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It does not seem like five years ago since I saw the first performance of the Dutch National Ballet's Junior Company at the Stadsschouwburg theatre in Amsterdam. I had come to Amsterdam to see the young African-American dancer Michaela DePrince about whom I had heard a lot. When I saw her with Sho Yamada in a pas de deux from Diana and Actaeon I described her as "quite simply the most exciting dancer I have seen for quite a while". But she was not the only one to impress me. Sho Yamada who partnered her in that piece was also a thrill to watch and so in different ways were all the others. DePrince rose very quickly through the Dutch National Ballet's ranks. She entered the main company as an eleve after only a year with the Juniors. She was elevated very quickly to coryphee, grand sujet and soloist. She has written books, given masterclasses, appeared as a guest artist for companies around the world. Still in her early twenties she is probably one of the best known names in ballet. But Yamada has risen quickly too. The last time I was in Amsterdam at the end of February he danced Don Basilio in the company's Don Quixote and his Kitri was his Junior Company contemporary, Riho Sakamoto. Other contemporaries are making their mark in choreography. Cristianp Principato who entered the Junior Company in 2014 managed the whole New Moves sharing of the company's latest choreography. As I have never studied Dutch I can only make out the gist of a speech or conversation but I think the company's director, Red Brandsen, attributed the success of those artists to their time in the Junior Company in an opening speech that he delivered before the Junior Company's 5th anniversary show. If I am right, Brandsen described the Junior Company as a bridge between school and company allowing the young dancer space and time to mature. The fifth anniversary performance took place on Sunday, 15 April at the Staddschouwburg which is where I saw the company for the first time nearly 5 years ago. It is a beautiful theatre which was the National Ballet and Opera companies' home before they moved to the Stopera. The company presented a triple bill starting with extracts from Bournonville's Napoli, continuing with a new work by Juanjo Arques called Fingers in the Air for which members of the audience and cast were issued with miniature red and green torches with which we were asked to vote at various times Big Brother style and finishing off with Hans van Manen's In the Future which was a very witty but somewhat alarming piece. I have reviewed the show in Terpsichore if anyone wants to read it. During the second interval Ted Brandsen spotted me and came over to chat. He very kindly invited me to the after-show party where I was able to discuss Arques's Fingers with their creator. I asked him what would have happened had the votes gone the other way at which he smiled and assured me that was unlikely because he was able to regulate audience reaction. "Sounds a bit like Cambridge Analytica" I ventured. Again he smiled and admitted that his work might have a political dimension. I couldn't stay long as I had a flight back to Leeds early the next morning but I introduced myself to the 12 dancers who had impressed me considerably with their virtuosity and I made the acquaintance of Macro Gerris, the hip hop choreographer who had collaborated with Ernst Meisner very successfully on Narnia - The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe some years ago and who appears to have repeated that success in is latest collaboration with Meisner based on Grimms' Fairy Tales. Every show by the Junior Company has been good but I think last Sunday's was the company''s best yet. The original company has done very well but I suspect that we can expect even greater things from this season's cohort over the next few years.
On the 28 June 2016 young dancers from the Dutch National Ballet, La Scala, the Vienna State Ballet and the Jas Art Ballet will perform in a benefit gala at the Silvio Pellico Theatre in Trecate near Novara in North West Italy to raise funds for the Italian charity Casa Alessia to carry out reconstruction work at Bujumbura in Burundi. The gala will start with a solo called Tempo which the talented young Italian dancer and choreographer, Cristiano Principato, has created for himself. It will continue with extracts from Swan Lake, Coppelia, The Pharaoh's Daughter and The Sleeping Beauty as well several new works including Palladio which Principato has choreographed for the Dutch National Ballet. The performance will end with Ernst Meisner's Embers which readers may remember from last year's performance by the Junior Company at Covent Garden. It is one of the most beautiful short ballets that I have ever seen. The charity was founded in memory of a young Italian woman called Alessia Mairati who died in a plane crash on her gap year in Ecuador. She had been shocked by the poverty that she seen in Latin America and vowed to do something about it on her return. Alas she was killed before she could fulfil her promise but her father set up the foundation to do the sort of work that she would have done had she lived. Principato's family was very close to Alessia's and they were affected by her death more than most. Every year a concert is held in Novara to raise money for the charity. Principato had always wanted to take part but was not allowed to do so until after he had left ballet school. Now that he has established himself in the Dutch National Ballet he has been able to arrange this show. His father has not seen him dance for many years because owing to an illness that prevented him from travelling long distances so this will be his first opportunity to see what his son can do. I am sure Mr Principato senior will be a very proud man indeed. Admission to the show is free but a collection will be taken and members of the audience will be exhorted to give generously. All the dancers are giving their time for free so every penny (or rather cent) raised will go to the charity. However, anyone wishing to attend is asked to call the number at the bottom of the above poster before the 24 June. Alternatively they can contact me and I will tell Cristiano Principato.
On Tuesday I hope to be in the audience for the opening gala of the Dutch National Ballet at the Stopera in Amsterdam. I had to work all day and well into the night yesterday which meant that I missed the opening night of 1984 which was an enormous sacrifice for me but if Tuesday is anything like this video it will have been worthwhile. The company's website suggests that it will be a great evening, "Nearly two hundred dancers, including the dancers of the Junior Company and pupils from the National Ballet Academy will make their appearance. And after the performance, it’s party time!" Here are some of the delights in store: "This year, the festive programme will consist of new creations, famous pas de deux, work by the Netherlands’ greatest choreographer Hans van Manen and highlights from the repertoire. Artistic director Ted Brandsen will make a selection from the company’s varied repertoire, which will include some ‘appetisers’ that give a taste of special ballets in the coming season. The complete ensemble will perform in a Grand Défilé alongside the youngest dance talents of the Netherlands: the pupils of the National Ballet Academy." There should be quite a substantial British contingent. DonQ Fan will be there for a start as well as the immediate past president of the London Ballet Circle. After Ernst Meisner had addressed the London Ballet Circle a gentleman who introduced himself as a friend of Meisner presented himself to me and suggested that we might form a British branch of the Friends of the Dutch National Ballet along the lines of the American Friends of Covent Garden. I think it is a great idea and have written about it more than once in my blog. If anyone is interested I would love to hear from them. Finally, for the last two years the Junior Company have performed at The Linbury. That auditorium will be closed for a while next year so I hope it will be possible for them to dance somewhere else. I suggested the Stanley and Audrey Burtin Theatre in Leeds and Meisner did not rule it out, If they did come here Team Terpsichore would spoil them to bits.