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Every year in the first week of September the Dutch National Ballet holds a gala at the Stopera to launch the new ballet season. It is a very grand affair. Everyone is in evening dress. Lots of local and some international celebrities attend the event. With the exception of last year, I have been coming since 2015 and each year has been better than the last. The evening opens with a grand defile - a parade starting with the first year students of the National Ballet Academy and ending with the company's principals to the strains of Aurora's wedding from The Sleeping Beauty. This year the orchestra was conducted by our very own Koen Kessels. The company's artistic director then comes on stage and welcomes the audience partly in Dutch and partly in English. There are then a number of performances some created especially for the evening and others classics from the company's repertoire. This year the gala was dedicated to the memory of Rudi van Dantzig and three of his works were danced including his the white and black acts from his Swan Lake. The Netherlands' other towering fenius, Hans van Manen, was also well represented with the performance of three of his works including his Symphony for the Dutch People which particularly impressed me. Other full length works that were dipped into were the first Dutch performance of the Flames of Paris and Neumeir's Lady of the Camelias. Of the shorter works I particularly enjoyed Ernst Meisner's Embers which was danced by Jessica Xuan and Cristiano Principato. When they danced it at Varna earlier in the year Xuan won the first prize and gold medal for her performance. I also liked Grimm which was a collaboration between the Junior Company and ISH and combined ballet with hip hop. Finally, I was glad to see Michaela DePrince back on stage after a very nasty tendon injury. Every year a prize is awarded by Alexandra Radius to the best dancer of the year.. It is usually won by a principal but this year it went to Timothy van Poucke who is one of the company's youngest dancers. They say that the best is the enemy is the good and I think there is some truth in that saying because the gala spoils me for anything else for months on end. There were quite a few Brits this year including my former ward and her little boy who are from Sierra Leone, colleagues from Powerhouse Ballet and DonQFan. I have written a fuller review in my blog if anyone is interested.
Every September the Dutch National Ballet opens its new ballet season with a party in its home at the Stopera. The show begins with a big parade beginning with the first year students of the National Ballet Academy, continues with the second and subsequent years, the Junior Company, Eleves, Corps de Ballet, Coryphees, Grands Sujets, Soloists and ends with the Principals. There is then a speech by the artistic director, Ted Brandsen, which is mainly in Dutch but partly in English to introduce Alexandra Radius who presents the prize which was established in her honour to the best dancer of the previous year. After the prize giving members of the company dance selected pieces from their repertoire. After the performance waiters pass round the theatre with drinks and canapes. The dancers and choreographers meet their fans. Everybody has a good time until well into the morning. I attended the show last year and described it as my best evening at the ballet and I have attended some great shows in my time including Frederick Ashton's retirement gala. I enjoyed this year's even better because several of my favourite artists took part. My overall favourite was the Junior Company's performance of Ernst Meisner's No Time Before Time which I loved from the moment I first saw the video of the finals of the Lausanne prize. I saw it live at the Meervaart Theatre a few weeks later and I was delighted to see it again on Wednesday night. I was also lucky enough to see Meisner dance again for the first time since he left the Royal Ballet. He was on stage together with Floor Elmers, Juanjo Arques, Rachel Beaujean, Marijn Rademaker, James Stout, Alexander Zhembrovskyy, Vito Mazzeo and Igone de Jongh in an extract from van Manen's Kammerballett to celebrate de Jongh's 20th anniversary with the company. Another piece I particularly enjoyed was Balanchine's Tarantella Pas de Deux in which Michaela DePrince danced excitingly with Remi Wörtmeyer. It was good to see a bit of Brandsen's Mata Hari again not to mention extracts from La Bayadere. The Sleeping Beauty. Balanchine's Theme and Variations and so much more. The party was also good. I met several of my favourite artists including Cristiano Principato whose gala in support of Casa Alessia I mentioned on this website earlier this year. I shall return to Amsterdam on 12 November to see La Byadere and Ted Brandsen's Coppelia. I tried to post pictures of the auditorium and Cristiano to this site but apparently it is not allowed even though I have the copyright owner's licence to share her work. They are nice pics and if you want to see them I will post them elsewhere on the web in due course.
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.
Photo Angela Sterling Copyright 2015 Dutch National Ballet: all rights reserved Reproduced with the kind permission of Richard Heideman (press officer) on behalf of the company I have just returned from Amsterdam where I saw the Dutch National Ballet's Cool Britannia at The Stopera. The word "stopera" is an abbreviation of the words stadhuis or town hall and opera the meaning of which is obvious. The building combines the functions of Amsterdam's town hall with the national opera house and concert hall. It was my first visit to the Stopera but I hope it will not be my last for it is a magnificent auditorium. This was a triple bill of one act ballets by three leading British choreographers: David Dawson, Christopher Wheeldon and Wayne McGregor. Dawson and Wheeldon created new ballets called Empire Noir and Concerto Concordia which I discussed elsewhere. McGregor contributed Chroma which British audiences already know. Each of those works was very different from the others. Empire Noir showcased the dancers' virtuosity. It was full of spectacular jumps, turns and lifts and looked quite exhausting. Even the dancers' entrances and exits were made at the double. Haines's score was throbbing, vibrant and incessant. I had seen Michaela DePrince and Sho Yamada in the Junior Company last year but this was the first time I had seen Casey Herd, Jozef Varga, Artur Shesterikov and James Stout about whom I had read so much. My only disappointment was missing Igone de Jongh but there was some fine dancing from Samantha Mednick, Sasha Mukhamedov, Floor Elmers and, of course. DePrince. She may only be an apprentice in the company (though I am delighted to learn that she will be elevated to coryphee next year) but she has quite a following in Amsterdam. She received particularly loud applause when she took her bow. The chap next to me rose to his feet as soon as she stepped forward. In the interval I noticed that a stand was selling her t-shirts. The only other dancer with t-shirts on offer was de Jongh. Wheeldon's Concerto Concordia was a quieter and more contemplative work. He chose Poulenc's Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra in D Minor for his music. This is a work with sudden changes of moods could have been written for ballet. It was the first time that I had heard it and I adored it. According to the programme notes Wheeldon created the work for Anna Tsygankova and she was on stage on Saturday accompanied by Varga. They were one of two principal couples who are joined on stage from time to time by six others. The other principal couple was Victoria Ananyan and Serguei Endinian. This was the work that I enjoyed the most, probably because I liked the music. I had seen Chroma once before and remembered the sharp, angular almost robotic movements, the simple set with its large window through which dancers entered or against which they were silhouetted and the curious almost canine sniffing gestures at two points in the show. This cannot be an easy ballet to dance and I was delighted to see Nathan Brhane and Wantao Li who were in the Junior Company last year with Yamada and DePrince. It was good to see those young dancers again and great to see how far they have come in a year. They were led by Herd, Stout and Roman Artyushkin. The crowd loved this ballet and they rose to their feet as one. I like Amsterdam audiences. They see enough ballet to know what's good and what's not but they are much less stingy in their praise than Londoners. The Stopera has a massive stage. I don't know how it compares to Covent Garden's but it seems pretty cavernous to me. There's plenty of reasonably priced seating. I was in the front row of the 1st circle and was as close to the stage as I would have been in the front row of the dress circle in the Royal Opera House. My seat cost 53 euros which is less than I would have paid for the amphitheatre. There was plenty of leg room and although the house was pretty full it did not seem crowded. I was served very quickly when I queued for a drink in the first interval and I was charged less than I would pay in a theatre bar at home. The auditorium overlooks the Amstel and it is possible to step out onto a walkway in warm weather. There is a metro station almost next door and a couple of pubs and two Argentine restaurants across the street. There are flights to Schiphol from Ringway and Yeadon at a fraction of the cost of the train fare to London and hotels are generally cheaper in Amsterdam than London. I am already looking forward to my next trip back.