All evening long, my senses are tuned to maximum. All the impressions I receive will combine to form the feeling I’ll take home with me after the premiere. And that feeling is usually a good indication of the reviews that will follow in the days to come, as well as of the ticket sales. A good premiere means a lot of positive mouth-to-mouth advertisement, and therefore a lot of people who realise they don’t want to miss the programme. And that’s exactly what we need, as subscriptions only form a small part of the ticket sales in the dance world. Today, the day after the premiere of A la Russe, there were still a couple of thousand seats to be sold for the programme. I can lose sleep over that in an unguarded moment. But after yesterday’s premiere, I know it will be alright. For this production, we will meet our objectives at the very least. Because my premiere feeling can be summed up as ‘proud’.
Balanchine’s Serenade has often been danced in Amsterdam. It’s one of our company’s standard works. So when you hear all around you that it has seldom, if ever, been danced so well as yesterday evening, then that really means something. Of course, it is the custom that colleagues from the ballet world give the dancers plenty of compliments after the performance, even if they thought it was awful. It’s just not done to say what you really thought to the people who’ve just poured their hearts and souls into the performance or who were responsible for creating the production.
Right after the performance, the artists are at their most vulnerable, and their colleagues respect that. So there is a whole vocabulary for giving your congratulations, without comprising yourself and actually lying. After all, there is something positive to be said about every performance. ‘Good energy’, for instance (although you don’t add that it was a shame that energy was wasted on a mediocre piece). ‘A really musical programme’ (it’s just a pity it wasn’t danced so well). ‘Interesting partnering’ (but the corps weren’t together). ‘They worked hard and gave their all’ (unfortunately it didn’t convince me). ‘Well danced’ (but it didn’t move me).
In short, when compliments are dished out after a premiere, I am looking mainly for what isn’t said. And for whether the compliments come from someone who has no direct relationship to us; no personal interest. Such as, for instance, the English artists who are working on a production with De Nederlandse Opera at the moment and who were also sitting in the audience last night. Via via, I got to hear their opinion of Serenade: ‘Danced better than The Royal Ballet’. Now that’s music to my ears!
By the way, it was also nice to hear someone calling ‘boo’ for once during the curtain calls. I sometimes go to premieres by other companies where the ‘boo-ers’ and the ‘bravo-ers’ enter into grim combat for the highest decibel level. After all, it’s said that new art unleashes many emotions and ought to jar a bit. Not that the Dnieper jars. At most, the lone boo-er last night was representative of the fact that the Dnieper was not appreciated equally by everyone. Tastes differ – and nobody minds that.
It was late last night when I left The Amsterdam Music Theatre. I’d had a long 14-hour working day. But I wasn’t tired. I was content. And proud.