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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.
I've been catching up with the newspaper links, and am fascinated to see that Ballet Arizona, of all people, has just danced the first performances on US soil of Bournonville's "Napoli". It appears to have gone down extremely well with the critics: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/17/arts/dance/review-ballet-arizonas-napoli-embodies-a-culture-of-exuberance.html?_r=1 http://www.danceviewtimes.com/2015/02/tales-of-the-danish-southwest.html and I hope the audiences appreciated it as well. The Danceviewtimes article in particular gives an excellent report of the ballet, and I particularly like this comment: "You can’t delete religion or its trappings from “Napoli” any more than you can take the cross out of “Dracula” without damaging its architecture. You’re removing a counterweight to other themes." Other stagers, please take note! It sounds very much as though the production is highly similar to the one Festival Ballet used in 1989, which I really liked. It's great to see Ballet Arizona doing something like this, and marvellous that Ib Andersen isn't neglecting his own heritage. Lucky Phoenix! I wonder if they would ever end up doing a mini Bournonville festival in the US in a similar way to what Sarasota Ballet do with Ashton? I don't suppose we have any readers who actually saw this, and who would like to report back, do we?
I couldn't remember whether the RDB's Napoli was actually on DVD or not, but it turns out that it is. If I remember rightly, it was probably filmed back in the 80s or something, so I was wondering, what is the picture and sound quality like on DVD? Is it worth buying? (bearing in mind that the current version is wildly different).