Saturday, 10 November 2018


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Dutch National Ballet Giselle Theater Heerlen 9 Nov 2018, 19:30

I overheard the word "mooie" a lot in snatches of conversation in the bar of Theater Heerlen during the interval and after the show last night so I looked it up. I found that it means "beautiful".  Tonight's performance of Giselle by the Dutch National Ballet was indeed beautiful but it was also so much more.  It was outstanding.  It was one of the best performances of that ballet that I have ever seen and I have attended a lot of performances of Giselle in my 50 years of regular ballet going. I have seen some of the world's best dancers and many of the world's greatest companies.  The rest of the audience was aware of something special for we rose to our feet at the curtain call as one and clapped until our palms were raw.

"So what was so special about this performance?" I hear you ask.  I don't know where to begin.  There was so much that impressed me.

Obviously, there were two excellent principals in the lead roles:  Qian Liu as Giselle and Young Gyu Choi as Albrecht.  She was a perfect Giselle for she balanced virtuosity with charm.  She communicated winsomeness and innocence in the early scenes of act I, passion and despair in the mad scene and an ethereal quality in the second act.  Young Gyu Choi is now my favourite Albrecht of all time and I have seen Nureyev and Acosta in that role.  He had previously impressed me with his strength and athleticism. Yesterday he showed he could act as well.

The other great female role in this ballet is the Queen of the Wilis.   Maria Chugai was a formidable Myrtha, one of the most chilling but also one of the most elegant I have ever seen. I was on tenterhooks as she drew back from Albrecht and Giselle their arms splayed in the form of a cross even though I knew how the story ends.

Dario Elia came to my attention for the first time yesterday with his portrayal of Hilarion.  In a Q and A after a talk by Rachael Beaujean just before the show, I suggested that Hilarion had a very raw deal compared to Albrecht.  He may have been jealous, even a bit stupid, but he was not the one to deceive two women.  Did he really deserve to die?   Beaujean agreed with me "but then the world's unfair", she observed.  I think Elia communicated the character of the gamekeeper and disappointed suitor well.  I shall follow his career with interest.

There were many other good performances last night. It is probably unfair to single any of them out for special praise.  But I cannot ignore the peasant pas de quatre and in particular the powerful performances of Sho Yamada and Daniel Silva.  Yamada first impressed me when he partnered Michaela DePrince the first time I saw the Junior Company at the Staddshouwburg in 2013 (see The Junior Company of the Dutch National Ballet - Stadsshouwburg Amsterdam 24 Nov 2013 25 Nov 2013) and he impressed me again as Don Basilio earlier this year (see A Day of Superlatives - Dutch National Ballet's Don Quixote 1 March 2018).  I have been a fan of Silva ever since he opened No Time Before Time in Ballet Bubbles at the Meervaart on my birthday in 2016.  He impressed me again later in that year with his bronze idol in La BayadèreI must also congratulate their partners Salome Leverashvili and Emanouela Merdjanova for they were impressive too. In Merdjanova's case, she impressed me again as Moyna in act II.

Finally, I must commend the corps and Beaujean and Ricardo Bustamente's deployment of them in both acts.  I particularly liked the circling of the Wilis which was mesmeric.  Combined with Toer van Schayk's backdrop of a gorge in the Rhine and James Ingalls's lighting they were the spookiest but also the most realistic depictions of the tormented vengeful spirits I have ever seen.

I saw that performance, not in Amsterdam or some other major city, but in Heerlen, a town in the southeast Netherlands approximately the same size as Doncaster. Like Doncaster, Heerlen had once been a mining town and there was much about the landscape, the style of the buildings and many other things that reminded me of South Yorkshire.  One thing in particular that Heerlen has in common with Doncaster is a fine repertory theatre which no doubt played a part in the town's regeneration after the collieries closed much in the way that the CAST did in Doncaster. The Heerlen theatre is somewhat bigger than the CAST but it looks and feels very similar.

I see a lot of the Dutch National Ballet. This is my fourth visit to the Netherlands this year and I am coming back on the 22 Dec to see Cinderella.  Usually, I see them in Amsterdam though I have also seen them at the Coliseum in London.  This is the first time that I have seen the Dutch National Ballet on tour in its own country. That is something that other great companies like the Royal Ballet hardly ever do.  I chose to see it in Heerlen for two reasons.  First, it was very good value - €39 for one of the best seats in the stalls - a fraction of what I paid on tickets, rail fares and refreshments to see La Bayadere last week in Covent Garden last week even after taking my return airfare, airport parking and an overnight stay in Heerlen into account.  Secondly, and much more importantly, it treats its provincial audiences with exactly the same respect as it does its metropolitan ones.  How many other of the world's great ballet companies  around the world can say the same?

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