|Cristiano Principato with the author|
(c) 2016 Gita Mistry: all rights reserved
Reproduced by kind permission of the copyright owner
Although the opening night gala for the Dutch National Ballet was my main reason for coming to Amsterdam (see Dutch National Ballet's Opening Night Gala - Improving on Excellence 8 Sept 2016) it was not the only thing that I did there.
Immediately after the show there was a party at the Stopera where I met some of the outstanding young dancers I featured in Meet Ernst Meisner and his talented young dancers 6 Dec 2014). Many of them have been inducted into the main company while others have joined the Stuttgart and Hungarian and Norwegian national ballets. One of the most promising is Cristiano Principato from Novara in Northern Italy who is making his mark as a choreographer as well as a dancer. Also, he has already demonstrated his potential as an artistic director by staging the Gala for Alessia in June which I covered in From Italy with Love on 1 July 2016. Two of his works were performed in that show including Palagio which the Dutch National Ballet danced in its New Moves programme.
Eight of Cristiano's colleagues from the Junior Company appeared in Night Fall which is described as the first virtual reality ballet in the world. They included Lisanne Kottenhagen and Emilie Tassinari whom I featured in 2014 as well as Nancy Burer whose performance in Embers I described as one of the most beautiful that I had ever seen in The Dutch National Ballet Junior Company's best Performance yet 8 Feb 2015 and Priscylla Gallo, Clara Superfine, Melissa Chapski, Hannah Williams and Belle Beasley whom I saw in Ballet Bubbles on 14 Feb 2016. Each and every one of those young dancers is special and I cherish them dearly. In Night Fall, those eight young dancers supported the magnificent Anna Tsygankova who had danced Cinderella brilliantly at the Coliseum last year (see Wheeldon's Cinderella 13 July 2015) and Artur Shesterikov who received the Alexandra Radius prize at the gala.
I had tried to follow the instructions on the How Can I Watch the Night Fall page of the Dutch National Ballet's website but did not get very far (see Looking forward to the Gala and trying to get the Night Fall Video to work 31 Aug 2016). In response to that blog post the company advised my companion and me to try the Virtual Reality cinema next to Amsterdam Central Station which we did. Had I seen Night Fall on the stage I would have loved it. As a ballet it could not be faulted. However, as a technology, virtual reality still has a way to go.
The VR Cinema turned out not to be a cinema at all in the conventional sense but a bar with some side rooms equipped with a number of revolving chairs to which vizor like goggles and headsets were attached. Patrons were invited to don those items and relax in the chairs. As I had to remove my headset several times I noticed the heads of my fellow patrons lolling around like babies and gyrating in their chairs like dynamos. We were behind a plate glass picture window in full view of the public. No doubt a source of considerably amusement to the neighbourhood.
We were charged 12.50 euros each for a choice of films each of which lasted about 30 minutes. Drinks were expensive too and the cinema would only take cards for payment. I chose "Documentaries" which featured polar bears in the Arctic, a French artist who made a massive tableau of a chap with a John Cleese style silly walk and a trendy couple in he media making excuses to a fake TV crew for not taking care of a Syrian refugee after they had gone on record as saying that the migration crisis was everybody's problem and not just the authorities'. I had all sorts of problems with my goggles. First, they took a long time to start. When they did start they offered me the "Scary" programme and not "Documentaries" which I had ordered. Half way through the show the film cut out altogether. When it restarted the picture was so blurred that I could not recognize any of the dancers even though I know them all very well. Altogether, a bit of a swizz.
Having said that I do think there is a place for VR in ballet which I shall probably discuss in another blog post and there are better technologies. While waiting for me to finish my video, my colleague was invited to try the goggles of a VR equipment supplier. She found the quality of that company's product (which happened to be British) to be greatly superior.
One of the delights of Amsterdam are the free lunch time concerts that are given in the small auditorium of the Concertgebouw most Wednesdays. We were treated to a programme of Ravel, Piazzolla and Milhaud by the Colori Ensemble on 7 Sept. My favourite was Piazzolla's Verano porteno which was a percussion solo by Arjan Jongsma. Tickets are distributed at 11:30 on a first come first served basis and there was already a bit of a queue by 10:40 when we arrived. The auditorium can hold about 440 persons.
We did a lot in those three days without getting round to the Rijksmuseum or indeed any of the other art galleries. There is so much to see in Amsterdam and the Night Watch should still be there the next time we call.