Ballet with a Spanish flavour
After nine years, Paquita has been taken back into the Dutch National Ballet’s repertoire. Just like the Russian tsar in 1881, the audience can enjoy a precious ballet gem, now in a new production by Rachel Beaujean. The dancers can show off their virtuosity to the full in the wonderful choreography.
Most of the principals meet the terrifyingly high demands of Petipa’s ‘grand pas classique’ with a smile, and a few really stand out. Remi Wörtmeyer, for example, appears to literally hover in the pas de trois. Matthew Golding conquers the stage with amazing leaps and turns. And his partner Anna Tsygankova glitters like a diamond. It is the Dutch National Ballet at its best.
Krzysztof Pastor has made a brand-new Bolero; the umpteenth piece of choreography to Ravel’s famous ballet music. While the backdrop gradually turns red, one couple break away from the group of thirty dancers. The intensity increases with the driving sounds, but in comparison the fluid dance looks rather flat and dull. However, it does produce an effect judging from the enthusiastic reception in The Amsterdam Music Theatre.
This programme with a Spanish flavour also includes a revival of Carmen by Ted Brandsen, with Igone de Jongh in the title role once again. The whole performance was danced practically flawlessly and accompanied with a feeling for atmosphere by Holland Symfonia, conducted by Ermanno Florio.
(Eddie Vetter, Monday 22 October 2012)
Spanish dances very different in atmosphere
Carmen, Paquita, Bolero. Three totally different ballets put together because of their shared sense of a ‘dream Spain’, according to the artistic director of the Dutch National Ballet, Ted Brandsen. Ranging from the neatly smoothed out, almost prissy Paquita to the sensual Bolero, and finally a West Side Story-like Carmen, there was little question of unity last night in The Amsterdam Music Theatre.
The colourful corsets formed the inspiration for the first part, Paquita. The head of the artistic staff of the Dutch National Ballet, Rachel Beaujean, saw the beautiful garments in the costume department and the idea for an adaptation of Paquita (by Marius Petipa, from 1881) was born. Originally a long-drawn-out love story, Paquita is regarded as a real challenge for ballet companies, because of its many pirouettes and jumps, and the speedy tempo.
They are indeed beautiful costumes. The brightly coloured corsets on the white tutus make the ballerinas look like butterflies. And the many solos in the ballet allow the soloists to shine one by one. With technical excellence, the dancers race over the stage, jumping and turning. Remi Wörtmeyer was particularly impressive. His powerful jumps make him hover at least a metre off the ground, like a winged grasshopper in between the butterflies. The ensemble work was unfortunately rather less polished, with the corps de ballet dancers not quite together.
The second part, Bolero, the world premiere by resident choreographer Krzysztof Pastor, was far more sensuous and seductive. Thirty men and women dance in minimalist unitards to the mechanical and compelling rhythm of Maurice Ravel’s Bolero. In front of a big rectangular backdrop that changes colour, the dancers move organically and sensually. The red and copper unitards and the flowing forms are reminiscent of a dance of red blood cells. Bolero lasts for only sixteen minutes, in which time the music swells and two soloists emerge from the group. Their bodies appear to be liquid and they effortlessly cast a spell over the audience. A bigger contrast to the first part, Paquita, is hard to imagine.
The final part in this wonderful trio of ballets was the revival of Ted Brandsen’s Carmen, which he created in 1999 for West Australian Ballet. The famous opera has been arranged for ballet several times, and it is always difficult to transpose the passion that should be aroused by Carmen into classical ballet steps. Star ballerina Igone de Jongh was dancing Carmen this evening (on other evenings the role is danced by Marisa Lopez, who is soon to retire), wearing a flamboyant red dress, of course. Although De Jongh dances with perfect technique, she lacks the Spanish temperament that is supposed to make Carmen irresistible. Surrounded by colourful, bouncy dancers, this Carmen is more of a girlish Maria from West Side Story than Georges Bizet’s femme fatale.
(Lorianne van Gelder, 19 October 2012)
Unexciting dance to Boléro
It sounds inviting: a new ballet to Maurice Ravel’s Boléro. This forceful music, its compelling build-up and its association – thanks to Maurice Béjart – with an oriental orgiastic ritual ought to lead to something wonderful. But it rarely does. The Dutch National Ballet commissioned resident choreographer Krzysztof Pastor to make a new attempt and he bravely discharged his duty. With set and costume designs by Tatyana van Walsum, his choreography has a look of minimalist poetry. The rectangle that changes from warm yellow to fiery red in sixteen minutes forms the backdrop to a long duet that is contrasted with a group piece for fourteen men and fourteen women. As always, Pastor’s dance idiom is elegant and sensual, often synchronous and always clear. But apart from the odd surprise, it never really gets exciting, however persistently Ravel’s crescendo points the way.
What is exciting, however, as a ruthless gauge of style and technique, is the divertissement Paquita (1881) by the French-Russian choreographer Marius Petipa, in new designs by François-Noël Cherpin. It is easy to see which of the dancers have the classical ‘factor’ and which don’t; a disadvantage that is not made good in a couple of weeks of rehearsals. Anna Tsygankova and Matthew Golding were dazzling in their perfect duets and virtuoso solos, and Remi Wörtmeyer excelled with his refined technique in the pas de trois. There is no denying the fact that Sasha Mukhamedov and Maia Makhateli come from a Russian ballet dynasty, in their demonstration of the aristocratic origins of balletic technique. This makes Paquita an excellent opening to this ‘Iberian’ programme.
(Francine van der Wiel, 22 October 2012)
Glowing with self-confidence – and rightly so
A bit of southern temperament can’t hurt in the run-up to the fifty shades of grey of our Dutch autumn. So it’s nice to snuggle up warmly to the somewhat kitsch but not to be disdained Carmen, by artistic director Ted Brandsen, which has been a recurrent audience favourite in the Dutch National Ballet’s repertoire.
But the programme described by the company has having a ‘Spanish flavour’ is well-timed in several respects. The Amsterdam company is on top form and is now showing off its prowess, while glowing with self-confidence. Watching the technically demanding variations from Paquita, freshened up by head of the artistic staff Rachel Beaujean, is as mouth-watering as a child’s view through a sweet shop window. Beaujean has previously given us a beautiful, up-to-date Giselle, and for Paquita she has focused on the pure dansante divertissements added to the original by ballet master Marius Petipa in 1881. In her hands, Paquita has become a ballet encyclopaedia elegantly brought to life, as the academic tricks are paraded in succession in full glory. It is a perfect vehicle for prima ballerina Anna Tsygankova. And her love interest Matthew Golding, too, can prove with his amazing series of jumps that he is currently the best dancer in the Netherlands, having deservedly been awarded the ‘Zwaan’ for most impressive dance achievement recently. Paquita is a beautifully designed and excellently presented showpiece, but the focus on virtuosity, ballet schwung and pointework tricks also make you long for a more in-depth and dynamic view of this ballet.
Although Krzysztof Pastor’s world premiere Bolero has no radical artistic vision either, the ballet to Ravel’s iconic music (nicely performed by Holland Symfonia) does work perfectly as regards dynamics. Bolero is ingeniously constructed, with various ensemble dances around a central duet, which come and go like the tide, providing changing frameworks for the emotions of the two protagonists. Contrary to your expectations of this music, in Pastor’s Bolero there is no question of a swelling tableau that accelerates in analogy with the music. Instead, there are pauses, allowing the ‘big’ to become ‘small’ again and creating space for something new. This gives the mechanical and ineluctable Bolero something very human. And that is what makes Pastor such a good choreographer: his abstract, light expressionist dance idiom has a beating heart.
(Sander Hiskemuller, 22 October 2012)
Spanish dance combination easy to lap up
You see that a good ballet dancer is a top sportsman and refined artist rolled into one.
The Dutch National Ballet’s programme with a hint of Spain, Carmen, Paquita, Bolero, is a combination that is easily lapped up. It is extremely virtuoso and extremely hummable (thanks mainly to Bizet, in an arrangement by Rodion Shchedrin). The ensemble runs like a well-oiled machine, which is good to see. The Spanish element lies mainly in the strong, spirited and dramatic personae of the various characters.
The speedy, musical-like Carmen (1999) by artistic director Ted Brandsen – the only revival on the programme – does not take place in Seville, as is usually the case, and Carmen is not a smoking femme fatale from the cigar factory there. The role of Carmen is danced by principal dancer Igone de Jongh, a slender classical apparition, who portrays an inaccessible woman with clarity and a certain aloofness. Her interpretation has grown. The fact that she finds her independence more important than a symbiotic relationship, even though she does feel attached to the smitten José (Jozef Varga), has become more credible.
Resident choreographer Krzystof Pastor has taken on Ravel’s immortal Bolero (the bolero is originally a Spanish dance). He has thought up a nice compositional interpretation. Whereas the music starts with a single flute and gradually swells to a complete orchestra, Pastor puts thirty dancers on stage straight away. A man and a woman emerge from this crowd, wearing burgundy bodysuits in contrast to the others in brown. Everything revolves around their relationship – a ‘tis-‘tisn’t game. Now and then other dancers appear – on their own or in rows – and form a shadow or echo of the couple, as it were.
This couple is danced with total abandonment by Sasha Mukhamedov and James Stout. However the edge is taken off the sparkle of the whole by the dance vocabulary, which like the designs is fairly old-fashioned. There are flowing, gymnastic movements and Hans van Manen quotes – arms fending off sideways, hands coquettishly on hips and walking away from each other like proud ostriches – but then stretched just a little too far and made too balletic, while lacking authority.
Just how powerful and expressive classical ballet can be is demonstrated by Paquita. In 1881, Marius Petipa added a ‘divertissement’ to the original love story about a gypsy girl and an officer at the Spanish court, which consisted of pure dance to show off the dancers’ technical brilliance. This is the part that Rachel Beaujean, ballet mistress with the Dutch National Ballet, has taken in hand and polished.
In new designs by Francois-Noel Cherpin – with a view of the Alhambra and sumptuous, colourful tutus – the cast (with the odd exception) shows that a good ballet dancer is a top sportsman and refined artist rolled into one. Paquita is a dazzling, yet controlled and stylish showcase of jumps and turns. And the fabulous principal couple Anna Tsygankova and Matthew Golding manage to keep their supremacy human.
(Mirjam van der Linden, 22 October 2012)
Temperament proves universal
Carmen, Paquita, Bolero is the new triple bill by the Dutch National Ballet, which was premiered yesterday evening at The Amsterdam Music Theatre.
The three separate ballets have been combined for the Spanish elements incorporated in each work. Apart from spectacular and technically perfect ballet, the programme also provides interesting insight into how classical ballets can be transposed to the here and now.
In her production of Paquita, which opens the evening, Rachel Beaujean has kept the existing choreography by Marius Petipa. Her interpretation provides over half an hour of virtuoso ballet, performed in lavishly decorated costumes. Besides the leading principals of the company, the pupils of the National Ballet Academy also get the opportunity to show off their virtuosity. The developés in the duet by Matthew Golding and Anna Tsygankova are breathtaking. But however skilful it may be, Paquita has little to offer in the way of emotion or theatrical expression.
Bolero, on the other hand, is a brave and completely new work choreographed to the well-known composition by Ravel. In catsuits and without pointe shoes, the twenty-eight dancers – fourteen women and fourteen men – form a whole that comes across (strangely enough) as both sensual and mechanical, with lots of backward curling upper backs and hands, as well as tightly hinged limbs. Though there are no traces of the Spanish element, this does not make Krzysztof Pastor’s choreography any less hypnotic.
And finally Carmen, danced to Shchedrin’s interpretation of Bizet’s original, is clearly the highlight of the evening. Choreographer Ted Brandsen has given a modern touch to the classical story of the femme fatale who is ruined by her own licentiousness. In the interpretation of star ballerina Igone de Jongh, Carmen is not the immoral temptress, but an independent woman whose lover José comes off worst because he is looking for too much security. Actually, this story of an unequal relationship no longer needs the more or less original setting of Spanish dresses and soldiers’ uniforms.
Although the edge of southern temperament is sure to draw audiences, it is precisely the modern characteristics of Bolero and Carmen, in particular, which lend their power to this wonderful programme.
(Boukje Cnossen, 19 October 2012)