Wednesday, 25 November 2020

So what is the Dutch Style?

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That was a question that I put to Ernst Meisner in the Q&A following his interview by Graham Watts in the London Ballet Circle's Zoom call last night.  I asked Ernst that question because the Dutch National Ballet will perform a mixed bill entitled The Dutch School between 12 and 26 June 2021 to which he is one of the contributors.  Thinking also of Balanchine's Jewels in which emeralds were attributed to the French, rubies to the Americans and diamonds to the Russians, I wondered what would be the Dutch jewel if Mr B could plan a sequel.

Ernst replied "simplicity" when Graham Watts read out my question.  That is certainly true of Embers and No Time before Time, two of the most beautiful short pieces that have ever been created for the stage.  It is quite impossible to watch either of those works dry-eyed.  But what about the others?  Van Dantzig, van Manen, van Schayk, Ochoa and Brandsen?  To name just a few?  "Simplicity" is not the first word that comes to my mind when contemplating Mata Hari or In the Future.

Yet there is undoubtedly a quality of Dutch dance that makes it recognizable anywhere and that is its fluidity. That is the characteristic that I think all the works that I have seen in Amsterdam have in common.  It is the je ne sais quoi of Embers and No Time that tugs at my emotions. But it is the one quality that I think the maker of abstract historical ballets shares with the creator of moving architecture.  I might also add another word that is close to fluidity, namely fluency.

Don't all successful works of choreography have that quality? Many will ask.  Yes, but in the same way as all male dancers jump spectacularly but perhaps not quite in the same way as the Russians.  Similarly, there is a certain lyrical softness to say Lise's solo as she is locked up with the sheaves of corn that all dancers display but perhaps not to the same extent which perhaps explains why I have never seen Ashton performed outside England quite as well as his work is danced here. 

If I were thinking of awarding the Dutch a jewel I think it would be mercury, the only metal that exists as a liquid at room temperature.  Not a gem that can be worn on a ring or in the hair but something equally rare, just as beautiful and much more elusive.

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