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One of the highlights of the Dutch National Ballet's opening night gala in 2015 was an extract from Narnia, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe which was performed by Ernst Meisner's Junior Company and Marco Gerris's ISH Dance Collective. In The Best Evening I have ever spent in the Ballet 13 Sept 2015 I wrote:
"When we returned to the auditorium images of falling snow were projected on to the stage. Before the house lights dimmed two dancers dressed as lions were in the auditorium. Then I recognized some of the beautiful young dancers from the Junior Company on stage. The beat was compelling. The dance an amalgam of ballet and hip hop. It was Narnia, the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by Ernst Mesiner and Marco Gerris. A collaboration between the Junior Company and ISH Dance Collective. That was the highlight of the show for me. When Ernst visited the London Ballet Circle he mentioned the possibility of bringing it to the UK. It would be wonderful if that were ever to happen. Particularly if it could be brought to Leeds or Manchester."Last month I was lucky enough to meet Marco Gerris after the Junior Company's fifth anniversary show. I told him how much I had enjoyed the extract of Narnia, The Lion, the Witch and The Wardrobe that I had seen at the gala. I mentioned my review including including the last sentence.
Marco asked about Leeds and Manchester so I told him about Northern Ballet, Phoenix Dance Theatre, the Northern School of Contemporary Dance, the Centre for Advanced Training and the Arts Council's plans to make Leeds a centre of excellence for dance. I also mentioned The Lowry and its CAT, Northern Ballet School, Manchester City Ballet, our theatres and our city's links with English National Ballet, I hope to have planted a seed that may one day lead to our seeing Marco's work in this country. I am aware that the Dutch National Ballet has been in touch with the Stanley and Audrey Burton Theatre but nothing has come of it so far.
Unfortunately, we are unlikely ever to see Narnia again. Apparently, the company was unable to obtain the rights it needed to re-stage Narnia (see Narnia becomes Grimm). However, Ernst and Marco have created a new ballet called Grimm which is touring the Netherlands with great success. According to the Dutch National Ballet's website:
"GRIMM is about two boys who find themselves in a fantasy world, where they meet Red Riding Hood and the wolf, the seven dwarves, Rapunzel, Snow White, the witch, Cinderella and other fairytale characters in succession. They get mixed up in exciting adventures, in which all sorts of elements from well-known fairytales are jumbled up in a lively parade of fairytale characters. As in all fairytales, a big role is played by love and jealousy, friendship, tyranny, intrigues and the battle between good and evil."There is a British connection in that the score was contributed by Scanner (Robin Rimbaud). Unfortunately, the tour ends this week so I will be unable to see the collaboration this time but I will certainly catch future ones.
Although it has nothing whatsoever to do with ballet, I should mention that the BBC has started to broadcast a series of three programmes by Misha Glennie called The Invention of the Netherlands. The first episode was about the low countries' early history and the Dutch Republic's war of independence against Spain. It jolted me into thinking just how little I know of the country. I have made scores of visits to Amsterdam over the years for business or pleasure but save for a weekend in Rotterdam with a lawyer friend who drove me around South Holland including Oudewater where, as in Pendle, they had witch trials I had never been anywhere else.
I was reminded by the programme of the Netherlands' diversity. In Frisia, for example, the locals speak a language that is even closer to English than Dutch. In Baarle-Nassau in Brabant there are pockets of Belgium that are surrounded by Dutch territory (some just a few square yards in size) and in some places pockets of the Netherlands within Belgian enclaves on Dutch soil. I think this may be the year for a coach or motoring holiday of one of our nearest neighbours.