December 4, 2020
Welcome back, Het Nationale Ballet! Welcome Back to Ballet. The viewing may still be on the box and the programme a safe clutch of ballet classics, but the quality was there in scintillating performances, expertly filmed. There will be three performance in all, livestreamed and accompanied by the Dutch Ballet Orchestra conducted by Koen Kessel. As the old saying goes, ‘hunger is the best spice’, and OMG, it tasted good!
Two of ballet’s best loved pas de deux, created dramatic contrast: plumbing the depth of emotion and the height of virtuosic brilliance. In the Act 2 duet from Swan Lake. Anna Ol embodied Odette. Her face cast in a mask of sorrowful longing, contrasted with a body where each fibre yearned for love. Her arms extend to find the lavish sweep of a swan’s wings while each développé and dovetailed fifth found perfect classical form. Siegfried has little to do but marvel at the creature he’s captured, and Jozef Varga was with her every step of the way, partnering expertly.
The casting of Maia Makhateli and Young Gyu Choi in Le Corsaire guaranteed firecrackers. Makhateli, is so absolutely in control of her technique that all effort is disguised. Her balances hover at will and never losing her centre, she sweeps into movements making complex transitions with daring ease. There is something magical about Gyu Choi’s elevation. He is picture perfect in the airborne positions and never seems in a hurry to come back to earth. He showed similar enjoyment in turns that were timed to the nano second, turning acrobatics to art. The result was exhilarating, as the dancers’ palpable enjoyment reached out to us in a shared experience.
It was a programme that used the talents of the company well. For the women, there was Rachel Beaujean’s self-assured and super stylish Paquita. Costumes by François-Noël Cherpin, balanced boldness with couture elegance, and fierce attention to technical precision gave the finishing touch. Anna Tsygankova steps into the ballerina role as to the manner born, her innate musicality, consummate technique and gracious smile fulfilling all the role needs. She was skilfully partnered by Costa Allen who gave a fine showing in his bravura solo which offers so many challenges.
Petipa has choreographed some of his most exquisite female solos in this ballet. In a fine team of soloists, Floor Eimers, commanded the stage, displaying grand jetés that sliced the air like a javelin while Salome Leverashvili impressed with an expertly executed solo.
In the Pas de Trois, Edo Wijnen gets the most awkward and thankless male solo ever but carries it off with a cheery smile and some very neat beats. He is well matched by Nina Tonoli and Riho Sakamoto, two young dancers of infinite charm. The corps de ballet rose to the occasion and seemed thrilled to be back on stage, while students from the Dutch National Ballet Academy, opened the ballet with a well-rehearsed mazurka.
It was left to Director, Ted Brandsen to expand an earlier work to create Classical Symphony set to Sergei Prokofiev’s eponymous music for the male dancers in the company. Daniel Silva, Vito Mazzeo, Martin ten Kortenaar and Jared Wright lead the cohort of men in a beautifully articulate work. The choreography demands serious technical standards in performances defined by lyrical ease: notably unaffected, elegant ports de bras. The ever ebullient, Remi Wörtmeyer, always a joy to see back on stage, gets his moment of centre stage glory in a short, brilliant solo.
The Junior Company, who surprise each season with fresh new talent, presented Balanchine’s Valse Fantaisie. Youthful and fast paced, it suited the young dancers who joyously, and confidently, rode the waves of constant movement. In the leads, Elisabeth Tonev and Davi Ramos, gave a thoroughly professional performance, definitely two names to watch for in the future.
For months now, we have had little choice but to view dance online, often with filming of a very rudimentary nature. Back to Ballet was in a different ballpark. Altin Kaftira and Mathieu Gremillet responsible for camera work and editing are both former dancers with the company. They bring added knowledge and expertise to the difficult art of filming dance and the results are impressive. The dance performance is central but inserts and closeups enhance the intensity and add interest, making the experience more real and helping bridge the gapping chasm between digital and live.
Dutch National Ballet’s Back to Ballet returns with different casts on December 11 & 12, 2020. Visit www.operaballet.nl for details and tickets.