The Doyen

“Ode to the Master” (“On the Move” / “Symphonieën Der Nederlanden” / “Sarcasmen” / “5 Tango’s”)
Dutch National Ballet
Dutch National Opera & Ballet
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
February 17, 2019

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2019 by Ilona Landgraf

1. H.van Manen and D.Camargo, rehearsal of “5 Tango's” by H.van Manen, Dutch National Ballet 2019 © A.Kaftira“If it was up to me, all I’d be doing was cooking for friends and watching snooker on TV”

These are the words, taken from a 2018 interview, of a choreographer heralded by the Dutch National Ballet as a master. The company dedicated an ode in the form of a ballet program in September 2017, to celebrate the 85th birthday of this nonpareil: Hans van Manen.

This February, the company revived “Ode to the Master”, and it happened that a matinee performance was shown at the closing of the international “Positioning Ballet”-conference held at the Dutch National Opera (a report on the conference will follow). It was a good chance to see the all-van Manen bill again.

2. H.van Manen and M.Makhateli, rehearsal of “5 Tango's” by H.van Manen, Dutch National Ballet 2019 © A.Kaftira The contrast to the David Dawson-evening performed the night before couldn’t have been greater. From the instant that Qian Liu and Young Gyo Choi took the stage in “On the Move”, the atmosphere in the theater crackled with an electricity that remained through “Symphonieën Der Nederlanden”, “Sarcasmen”, and “5 Tango’s”. All the way to the final curtain call, you didn’t want to miss a single second.

None of the four pieces was new: the oldest, “5 Tango’s”, was choreographed in 1977 while the youngest, “Symphonieën Der Nederlanden”, was created in 1987. Still, the works are crisp, classy, and exciting as ever to watch. Like Dawson, van Manen has his own style – but he manages to give his pieces individuality, vibrancy, and meaning. Van Manen knows how to make clear-cut, perfectly polished 3. M.Makhateli and ensemble, rehearsal of “5 Tango's” by H.van Manen, Dutch National Ballet 2019 © A.Kaftira dance look stunningly spontaneous. His language is clear, but never cold – and sharp-witted and (at times mockingly) humorous. It transports numerous little stories. “If something doesn’t have a story, it doesn’t interest me a bit,” said van Manen in the same interview.

“Sarcasmen”, a pas de deux for a male/female couple, is the piece with the most explicit story. Its two lovers (Igone de Jongh and Daniel Camargo – both fabulous) mock and ridicule each other with mordant scorn, but their game-playing is just one way that they show their love. “On the Move” explores relationships between groups, individuals, and couples: they sniff at each other, frighten each other offstage, but also skip together like boxers bursting with vigor. One couple (Qian Liu and Young Gyo 4. D.Camargo and H.van Manen, rehearsal of “5 Tango's” by H.van Manen, Dutch National Ballet 2019 © A.Kaftira Choi) is watched by the watchdog group, while the other couple (Igone de Jongh and Artur Shesterikov) lives in their own bubble. De Jongh and Shesterikov created a gripping, dense atmosphere without much dancing. That’s another characteristic of van Manen’s work – all of the components serve the essence of the piece rather than decorating it.

“Symphonieën Der Nederlanden” premiered more than thirty years ago, but its ingenuity still worked its magic. Each new formation and each shift in mood made me chuckle with surprise. “5 Tango’s” was led by Maia Makhateli and Daniel Camargo and was an absolute treat. Makhateli, depicting a woman both full-5. D.Camargo and I.de Jongh, rehearsal of “Sarcasmen” by H.van Manen, Dutch National Ballet 2019 © A.Kaftirablooded and unattainable, commanded the men simply by her presence. Camargo nailed his solo with such stupefying precision and ease that he was called out to acknowledge extra applause.
The most cheers, however, rained down on van Manen at the curtain call. Always dapper and always modest, he bowed towards the dancers and, nonchalantly waving to the audience, left the stage. He won’t be satisfied by cooking and television in the long run. As he admitted himself, he carries on because otherwise he’d “just miss the dancers too much.”

At the conductor’s podium of Het Balletorkest stood Matthew Rowe. Olga Khoziainova played the piano for “Sarcasmen”; the Carel Kraayenhof Ensemble accompanied “5 Tango’s” with music by Astor Piazzolla.

(The trailer shows the 2017 cast with Marijn Rademaker instead of Daniel Camargo in “Sarcasmen”.)

Links: Website of Dutch National Ballet
Rehearsal of “Ode to the Master” (video)
Photos: 1. Hans van Manen and Daniel Camargo, rehearsal of “5 Tango’s” by Hans van Manen, Dutch National Ballet 2019
2. Hans van Manen and Maia Makhateli, rehearsal of “5 Tango’s” by Hans van Manen, Dutch National Ballet 2019
3. Maia Makhateli and ensemble, rehearsal of “5 Tango’s” by Hans van Manen, Dutch National Ballet 2019
4. Daniel Camargo and Hans van Manen, rehearsal of “5 Tango’s” by Hans van Manen, Dutch National Ballet 2019
5. Daniel Camargo and Igone de Jongh, rehearsal of “Sarcasmen” by Hans van Manen, Dutch National Ballet 2019
all photos © Altin Kaftira
Editing: Jake Stepansky

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