark that Ted Brandsen allowed you to take your passion for choreography a step further as you were already doing some wonderful things here. Would one of those opportunities have been ‘a posse ad esse’? It sounds exciting and I wish I could have seen it. Tell me a little bit about the ballet's structure, the score and whether anyone has any plans to stage it again.”

“’Posse’ and ‘Esse’ I made for the English National Ballet School by invitation of Michael Corder, who was then the Director and it was Monica Mason who kindly allowed me to do this in my last season at The Royal Ballet.

Ted Brandsen has given me choreographic and organizational opportunities at Dutch National Ballet right from the start. Already in my first season I choreographed a piece aimed at young children: De Kleine Grote Kist (“The Little Big Chest”), which has just been revived. And I have had some great choreographic opportunities since. Most recently, I had the chance to choreograph my first ballet Axiom of Choice for the main company of Dutch National Ballet as part of the Back to Bach programme in the 2014-15 season.”

“Did you have the idea of setting up a Junior Company within the National Ballet? If not, who did think of it first? Were there any models?”

“It has been a wish of Artistic Director Ted Brandsen for a long time to have a Junior Company to bridge the gap between school and company. While Christopher Powney was Director at the National Ballet Academy and placing the school on the international map, it seemed the right time to start such a young group. I was involved in setting the Junior Company up and it has been great to have the chance to develop the way we like this venture to go together with Ted and Christopher (now Jean-Yves Esquerre) during the years. We had a great start last year, with seven of the first group actually having joined the main company now.

Of course it is great to have the connection with the main company and this is also hugely important, as our young dancers also work with the main company in the large productions. This year they are part of Swan Lake and Cinderella. Apart from that they perform their own program in which they dance soloist roles and get a lot of experience. It gives our ballet masters, artistic staff and Ted Brandsen a chance to see the young dancers tackle bigger roles and give them a lot of stage experience which they wouldn’t get if they had just been in the corps de ballet. It was great seeing the dancers grow during the season and see how they gained confidence!”

“I noticed a considerable difference between the Junior Company’s opening night in November 2013 and their performance at the Linbury in May 2014 after they had spent several months touring the Netherlands and Spain.”

Ernst Meisner and I discussed the Junior Company in my next interview.

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