Dutch National Ballet’s Hans van Manen Festival Programme 4

Het Muziektheater, Amsterdam
June 29, 2022

Boosted by visitors from Vienna State Ballet and Stuttgart Ballet, Programme 4 of the Hans van Manen Festival was filled with dance and music of amazing quality and variety.

Four Schumann Pieces, written for Anthony Dowell and the London Royal Ballet in 1975, is an unusual ballet. Schumann’s phrases lend themselves to a lyrical sweep of movement and soft, fluid bodies, characteristics atypical of the choreographer’s work. However, his bold, outspread arms are in clear evidence and in his contradiction of norms: placing the man as the central figure, introducing a male pas de deux and his unconventional structure of relationships, we are back on home ground.

Davide Dato, in the lead showed amazing clarity and precision right up to a final, perfect, pirouette. He channels his power and emotion through the dance as he quietly makes his presence felt. It’s a strange role, sometimes fully engaged, but sometimes seeming an otherworldly presence. The male duet is pure Hans, powerful, unusual and meaningful. It’s also a lovely work for the ensemble who rose to the occasion.

Dutch National Ballet Junior Company in In the Future
Photo Altin Kaftira

In the Future was the Junior Company’s offering. The clever play of colours, green-front and red-back unitards, patterns and movement make it mesmerizing viewing. The laconic voiceover in the opening section sets the right tone and the young dancers pack it with enthusiasm. Mila Caviglia and Koyo Yamamoto did the slickest of pas de deux and the precision of the dozen dancers in perfect timing was impressive. I suspect it may be as much fun to dance as it is to watch.

There was also enormous fun to be had in Solo. Fabio Adorisio, Henrik Erikson and Christian Alexander Pforr find the jazzy rhythms in Bach’s Partita as the men, in quick succession, try to outspin, outrun and outwit their competitors but finally end in close harmony.

Variations for Two Couples shows Van Manen doesn’t just write pas de deux, he tells stories. Two couples, four pieces of music, the lighting devising geometric shapes on the backdrop, and the dancers in tights. It is left to the dancers to link the elements and deliver the meaning. Jessica Xuan and Jozef Varga start on Benjamin Britten’s tremulous strings, their relationship tender and loving but returning later in a light-hearted mood adding idiosyncratic nodding heads. Riho Sakamoto and Young Gyu Chio repost with a fierce statement in classical dance, making light of the challenges. The banter continues as dancers, arms akimbo, add spice to the mix. Piazzolla’s melody warm and sensual, brings the couples face to face. The work concludes, but the dialogue is not over.

Hans van Manen’s Concertante
(pictured: Jakob Feyferlik and Yuanyuan Zhang)
Photo Altin Kaftira

Concertante, created on the young dancers of NDT 2 is danced in distinctive striped unitards that seem to bring a certain pizzazz to the dance. The eight dancers are introduced as individuals but whether dancing solo, paired up or in a group they remain real personalities with exceptional talent. Nina Tonelli with Timothy van Poucke and Jingjing Mao with Martin ten Kortenaar head the cast in dance that is fierce and fun matching Frank Martin’s persistent driving rhythm. Throughout there are many entrances, exits and confrontations plus a strong competitive edge but with the meaning of the movement always outweighing the virtuosity keeping it constantly engaging and a brilliant piece to watch.