|Le Grand Défilé|
Photo Michel Schnater
(C) 2016 Dutch National Ballet: All rights reserved
Licensed by kind permission of Richard Heideman
Dutch National Ballet, Gala, Stopera, 7 Sept 2016
Nothing gives a better impression of the strength of the Dutch National Ballet and the Dutch National Ballet Academy than the Grand Défilé or big parade that begins the gala that opens the Amsterdam ballet season. As the curtain rises the first year students of the Academy present themselves to the audience. The girls are in light blue leotards and the boys in white t-shirts. They give way to the second year and so on until the Junior Company appear. They in turn give way to the élèves who are succeeded by the corps and each and every other rank in the company until the ballerinas and premiers danseurs nobles. All to the strains of the polonaise from Tchaikovsky's The Sleeping Beauty.
Compared to the Paris Opera Ballet, the Royal Danish Ballet and the Mariinsky the Dutch National Ballet is very new. It will celebrate its 70th anniversary next year. But it has achieved much in its 69 years as the timeline on the company's website indicates. In his speech at last year's gala Ted Brandsen remarked that there had been no balletic tradition in the Netherlands before 1947 (see The best evening I have ever spent at the ballet 13 Sept 2015). The Dutch can and do take enormous pride in those achievements.
Of course, like all great companies the Dutch National Ballet is international. Artists of many nationalities have contributed to its success including some from our country. Wayne Eagling was the company's artistic director between 1991 and 2003. David Dawson is one of its associate artists. Matthew Rowe is, its director of music and principal conductor. Judy Maelor Thomas, who assisted Ted Brandsen with the choreography of the Grand Défilé, is the company's ballet mistress. More than a few of the dancers trained at the Royal Ballet School including its great ballerina, Igone de Jongh and the artistic coordinator of the Junior Company, Ernst Meisner.
The links between the Netherlands and the United Kingdom go back a very long way. David Bintley mentions the tour of the Vic-Wells Ballet to the Netherlands on the eve of the German invasion in Dancing in the Blitz: How World War II made British Ballet. The links are not all one way. Meisner, for example, was a very popular dancer at the Royal Ballet. He continues to contribute to British ballet through the New English Ballet Theatre and the Royal Ballet School summer programme. According to Bintley, the flower throw which I had always regarded as a quintessentially English tradition was invented by the Dutch who showered the Vic-Wells dancers with flowers on their visit in 1940.
The company's press officer, Richard Heideman, has sent me some lovely pictures of the gala of which this is only the first. My next post will be on the extract from La Bayadere.