New Moves from Dutch National Ballet

Muziektheater, Amsterdam
June 26, 2017

Maggie Foyer

Programmes of new choreography generated from within a company are always full of surprises. Not every surprise was a wow, but this New Moves evening was never dull. For the first time, choreographers from the Dutch National Ballet, presented their work on the main stage and although a little uneven to start, it built to an exciting climax. There was a cross section of choreographic talent on display from all company ranks: long standing members to some of the newest and from principal to élève. It also gave the opportunity to see new dancers, some still in the Junior Company, to take on soloist roles and none disappointed in a thoroughly professional evening.

Clotilde Tran-Phat, using a quote from Dante’s Inferno referencing heaven and hell, opened the programme with In Limbo. It was a brave first work for eight dancers, set in the nether world of a hospital cum asylum and danced to an original score from Nicholas Robert Thayer. Although not yet fully formed, the structure and the dance language had moments of striking originality and the theme had good potential for future development.

Riho Sakamoto and Joey Massarelli in Voyagers by Matthew Pawlicki-SinclairPhoto Michel Schnater
Riho Sakamoto and Joey Massarelli in Voyagers by Matthew Pawlicki-Sinclair
Photo Michel Schnater

Matthew Pawlicki-Sinclair also found a strong concept in Voyagers. The Pioneer space probes, launched in 1977, carried with them gold encased records of our human presence on earth and Pawlicki-Sinclair sees these probes as mirrors of ourselves, connecting (or not) with those around us and trying to find meaning. Multi-layered and multi-textured, it was the most ambitious work of the first half. It was characterised by confident, mature movement ideas and an interesting juxtaposition of the groups with a stimulating play of colours in the costumes.

Hopeless Romantics was an audacious experiment featuring Chanquito van Hoeve seated on stage as composer, accompanist and choreographer. His theme has appeal; an elergy to the romantics in the ballet repertoire and it was given a heartfelt performance by Theo Duff-Grant as the suffering poet. However, it was difficult to take the idea seriously and a touch (or even a hefty dose) of irony would have made all the difference. In his second work, Echoes Through Time, Van Hoeve used a very different dance vocabulary. This time the language was tough and street wise, and given a dynamic performance by Daniel Robert Silva.

Theo Duff-Grant in Hopeless Romantics by Chanquito van HoevePhoto Michel Schnater
Theo Duff-Grant in Hopeless Romantics by Chanquito van Hoeve
Photo Michel Schnater

Bruno da Rocha Pereira has been honing his skill in previous choreographic workshops and Pages with End benefitted from a confident structuring of the dance material. Max Richter’s score created a sad emptiness and Priscylla Gallo, dancing with the choreographer, gave an impressive performance as a woman more interested in her book than the man.

Bastiaan Stoop in Brighter than Gold also chose a bleak minimal score, this one from Jon Hopkins. Complemented by fierce lighting, it was a self-reflective work, a battle of light and dark. Nathan Chaney, the ubiquitous hoodie gave a strong athletic performance that ended in dejection as he drew up his hood to cover his face.

The second half opened on a thrilling work from Sebastien Galtier. Step Addition is his first choreography and was previously seen at the Noverre workshops in Stuttgart. Set to René Aubry’s pulsating music, the vibrant neo-classical choreography is punctuated with bursts of sudden energy and potent pauses. Galtier has a distinctive choreographic voice and in Nancy Burer and Daniel Camargo, two excellent performers.

Khayla Fitzpatrick and Fabio Rinieri in Purcell Suite by Cristiano PrincipatoPhoto Michel Schnater
Khayla Fitzpatrick and Fabio Rinieri in Purcell Suite by Cristiano Principato
Photo Michel Schnater

Cristiano Principato choreographed Purcell Suite, a complex work with theatrical flavour heightened by the costumes and Purcell’s Baroque music. While it was compelling, the different identities indicated a story line but one that did not develop a clear direction. However, the fast-paced Hornpipe was interpreted in choreography of athletic brilliance bringing the work to a strong close.

Convergence choreographed by Thomas Van Damme followed the dictates of the title. This was a duet as much apart as together, with lights defining separation and Górecki music adding the punch. Strong performances from Clara Superfine and Skyler Martin brought sensuality and drama to the mix.

Milena Sidorova has a proven talent for comedy and so often finds an interesting angle. She applies this skill to Withdrawn, focusing on the modern preoccupation with technology and our addiction to smart phone screens. The duets, based on clever moves as dancers stay glued to social media rather than gazing into their partners’ eyes, were fun and inventive. This all worked well, but I would have liked a little further development on the theme.

One of the most experienced of the new choreographers, Remi Wörtmeyer, chose Rachmaninov’s lush and romantic Cello Sonata and in Passing Shadows choreographed one of his best works I have seen to date. This double duet with guest, Juliet Burnett, and colleagues, Jingjing Mao and Clemens Fröhlich, was complex and constantly intriguing. Wörtmeyer has been with the Dutch National since 2010 and his choreographic language, spiced with clear intentions, shows a hint of Hans van Manen. The influence of the master’s ballets, where each glance has the backstory of a special relationship, seemed to shadow Wörtmeyer’s work and was no bad thing, bringing maturity and purpose to the short ballet.

New Moves guarantees an interesting show but the value goes further. Congratulations extend to the backstage work as the production, everything from co-ordination, to design and taking rehearsals, was also done by the dancers with assistance of the house staff. This is a splendid way of getting dancers to discover new, and hone existing, talents and a warm togetherness pervaded the evening.