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As in previous years I attended the opening night gala of the Dutch National Ballet on Tuesday night at the Music Theatre in Amsterdam. The gala is not just a ballet performance. It is also a party. Unlimited wine, beer, soft drinks and nibbles are included in the ticket price. They are on offer from the moment the theatre opens until well after midnight It is a very grand occasion with the gentlemen in dinner jackets and in at least one case shoes that resembled Delft china and the ladies in the most gorgeous evening attire. The gala which takes place during the first few days of September follows a pattern. The evening opens with a Grand Défilé, a march of the whole company to the polonaise from the Sleeping Beauty starting with the youngest students at the National Ballet Academy and finishing with the principals. The women sre in dazzling white classical tutus and the men in dashing tunics. Next, Ted Brandsen, the director, makes a speech which in previous years has been delivered partly in English. There then follows extracts from the current repertoire or works staged specially for the occasion. There is always a work by Hans van Manen, usually works by Rudi van Dantzig and Toer van Schayk and often ballets by the company's resident choreographers such as David Dawson, Jianjo Arques or Ernst Meisner. Also at the gala, the Alexandra Radius prize is presented by the great ballerina herself to the dancer of the year, This year's gala seemed to be shorter than previous years' with only 6 pieces all but one of which had some connection with George Balanchine. Guest artists Xander Parish and Maria Khoreva danced the Diamonds pas de deux from Balanchine's Jewels which was my favourite of the evening. Other works included a pas de deux for Conrad and Medora from which had been created by Balanchine's teacher for his students , van Manen's Trois Gnossiennes, and Balanchine's Symphony in Three Movements and Who Cares? Edo Wijnen won this year's Radius prize. A video of his work over the year shows that he was a very worthy winner. The party was excellent, especially after the dancers joined the audience in the celebrations. The company's press officer, Richard Heideman, has sent me some lovely photos of the evening which he has licensed me to post to my blog. Unfortunately he has not licensed me to upload them anywhere else. Over the next week or so I plan to exhibit them all. I start today with a glorious photo of Xander Parish and Maria Khoreva.