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Dutch National Ballet Junior Company In the Future 15 April 2018, 19:30 Stadsschouwburg, Amsterdam
In the Future is a triple bill to celebrate the 5th anniversary of the Dutch National Ballet's Junior Company. It takes its title from Hans van Manen's masterpiece of the same name which in turn takes its name from David Byrne's setting of his own words:
"In the future everyone will have the same haircut and the same clothes.This is a visually arresting but also a very witty piece. It opens to a repetitive, pulsating score suggesting an industrial process. The dancers enter the stage in pairs coalesce into larger groups then separate into smaller ones again. Each and every movement in completely synchronized just like the equipment and components on an assembly line.
In the future everyone will be very fat from the starchy diet.
In the future everyone will be very thin from not having enough to eat.
In the future it will be next to impossible to tell girls from boys, even in bed ....."
Van Manen created In the Future in 1986 for the Scarpino Ballet of Rotterdam but it could have been tailored for the Junior Company. It requires 12 very special dancers with very sharp minds and very agile bodies. The young men and women who performed at the Stadsschouwburg on Sunday night are among the best on the planet. Their artistic coordinator, Ernst Meisner, scored the world looking for them at competitions like the Prix de Lausanne and the Youth America Grand Prix and elsewhere. Watching those artists was a mesmerizing, awe-inspiring experience that swept the audience to their feet.
Of the towering choreographic geniuses of my youth - Ashton, Balanchine, Béjart, Cranko, MacMillan, Petit - van Manen is the only one left and he is still busy. He is one of the reasons why the Dutch National Ballet is special. He symbolizes its willingness to innovate and thereby renew itself. Van Manen's muse is the great ballerina, Igone de Jongh, and she was the Junior Company's ballet master for Sunday's performance. In the trailer. Ode to the Master, de Jongh and van Mann dance together. There could have been no stronger collaboration for this work.
|© 2018 Jane Elizabeth Lambert|
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Towards the end of the work the lights went down. The dancers continued to dance but all that was visible was the movement of the reds and greens just like fireflies. The effect was magical and captivating especially when members of the audience lit their lamps too
I discussed the work with the choreographer after the show. "What if the audience had chosen the men in the first vote?" I asked. "The audience had been guided" Juanjo added. "Just like we were in the Brexit referendum," I suggested, "or the Americans who voted for Donald Trump?" The choreographer did not deny the possibility of a political dimension to his work though I got the impression he was more comfortable discussing the analogy with reality TV where the viewers are consumers.
Though the Dutch National Ballet is innovative it is also strongly rooted in a tradition and looks beyond Petipa to Bournonville. The Junior Company's homage to that tradition was the Pas de Six and Tarantella from Napoli. Though notionally set in Italy Napoli is associated primarily with the Royal Danish Ballet - much in the same way as Ashton's La Fille mal gardée is quintessentially English even though it is supposed to be located in pre-revolutionary France. In their swirling skirts the women were enchanting. The men in their breeches and white shirts and stockings were so dashing. This is a feel good ballet if ever there was. Coached by Ernst Meisner and Caroline Sayo Iura the dancers were magnificent.
I cannot think of a better choice of work than those three ballets to show off the qualities of the Dutch National Ballet. It is that combination of innovation and classicism that distinguishes that company from the others. From time to time representatives of the company thank me for my support. "But I don't think I do" I explain "other than by sitting in the audience and being one of the company's Friends." I am not, alas, an industrialist or aristocrat who could donate what I would like to give and that company deserves. All I can do is cross the North Sea to see its shows whenever I can. Why wouldn't I? This company has a je ne sais quoi that makes it great. I say that in all seriousness and with all sincerity.