reflection of the 20th century
In the very first years of its existence, the company, led by Sonia Gaskell, performed works from the legendary Ballets Russes, the famous company with which the Russian impresario Serge Diaghilev conquered Europe in the early twentieth century.
Landmark works such as Petrouchka [for which Gaskell managed to obtain some of the original costumes at an auction] and Les Sylphides by Mikhail Fokine [1880 - 1942], Les Présages by Léonide Massine [1895 - 1979] and, more recently acquired, Les Noces by Bronislava Nijinska [1891 - 1972], are still in the company’s repertoire today.
There is also a major focus on the work of George Balanchine [1904 - 1983], whose genius Sonia Gaskell ‘discovered’ early on. Balanchine is regarded today as the most important innovator of twentieth-century dance.
The Dutch National Ballet is the only company in Europe to have more than 25 of the Russian-American choreographer’s works in their repertoire. Other legendary dance makers - or their heirs - also granted the Dutch National Ballet permission to perform several of their most successful works, including the ‘grand old lady’ of modern dance Martha Graham [1894 - 1991], the standard bearer of German expressionist dance Kurt Jooss [1901 - 1979], the grandmaster of the English ballet style Sir Frederick Ashton [1904 - 1988], and ballet and Broadway choreographer Jerome Robbins [1918 - 1998].
In addition, the Dutch National Ballet has been responsible for bringing to Holland a great many works by choreographers who were at the forefront of international dance in the last two decades of the twentieth century, including Christopher Bruce, Carolyn Carlson, Edouard Lock, Maguy Marin, Ashley Page, Twyla Tharp and, particularly, the greatest discovery since Balanchine: William Forsythe.