Thursday, 7 October 2021


7th Symphony
Author Hans Gerritsen © 2021 Dutch National Ballet, All rights reserved

Dutch National Ballet  Toer  Streamed from the Music Theatre, Amsterdam, 25 Sept 2021, 19:15  and repeated 6 Oct 2021, 19:00

Toer is a double bill in honour of the celebrated choreographer, artist, designer and former dancer, Toer van Schayk.  It consists of two of his ballets: Lucifer Studies and 7th Symphony    Lucifer Studies is a new work which was premiered on 14 Sept 2021.  7th Symphony is described by the programme as one of van Schayk's most successful ballets.  He created it in 1986 and he was awarded the choreography prize of the Dutch Association of Theatre and Concert Hall Directors for the work within a year.   The programme was streamed over the internet from the Amsterdam Music Theatre on 25 Sept and repeated last night,   I watched both transmissions.

Both works were new to me.   They are very different.  The first contains studies that were intended to form part of a full-length ballet based on Vondel's Lucifer.   Work on the ballet has been interrupted by the pandemic but Van Schayk rightly considered that the studies were worth showing. The second piece is based on Beethoven's 7th symphony.   That symphony is one of Beethoven's most famous compositions.  Contrary to the opinion of an eminent ballet critic who really ought to know better that Beethoven is undanceable, the 7th symphony was crying out to be danced and van Schayk has choreographed it beautifully.  While I had to work hard to digest Joep Frannsens's Echoes for Lucifer Studies I could barely sit still and keep silent as the orchestra romped through Beethoven's exuberant work.

I like to think that I am reasonably well-read but I have to confess that until I saw Lucifer Studies I had never heard of Vondel or his play and I fear that few of my fellow Anglophones could claim otherwise.  There is a beautiful open space in the centre of Amsterdam known as Vondel Park and I wonder whether it was named after him.  Joost van den Vondel lived from 1587 to 1689 which encompassed the life of our great poet, John Milton, who lived from 1608 to 1674. I have now had a chance to acquaint myself with Lucifer. Even in translation, Lucifer is impressive and its subject matter is the same as Paradise Lost.  I know that poem well perhaps because I attended the same secondary school as Milton.  I am told by one of his former classmates that Matthew Rowe attended that school too.  Fragments of Milton's verse flashed through my mind as I watched the ballet. From the way the orchestra played, I sensed that Rowe was also inspired by Milton too and that he had communicated that inspiration to each and every musician.

Lucifer Studies
Author Hans Gerritsen © 2021 Dutch National Ballet, All rights reserved

Lucifer Studies had an all-male cast. As I suspect that each of the studies was intended to be danced by a principal or soloist in the full-length work, van Shayk selected some of the company's ablest young dancers.   They included Timothy van Poucke who has enjoyed a meteoric rise in the company winning the Radius prize within a very short time of graduating from the Junior Company.   Also in the piece was Martin ten Kortenaar whom I featured in 2014.   Others I recognized were Daniel Robert Silva, Nathan Brhane and Giovanni Princic.  That is not a complete list because I cannot recover the cast list for 25 Sept from the company's website.   Each and every one of those excellent young men impressed me greatly. 

Van Shayk designed the sets and costumes for Lucifer Studies.   The most striking feature of the costumes was that each of the dancers wore a differently coloured right sleeve.   Sometimes the colours of those sleeves were projected onto the backdrop focusing the audience's attention on the solo or duet in question.

Though Lucifer Studies lasts no more than 27 minutes it is a very absorbing work.   I had to watch it twice and discuss it with a dancer friend to get the measure of it.   After the world emerges from the pandemic I fervently hope that resources will be found to enable van Schayk to finish the full-length work.

Young Gyu Choi and Nancy Burer
Author Hans Gerritsen
© 2021 Dutch National Ballet: all rights reserved

It is not hard to see why 7th Symphony was an immediate success.  Van Schayk caught the exuberance of the score and amplified it.   The cast was split into two groups lettered "A" and "B".   I regret that I did not record the names of all the dancers on 25 Sept because I thought that the cast list would be available with the repeat   I remember that I admired the performances of Artur Shesterikov and Floor Eimers but there were many others some of whom I did not recognize.   Everyone danced well in that show and I congratulate each and every one of them.   Van Schayk designed the sets and costumes. The women's dresses must have been a joy to wear. 

Of all the online shows that I have seen since the start of the pandemic, this double bill was one of my favourites.  It was a fitting tribute to an extraordinary talent who celebrated his 85th birthday last month.

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