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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.

 

 

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I was in attendance at this performance as I found myself in Amsterdam for work at the time.  I have to admit to being somewhat underwhelmed.  I have seen much better - certainly with more focused and soulful joy - performances of the Balanchine pieces in the past.  One DEFINITE exception to this was the always exquisite Anna Tsygankova in Symphony in Three Movements.  What a very special artist she is.  I also enjoyed the ravishing perfume brought to the Diamonds PDD by the very young Mariinsky artist, Maria Khoreva - here competently partnered by Briton Xander Parish.  Many of the people present quite clearly had come to admire each other rather more I think than the ballet which certainly was my focus.  I can't speak for the undertakings post the performance through the mid-night hour as I had to leave (as clearly a good many others did aside me going out the door) because I had an early work call the next day.  I would also like to note the fine contribution made by the dazzling (and aptly named) Young Cyu Choi who replaced Osiel Gouneo in the Corsaire PDD.  He literally flew with much musical zeal such as he also evidenced in a lesser capacity in Balanchine's Symphony.  Throughout the music was played to fine effect by the Het Balletorkest.  That for me was really the evening's highlight.  Retiring Igone de Jongh was supple in van Manen's well travelled Trois Gnossiennes (here partnered by Jakob Feyferlik, now a soloist in Vienna) but rather less so in Who Cares? where she appeared somewhat more uncertain; certainly technically.   Edo Wijnen gave a charming acceptance speech for his prize - and this was - happily - both in English and Dutch.  That said, Ted Brandsen, the DNB's AD, kindly kept his remarks - all given in obvious good humour as well as in Dutch - relatively brief which was much appreciated.  

 

Edited by Bruce Wall
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46 minutes ago, Bruce Wall said:

 I have seen much better - certainly with more focused and soulful joy - performances of the Balanchine pieces in the past. 

 

Bruce - I *might* be able to catch this season's Balanchine programme (Ballet Imperial/Symphony in 3 Mvmts/Who Cares?) but it wouldn't be easy. This is a horrible question, I know, but do you think it would be worth going out of my way for?

 

(FTAOD, it wouldn't be one of the Igone de Jongh performances.)

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Thank you everyone for the reports of the gala which I was not attending this year.  I was under the impression Ballet Imperial as also danced?  Any good?  What I've seen of it on social media looked lovely.

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Lizbie 1, I saw 2 performances of the Balanchine triple. It's an excellent programme, 2 or possibly 3 masterpieces that are contrasted. I always enjoy seeing DNB in its wonderful theatre but I was a little disappointed. Given that DNB has some of the best Balanchine rep outside of NYCB (Wayne Eagling brought in a lot of Balanchine pieces when he was director, even had a fabulous Balanchine festival), it is a little surprising that the company is not fully comfortable dancing his style. The dancers were careful even cautious, rather than dancing flat out. I was delighted to see Igone de Jongh in two of her final performances (Who Cares on Friday, Symphony in Three Movements on Saturday) but her dazzling smile could not compensate for her declining technique. It's well worth going to see Ballet Imperial again, what a masterpiece, and the version done in tutus, but it tested the company, even Maia Makhateli at the first performance, although Anna Tsygankova coped better at the second one. In Who Cares, the male dancers fared better than the women, who looked like charming ballet dancers rather than dynamic hoofers. They weren't helped by the orchestra who needed to sound more like a big band. Indeed, the orchestra was, for me, one of the problems with the performances, despite Bruce's praise, as the tempo was often too slow in Symphony in Three Movements, another masterpiece, not giving the dancers the necessary pulse, and in Who Cares, too. I didn't know that Edo Wijnen had won a prize but noticed him in the corps at the first performance so was delighted to see him featured on the second night in Symphony in Three Movements.

On balance, Lizbie, it's worth going if you can, such good ballets and the dancers may get more attuned to the style as they have more performances. And despite my slight disappointment I was really very glad to have gone.

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Thank you, Sheila and Bruce for your replies!

 

I might try and catch the end of the run: maybe the dancers will have settled into things by then.

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On 16/09/2019 at 21:35, SheilaC said:

Lizbie 1, I saw 2 performances of the Balanchine triple. It's an excellent programme, 2 or possibly 3 masterpieces that are contrasted. I always enjoy seeing DNB in its wonderful theatre but I was a little disappointed. Given that DNB has some of the best Balanchine rep outside of NYCB (Wayne Eagling brought in a lot of Balanchine pieces when he was director, even had a fabulous Balanchine festival), it is a little surprising that the company is not fully comfortable dancing his style. The dancers were careful even cautious, rather than dancing flat out. I was delighted to see Igone de Jongh in two of her final performances (Who Cares on Friday, Symphony in Three Movements on Saturday) but her dazzling smile could not compensate for her declining technique. It's well worth going to see Ballet Imperial again, what a masterpiece, and the version done in tutus, but it tested the company, even Maia Makhateli at the first performance, although Anna Tsygankova coped better at the second one. In Who Cares, the male dancers fared better than the women, who looked like charming ballet dancers rather than dynamic hoofers. They weren't helped by the orchestra who needed to sound more like a big band. Indeed, the orchestra was, for me, one of the problems with the performances, despite Bruce's praise, as the tempo was often too slow in Symphony in Three Movements, another masterpiece, not giving the dancers the necessary pulse, and in Who Cares, too. I didn't know that Edo Wijnen had won a prize but noticed him in the corps at the first performance so was delighted to see him featured on the second night in Symphony in Three Movements.

On balance, Lizbie, it's worth going if you can, such good ballets and the dancers may get more attuned to the style as they have more performances. And despite my slight disappointment I was really very glad to have gone.

 

I absolutely disagree with you the costumes are stunning and make the performance very rich and Royal. Maia Makhateli is the prima ballerina of the Dutch National Ballet and that is very obvious. she is absolutely beautiful with solid  easy  amazing   strong clean technique I have witnessed her premiere of Balanchine, and Gala she was the one and only ballerina on stage. The way she danced  Balanchine on the premiere night was mesmerizing the tempos were insanely fast if you haven’t noticed. 

So next time you criticize maybe you should do a little research before hand. 

  

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Hello Thomas and welcome to the Forum.

 

I feel I should point out that Sheila is an avid ballet-watcher of many years standing, who sees many companies from across the globe and is a regular at DNB performances amongst others.

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Have to say I am really looking forward to seeing the Balanchine triple.  It ceratiy seems to have dividend opinions here so I am even more interested to see it!  

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13 hours ago, Jan McNulty said:

Hello Thomas and welcome to the Forum.

 

I feel I should point out that Sheila is an avid ballet-watcher of many years standing, who sees many companies from across the globe and is a regular at DNB performances amongst others.

And we welcome all kinds of opinions on this forum and don’t welcome people being insulted for having those opinions. 

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13 hours ago, Jan McNulty said:

Hello Thomas and welcome to the Forum.

 

I feel I should point out that Sheila is an avid ballet-watcher of many years standing, who sees many companies from across the globe and is a regular at DNB performances amongst others.

Thanks and warm greetings!  Good for Shelia I am happy she is investing in her knowledge of ballet as I can truly see her knowledge about ballet dance and art. 

I wouldn’t  have known if I wasn’t a dancer and balletmaster myself. 

I suggest everyone to go see this program and DNB performs it better then many other companies around the globe including American companies! 

 

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Hi all, where can I find the casting for this bill? I am going tomorrow night and Sunday afternoon.

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I am going soon too but they do not seem to have put casting up for the triple bill -I have been waiting and waiting!  Not sure why.  I may tweet them to give them a nudge as they usually do put casting online on the show's page.

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