A thrilling premiere for Norwegian National Ballet 2

Opera House Scene 2, Oslo
May 12, 2016
Maggie Foyer

The young company, called NNB2 in English translation, performed on the second stage at the Oslo Opera House but banish any thoughts of second best for this exciting group of ten dancers aged 17 -23 years-old. The mixed bill, three new works and one from master choreographer, Jiří Kylián, is their premiere showing and the culmination of their first year’s work. It is a thrilling moment on the cusp of professionalism: confident dancers who already show astonishing prowess while not denying the questioning and insecurities of youth.

Kaloyan Boyadjiev, the leader of the group, choreographed Picture Perfect based on a poem by Daniel Mashburn, an enigmatic piece of writing about the facades we create to hide the chaos of the mind. The choreography of imaginative partnering and fluid structure was challenging, as Boyadjiev made no age concessions to the seven dancers in a work of tough physicality. However, the strength of the piece was in the relationships, each lift or hold arising from a reason and filled with a purpose. The dancers rose to the occasion giving self-assured and poised performances. Boyadjiev used an eclectic mix of music and, on the bare stage, the lighting by Unni Sanne was super effective as it followed and occasionally provoked the dynamics of the music to illuminate the moment or catch a limb.

NNB2 in Picture PerfectPhoto Erik Berg
NNB2 in Picture Perfect
Photo Erik Berg

Garrett Smith’s Departures opened the programme and set a fiery pace bookended by moments of quiet as Kenji Wilkie stood alone on the stage. The short work is set to John Adam’s The Chairman Dances, a work where the tension is seldom released. The three couples celebrated the pace and tautness as the insistent music drives them on in dance of high skill and precision. As the foxtrot rhythms emerge there is time to breath and the dancers join up in twos and threes making connections soon followed by departures.

Hege Haagenrud presented We are Special using the words of Marina Keegan and soundscore from Ryoli Ikeda. Keegan’s words were written when she was the age of these dancers, and are musings on the fear of anonymity as they realize that none are special…or maybe that all are special. The poignant text and Ikeda’s minimal sounds, as brittle as breaking glass, background the choreography which is minimal and kooky in a surprisingly elegant way. Dancers Klara Mårtensson and Luca Curreli tick all the right boxes in their candour and directness; alternating between total assurance and bouts of adolescent anxiety. It’s an inspired work that precisely suits the age and the talent.

NNB2 in DeparturesPhoto Erik Berg
NNB2 in Departures
Photo Erik Berg

Jiří Kylián’s Evening Songs, set to Anton Dvorák’s music is part nostalgia, part hope. There is classic simplicity in the dance assisted by the sculptured shapes of the skirts. So much is conveyed in the simple touch of a hand or a shared look. In a high-speed world of instant social communication, it was a joy to see that the potency of hands-on human contact had not lost its potency. The dancers having proved their technical skills now had a chance to prove their artistry in a quiet, intense performance of the work.

The young company is the initiative of NNB Director Ingrid Lorentzen and part of the Talent Norge project, an initiative to help youngsters fulfil their potential. They have supported NNB2 to the tune of 1.5 million kronor which has been matched by private donors. Four of the young dancers have been offered contracts with the main company while the others continue to a second year.