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Dutch National Ballet Requirem Music Theatre (Stopera) Amsterdam, 27 Feb 2019, 20:15
David Dawson's Requiem is a double bill of two of that choreographer's recent works: Citizen Nowhere which was first staged in 2017 and Requiem which was premiered on 12 Feb 2019. These are formidable works which were performed to a packed house that gave them a standing ovation.
The first of those works was Citizen Nowhere. I am not sure whether to describe it as a solo or a duet. There was only one artist on stage, namely Joseph Massarelli but an outside image of Sasha Mukhamedov appeared on screen and there was certainly a dialogue between Massarelli and the screen throughout the show. According to the programme notes, one of Dawson's sources of inspiration was Antoine de Saint-Exupéry Le Petit Prince. However, in the weeks before my nation is dragged with at least half our population including me kicking and screaming out of the European Union against our will, I could not occlude from my mind the shameful speech of our Prime Minister to the 2016 Tory party conference that a citizen of the world is a citizen of nowhere. The programme hints that that speech may have been in the choreographer's mind:
"For Dawson, an Englishman by birth who has been living and working in Europe for a long time, this famous story has gained extra meaning because of some of the political issues the world faces today due to nationalism, the building of walls, and the displacement of people who find themselves far from home."It was clear from the guffaw that May's speech was in the mind of my audience when I invited my audience for my talk on developments on English law at C5's Pharma & Biotech Patent Litigation to follow we down to the Stopera to see this double bill by one of the world's greatest dance companies.
Though a very short work Citizen Nowhere was demanding both for artist and audience. Massarelli, stripped to the waist, circled the stage like a colt stallion. Powerful but constrained by the screen much like Winston Smith in Orwell's 1984. On to the screen bounced letters which gathered and were swept away like autumn leaves. Occasionally quotations from Saint-Exupery's book appeared like "One sees clearly only with the heart. The essential is invisible to the eye" from Fox. "Why in English?" I asked myself. If people here read Saint-Exupery at all it would be in Dutch or perhaps in the original French which most schoolchildren in the Netherlands master at the same time as they as they study English and German. Be that as it may, it was spectacular and breathtaking as was Szymon Brzóska's score with Matthew Rowe's interpretation. Congratulations to Altin Kaftira who made the film and indeed all who collaborated on this multidimensional and absorbing creation.
Requiem is more than a work of art. It is an act of worship. Surprisingly, perhaps, in this day and age. Living, as I do, close to Huddersfield with its famous Choral, I related immediately to this work. Especially to the Kyrie and Agnus Dei. This is a choral work upon which I felt dance was but a commentary. I loved Gavin Bryars's music and even though one of my very, very, very, very special and very favourite ballerinas, Mukhamedov, was performing ethereally before my eyes I felt them closing as I focused on the sound. "How could I do that?" I kept saying to myself for it was not just Mukhamedov that I was missing but also other favourites such as Floor Eimers, Yuanyuan Zhang, Riho Sakamoto, Nancy Burer, Clara Superfine, Thomas van Damme and Nathan Brhane whose careers I follow closely and whom I greatly admire. There was just so much to see, so much to hear, so much for intellect and spirit to absorb that I felt overwhelmed. This is a work that requires multiple visits to understand and, alas, this is my only opportunity to see it this season.
This double bill is the sort of programme that makes the Dutch National Ballet special. Perhaps Hampson's Scottish Ballet could do it too but I can think of few other companies in the world who would do it justice and even fewer audiences who would value it as much as those in the Stopera who stood and cheered.