September 10, 2019
The Dutch National Ballet opened their 2019-20 season, in what has become their traditional manner, with a Gala. It’s a chance for the audience to reconnect with their favourite dancers, pick out the new talent rising in the ranks and find out who has been awarded the Alexandra Radius Prize. The opening Grand Défilé brought the entire company, plus the Junior Company and the National Ballet Academy together onto the stage in a proud display.
Following the gala comes a Balanchine programme, and the Gala offered a foretaste. However, in the manner of galas, there had to be grand pas de deux and these were stunning.
First was that from Balanchine’s Diamonds, a gem of crystalline perfection. Maria Khoreva, a phenomenal young talent from the Mariinsky Ballet, lived up to her reputation in an interpretation of breathtaking purity, well matched by British trained Xander Parish. The emotion was there, but in the style and in keeping with Tchaikovsky’s measured phrases, it was never overt. The expression came through the thrilling extension of a leg, a sublime pose or in Khoreva’s limpid arms. But most vividly it was achieved in the understated craft of perfectly timed partnering where two bodies breathed as one.
Hans van Manen’s Trois Gnossiennes featured his muse, Igone de Jongh partnered by another exciting new talent, Jakob Feyferlik from Vienna State Opera. Van Manen has a voice of matchless distinction; there is simply no-one on the planet like him. The simplicity of his movements superimposed on currents of sexual urgency give a constant edge and his quirky disregard for rules is never an excuse for lowering quality control. De Jongh is the perfect reflection of his style and Feyferlik at her side, was a fine match. They were accompanied by Olga Khoziainova, the doyen of ballet pianists, played serenely while transported across the stage by her male escort.
Le Corsaire is a gala perennial and this performance by Maia Makhateli and Young Gyu Choi (covering for injured Osiel Gouneo) hit the heights. For these two principals top rank technique comes as standard, each can deliver the fireworks without deviating from the classical form, while enjoying every moment.
Choi found turbo charged height on his jumps and Makhateli matched with a full flush of dazzling fouettés. The warmth and enthusiasm of the pair has endeared them to Amsterdam audiences, and it was expressed in the wave of warm applause.
The first section of Balanchine’s Symphony in Three Movements highlighted the company’s quality corps de ballet who captured the vigour of Stravinsky’s complex score. Soloists Qian Liu in vivid cerise pink and a personality to match, Anna Tsygankova relishing the opportunity to work off piste in neo-classical style and Floor Eimers blessed with a Balanchine body of athletic length who has risen to well deserved Second Soloist rank. While the male soloists offered strong support, at this performance ballet was women – to paraphrase the master.
Who Cares? set to George Gershwin’s memorable tunes brought the programme to a light-hearted close. US born and trained, Constantine Allen, set the tone shifting his ballet centre down a notch to settle into the jazzy rhythms as he shared his charms among the ladies. Igone de Jongh, soon to retire and who will be sorely missed, looked serene and elegant. Maia Makhateli blazed a trail in flame red and Vera Tsyganova displayed a warm personality, sassily dressed in gold lame. The quality ensemble, predominantly soloists, lifted the ballet to new heights and promised exciting performances to watch out for in the new season.
The Alexandra Radius prize was presented as is customary, by the ballerina herself, and was received by Edo Wijnen. Trained in Antwerp, he joined the company in 2012 and made an impression from the start. A dancer who never gives less than his best at every performance, he has matured from a superb technician to become an artist of note confirming his talent in Citizen Nowhere, a 23-minute solo choreographed by David Dawson, a performance that won him the Swan award in 2007.
In his acceptance speech Wijnen mentioned specifically Hans van Manen and David Dawson as the choreographers who had helped him ‘discover the person I want to be’, a thoughtful tribute from an outstanding young artist.