Tuesday, 17 April 2018

"In the Future" - Junior Company's Fifth Anniversary Performance

Standard YouTube Licence

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.
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 ....."
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.

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
All rights reserved
The colours red and green were also used by the brilliant Spanish choreographer Juanjo Arqués in Fingers in the Air.  Click on the link to the left to see the video as it is the best way to explain the work.  Lamps no more than an inch long were distributed to the audience and carried by the cast. One emitted red light and the other green.  At various stages of the performance groups of dancers competed with each other - three men against three women or a soloist against a duet - and the members of the audience were asked to vote on which performance they preferred, Celebrity Big Brother style using their lamps. On the first vote, the women won. The jubilant females punched the air and continued to dance as the dejected males slunk away.  Perhaps this was the beginning of a whole new art form - reality ballet.

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.


  1. Remco van Grevenstein17 April 2018 at 09:44

    This is an excellent review of a excellent show. I have seen it twice now (generale rehearsal and last sunday) and in both shows the people in the audience choose the same way for Fingers in the Air. I dont know what people have chosen in other cities but i would like to know that.

    With the crowdfunding action DNB had for this show i was able so see FITA grow from the first thoughts in Juanjo Arques mind to what we have seen last sunday. He is a great teacher and he takes the time to know you (me) and while i dont know anything about ballet like him or you Jane he takes everything i suggested serious and will take the time to explain why its good or why i wont work.

    It was for me a great experience to work with him and to know him.

    During one of the studio rehearsals we (the crowdfunders, teachers and the cast of the Junior Company) had some fun rehearsing the voting ideas and it was a bit of a chaos.

    And a little p.s. it was good to see you again, even if it was for just a couple of minutes. I what at the show with my mother so i could not stay and chat. Im sure we will see each other again soon.

    Keep making these great reviews because you do a better job on these then i do.

    1. Thanks Remco. I will be back in Amsterdam very soon. My ballet teacher Mark (who danced the lead gazelle in The Lion King at the Hague) suggested I should buy a house there. Not a bad idea!