Dutch National Ballet

Celebrating Hans van Manen

“Ode to the Master” (“On the Move” / “Symphonieën Der Nederlanden” / “Sarcasm” / “5 Tango’s”)
Dutch National Ballet
Dutch National Opera & Ballet
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
September 17, 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Hans van Manen at the curtain call, Dutch National Ballet 2017 © M.Graste“Were you asked to choreograph about cheese?” the late Stuttgart dance critic Horst Koegler jokingly asked Hans van Manen in a 1982 interview when discussing Van Manen’s first-ever choreography. This first piece premiered at the Netherlands Opera in Amsterdam in 1957, was “nationally tinged,” but by no means about cheese, and has been performed more than 350 times. It was a thorough success. Sixty years later Hans van Manen is still choreographing and still successful. His works have won the acclaim of audiences all over the world.

2. Q.Liu and E.Wijnen, “On the Move” by H.van Manen, Dutch National Ballet 2017 © H.GerritsenJust in July of this year – the month Hans van Manen celebrated his 85th birthday – the French Ministry of Culture awarded him the title Commandeur des Arts et Lettres during a guest appearance of Dutch National Ballet at the Montpellier Danse Festival. At home in Amsterdam the company opened the season with a tribute to its doyen of choreographers. “Ode to the Master,” an all-Van Manen-program, premiered on September 15th. One of its five pieces, “Alltag,” was choreographed for Ballett am Rhein in 2014, and was only presented at the premiere. Ballet am Rhein’s artistic director Martin Schläpfer especially came to Amsterdam to perform it. I saw the other four pieces – “On the Move,” “Symphonieën Der Nederlanden,” “Sarcasm,” and “5 Tango’s” – at the matinée two days later.

3. E.Wijnen and Q.Liu, “On the Move” by H.van Manen, Dutch National Ballet 2017 © H.GerritsenMost admirably, Van Manen’s style has never diluted. His sense for exactly the right dose is infallible. His pieces are neither overdone nor lightweight and certainly none is too long. Van Manen is not a babbler. His choreographic language is clear, fresh, and substantial, sometimes humorous, and always thrilling. His ballets do not age.

“On the Move,” the program opener, premiered in 1992 with Nederlands Dans Theater, when Van Manen was resident choreographer of the company. Dutch National Ballet danced it for the first time this September. (The photos of “On the Move” show a different cast.)

4. A.Shesterikov, I.de Jongh, E.Wijnen and Q.Liu, “On the Move” by H.van Manen, Dutch National Ballet 2017 © H.Gerritsen The stage, decorated with a black backdrop and black drapes at the wings, had velvety depth. The moment Suzanna Kaic and Remi Wörtmeyer entered, the space looked enormous. Both wore skintight unitards with side slits in a strawberry red fabric with a velvety shine (costumes credited to Keso Dekker). Kaic and Wörtmeyer, together with Sasha Mukhamedov and Marijn Rademaker – the latter in black unitards – were the leading couples. They were surrounded by five male / female pairs dressed in blue, green and gray. Kaic and Wörtmeyer’s movements shifted between smooth and jagged. The group shooed both off stage, but moments later they made the group leave.

5. Ensemble, “Symphonieën Der Nederlanden” by H.van Manen, Dutch National Ballet 2017© H.Gerritsen The relationship Mukhamedov and Rademaker portrayed was intimate and playful. When Mukhamedov’s arms and legs reached out, as if in an attempt to explore the space, Rademaker was her safe support. One could talk about the stunning clarity of the group formations that made even simple walking look exciting or about the dancers’ dynamic – the suspense they raised merely with their looks, but that wouldn’t get one to the heart of the matter. Somehow, “On the Move” slipped away from the grip of the mind. It made one stop thinking and just watching. Was this because of the clever way Van Manen interpreted the music, Sergei Prokofiev’s multi-faceted Violin Concerto No 1, opus 19? One couldn’t imagine one step being altered; the choreography could not be any different than it was.

6. Ensemble, “Symphonieën Der Nederlanden” by H.van Manen, Dutch National Ballet 2017© H.Gerritsen “Symphonieën Der Nederlanden” was choreographed on the occasion of Amsterdam being European Capital of Culture in 1987. It too has the dancers move in clear, orderly lines and rows, but compared to “On the Move” this ballet kept one entirely alert. Its music, by Dutch composer Louis Andriessen, gave the piece its title. Its lively march music has strong infusions of jazz rhythms. The cast of twenty-four dancers – twelve female, twelve male – marched like a guard, turned in unison, bended their torsos, stretched their arms up and posed with one leg placed in front. Their light blue pants with high waistlines, half black / half white tops, and some golden accessories and studs gave them the look of an honor guard (costumes again by Keso Dekker). Order was 7. Ensemble, “Symphonieën Der Nederlanden” by H.van Manen, Dutch National Ballet 2017© H.Gerritsen everywhere. Lines of dancers interlocked to a square, rows lowered or raised as if the group was being arranged for a photo. When the women stepped over the men who rolled across the floor, repeatedly pushing themselves into planks, I thought of the breaking waves of the surf that constantly surge toward the shore. At one point single dancers collapsed to the ground as if badly wounded, but swiftly stood up and reintegrated into the lines. Space-consuming gallops, interspersed with leaps, shaking shoulders and slaps on the thighs, concluded the upbeat parade.

8. M.Rademaker and I.de Jongh, “Sarcasm” by H.van Manen, Dutch National Ballet 2017 © H.GerritsenWhen I talked with Rademaker this June, he had just danced his comeback onstage with “Sarcasm” after an almost two-year absence due to injury. He confessed to being “a bit on a high.” I missed his performance in June, but was able to see it at the matinée. His partner was Igone de Jongh again. The music, Prokofiev’s “Five Sarcasms, opus 17,” was played live onstage by pianist Robert Greuter.
The pas de deux dates from 1981 and is about the power games in a couple’s relationship. Who dominates, who wears the pants? Its title suggests “Sarcasm” is solely about mutual mockery and 9. I.de Jongh and M.Rademaker, “Sarcasm” by H.van Manen, Dutch National Ballet 2017 © H.Gerritsen10. I.de Jongh and M.Rademaker, “Sarcasm” by H.van Manen, Dutch National Ballet 2017 © H.Gerritsenscorn, but in fact the couple loves each other. At first Rademaker tried everything to impress De Jongh. He was lyrical, masculine or resolute. He pretended to be uninterested in De Jongh, performed some light jumps right under her nose, but she didn’t deign to even look at him. Instead, she threw blasé glances into the air and puffed up her cheeks in disapproval until deciding to dance a solo herself. And while, for her part, she pressed every button to draw Rademaker’s attention – switching from playing tender to energetic to playful; mimicking a pose from the Dying Swan 11. I.de Jongh and M.Rademaker, “Sarcasm” by H.van Manen, Dutch National Ballet 2017 © H.Gerritsenbefore spreading her legs apart suggestively while sitting on the floor – he leaned towards the piano without the faintest idea how to comprehend that woman.

Finally, both danced together, or rather, they wrestled for superiority while dancing. And although Rademaker approached De Jongh on his knees afterwards and kissed her hand, he swiftly ridiculed his behavior. De Jongh brought the game to a short stop by provocatively grabbing Rademaker in the crotch. After collecting himself he ventilated his indignation (Or excitement? Was he flattered?) in a brisk solo. Just when the couple entered harmonious 12. M.Makhateli and D.Camargo, “5 Tango's” by H.van Manen, Dutch National Ballet 2017 © H.Gerritsenwaters, Greuter stopped playing, but upon Rademaker’s instant intervention, returned to his keys. At the end De Jongh and Rademaker sealed their peace with an embrace.

The dancers of “5 Tango’s” were greeted with applause the moment the curtain went up. The five tangos, to which the piece is set, are by Astor Piazzolla. Each tango has a different mood. The cast of seven couples was led by Maia Makhateli and Daniel Camargo. Maria Chugai / James Stout and Emanouela Merdjanova / Jared Wright danced solo parts.

13. D.Camargo and M.Makhateli, “5 Tango's” by H.van Manen, Dutch National Ballet 2017 © H.Gerritsen“5 Tango’s” premiered forty years ago but it could have been created just recently. Van Manen’s blend of classical ballet and sensual tango passion will never feel dated. Brazilian Camargo made his role a cool mix of macho and gentleman. He controlled his vigor like a sleek panther. After his solo to “Vayamos al diablo” he was called out to take an extra bow. Makhateli depicted a proud, but curbed diva. When kneeling motionless at the front stage, the white light in which she bathed made her look like the Madonna. Her dance with Camargo was like a chocolate whose spicy filling is hidden beneath a classic dark chocolate coating.

Matthew Rowe and Het Balletorkest provided fine musical accompaniment. Liza Ferschtman played the viola in “On the Move.”
“Ode to the Master” is complemented by an exhibition of rehearsal videos, portraits of Van Manen, and photos of his pieces in the foyer of Dutch National Opera & Ballet. One 1960 photo shows him with Roland Petit and Cyd Charisse in the movie “Black Tights” in which Van Manen performed the role of the jealous man among others. In a 2005 photo, he and Queen Beatrix bend over a shared plate and pick slices of salmon. The exhibition will be running until September 30th.
14. D.Camargo, M.Makhateli and ensemble, “5 Tango's” by H.van Manen, Dutch National Ballet 2017 © H.Gerritsen

Links: Website of Dutch National Ballet 
Trailer “Ode to the Master”
In the studio for an Ode to Hans van Manen, video
Dancers and ballet lovers honor Hans van Manen, video
Photos:  1. Hans van Manen at the curtain call after the premiere, Dutch National Ballet 2017 © Michael Graste
“On the Move” (The photos of “On the Move” show a different cast.)
 2. Qian Liu and Edo Wijnen, “On the Move” by Hans van Manen, Dutch National Ballet 2017
 3. Edo Wijnen and Qian Liu, “On the Move” by Hans van Manen, Dutch National Ballet 2017
 4. Artur Shesterikov, Igone de Jongh, Edo Wijnen and Qian Liu, “On the Move” by Hans van Manen, Dutch National Ballet 2017
Symphonieën Der Nederlanden”
 5. Ensemble, “Symphonieën Der Nederlanden” by Hans van Manen, Dutch National Ballet 2017
 6. Ensemble, “Symphonieën Der Nederlanden” by Hans van Manen, Dutch National Ballet 2017
 7. Ensemble, “Symphonieën Der Nederlanden” by Hans van Manen, Dutch National Ballet 2017
“Sarcasm”
 8. Marijn Rademaker and Igone de Jongh, “Sarcasm” by Hans van Manen, Dutch National Ballet 2017
 9. Igone de Jongh and Marijn Rademaker, “Sarcasm” by Hans van Manen, Dutch National Ballet 2017
10. Igone de Jongh and Marijn Rademaker, “Sarcasm” by Hans van Manen, Dutch National Ballet 2017
11. Igone de Jongh and Marijn Rademaker, “Sarcasm” by Hans van Manen, Dutch National Ballet 2017
“5 Tango’s”
12. Maia Makhateli and Daniel Camargo, “5 Tango’s” by Hans van Manen, Dutch National Ballet 2017
13. Daniel Camargo and Maia Makhateli, “5 Tango’s” by Hans van Manen, Dutch National Ballet 2017
14. Daniel Camargo, Maia Makhateli and ensemble, “5 Tango’s” by Hans van Manen, Dutch National Ballet 2017
photos 2-14 © Hans Gerritsen
 Editing: Julie Bradley

 

Conversations with Marijn Rademaker and Jozef Varga

Dutch National Ballet
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
June, 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Dutch National Opera & Ballet © L.KramerThe beautiful opera house and national ballet company are as welcoming and open as Amsterdam itself. During my last visit for the premiere of Alexei Ratmansky’s “Shostakovich Trilogy” in mid-June, I took the opportunity to talk with two principal dancers, Marijn Rademaker and Jozef Varga, about their career and their plans for the future.

Rademaker, a Dutchman, returned home in 2015 after many years with Stuttgart Ballet. We met in a cafe opposite the opera house a few hours before the premiere. Rademaker’s answers are in italics. (more…)

Just Dance?

“Shostakovich Trilogy”
Dutch National Ballet
Dutch National Opera & Ballet
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
June 17, 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Ensemble, “Shostakovich Trilogy” by A.Ratmansky, Dutch National Ballet 2017 © H.Gerritsen“Ted, I don’t know what you’re doing with the company,” Alexei Ratmansky said after the premiere of his “Shostakovich Trilogy” at Dutch National Ballet, “but they get better and better.” He was right to praise the dancers. Their dedication and attention to detail – and this piece is replete with details – made the evening a thorough success.

“Shostakovich Trilogy” is the sixth piece by Ratmansky to enter the company’s repertoire and, next to “Don Quichotte”, is the second full-evening one. (more…)

Toer van Schayk – One Pillar of Dutch National Ballet

Dutch National Ballet
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
February, 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

1. T.van Schayk working on the statue of Romeo and Juliet, Dutch National Ballet © R.HolleboomDutch National Ballet has been shaped by a troika of “van”: Rudi van Dantzig, Hans van Manen and Toer van Schayk, three fellow countrymen of roughly the same generation. Van Dantzig (1933 – 2012) became the company’s resident choreographer shortly after it emerged out of the Amsterdam Ballet and Nederlands Ballet fusion in 1961. He later co-directed the troupe for two decades before holding the director’s post. Since then, Hans van Manen, the Dutch doyen of choreographers, has created work for the company for more than forty years. Eighty-four-years old and still choreographing, he is internationally renowned. (more…)

First International Ballet Conference at Dutch National Ballet

“Positioning Ballet”
Dutch National Ballet
Dutch National Opera & Ballet
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
February 11-12, 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

To discuss fundamental topics concerning the art form of ballet, the Dutch National Ballet assembled a keenly interested, much involved, very international group of guests for a two-day conference last weekend in Amsterdam. At the Saturday session, panel discussions addressed three topics: Heritage, Diversity and Identity. Of the two Sunday morning talks, one focused on networking among companies, and the other advocated inventive entrepreneurship. There was a performance both days, each a mixed bill with works which had been made for the Dutch company (see my reviews of “Made in Amsterdam 1” and “Made in Amsterdam 2”). (more…)

Wheeldon, Ratmansky, Pastor and a New Dawson

“Made in Amsterdam 2”
Dutch National Ballet
Dutch National Opera & Ballet
Amsterdam, Netherlands
February 12, 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

1. N.Yanowsky, R.Wörtmeyer and ensemble, “Concerto Concordia” by C.Wheeldon, Dutch National Ballet 2017 © H.GerritsenThe program “Made in Amsterdam 2” consisted of ballets by four established choreographers. It was the Dutch National Ballet’s second mixed bill of works specifically intended for this company. One piece – a solo by David Dawson – was brand new whereas the other three – Christopher Wheeldon’s “Concerto Concordia”, “Souvenir d’un lieu cher” by Alexei Ratmansky and “Moving Rooms” by Krzysztof Pastor – dated from between 2008 and 2015. (more…)

Well Done Dutch National Ballet!

“Made in Amsterdam 1”
Dutch National Ballet
Dutch National Opera & Ballet
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
February 11, 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

1. M.DePrince and J.Stout, “Homo Ludens” by J.Arqués, Dutch National Ballet 2017 © H.GerritsenLast weekend was a busy one for Dutch National Ballet. The company premiered two mixed bills of four pieces each, one on Saturday evening, the second in a matinee on Sunday. In addition it held a two-day conference titled “Positioning Ballet” to discuss central topics concerning the art form with international guests on the panels. Clearly a huge effort had gone into its organization. It totally paid off. The weekend was a success and the conference will hopefully lead to regular meetings in the future. (more…)

Fighting for Syria’s Dance Culture

Dutch National Ballet
Amsterdam, Netherlands
December, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. A.Joudeh, National Ballet Academy / Dutch National Ballet © M.Schnater“Every day when I wake up I look around myself, wondering where I am” Ahmad Joudeh tells me. The Syrian dancer grew up and lived in Damascus until in October of this year he had the chance to come to Amsterdam. “The first month I couldn’t accept the situation. Electricity for 24 hours, and water, hot water, every time; there is heat and the house … it’s a very nice house.”

How did things come about? Prompted by a press release from Dutch National Ballet about Joudeh, I skyped with him a few days ago to learn more about his background. (more…)

A Conversation with Hans van Manen

Horst Koegler in Conversation with Hans van Manen in 1982
Altes Kammertheater
Stuttgart, Germany
October 31, 2016

transcribed and translated by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Hans van Manen, ca. 1980 © Gert WeigeltHorst Koegler (1927-2012) spoke with Hans van Manen in 1982 at the Altes Kammertheater in Stutt­gart during an evening of the Noverre Society, which at the time was directed by Fritz Höver. This article was edited from an audiotape that was transcribed and translated into English by Ilona Landgraf.
Photos courtesy of Dutch National Ballet, Ballett am Rhein, State Ballet Berlin, Stuttgart Ballet, Maryinsky Ballet and the Bolshoi Ballet.The portraits of Hans van Manen and Horst Koegler are by Gert Weigelt. Please click to enlarge.

2. Horst Koegler, ca. 1980 © Gert WeigeltHans van Manen: You ask how I came to speak my German. I think that’s an inborn skill. My mother was German, but we never spoke much German at home. Yet it must be innate because I can speak a quite good German without knowing that many words. What I heard from my mother were mostly nonsense tongue twisters like “Ein Student in Stulpenstiefeln stand auf einem spitzen Stein. Starrte stundenlang auf die still stehenden Sterne.” I think that was the way I learned German. (more…)

Creating an Image

Ballet Companies in Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland
Semperoper Ballet, Bavarian State Ballet, State Ballet Berlin, Stuttgart Ballet, Ballett am Rhein,
Dutch National Ballet, Zurich Ballet
October 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

What kind of image distinguishes Stuttgart Ballet from Dutch National Ballet? Or the Bavarian State Ballet from the State Ballet Berlin? What is it the dancers – and their audience – identify with as their company? How do companies present themselves to the public? Such were my thoughts when seeing the Semperoper Ballet’s new image campaign, #WHYWEDANCE. I asked several major companies to send me images of their choice representing their respective company’s image.

1. R.Martínez, #WHYWEDANCE, Semperoper Ballet © I.Whalen 20162. J.Gray, #WHYWEDANCE, Semperoper Ballet © I.Whalen 2016Semperoper Ballet chose four of the sixty-one dancer portraits of #WHYWEDANCE. The new ensemble brochure presents each in full-page size. In addition they are spread via social media and on billboards and advertising pillars in Dresden. Aaron S.Watkin, in his eleventh year as artistic director, put the spotlight on his company this season whose face has changed since his beginning in 2006. Next to the dancers, Ian Whalen, the troupe’s photographer and multimedia expert, also shot Watkin and staff members. Names, places of birth, ranks within the company and the year when joining the ensemble come along with each portrait. In addition, every dancer sums up their motivation for the profession, the why and wherefore of choosing a career with dance in a single word. (more…)

Van Dantzig, Van Schayk, Van Manen

“Dutch Masters”
Dutch National Ballet
Dutch National Opera & Ballet
Amsterdam, Netherlands
September 25, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Y.Gyo Choi and Q.Liu, “Episodes van Fragmenten” by T.van Schayk, Dutch National Ballet © H.Gerritsen 2016Dutch National Ballet’s latest mixed bill was all-Dutch. It assembled four pieces by three pivotal choreographers of the Netherlands: “Vier letzte Lieder” (“Four Last Songs”) by Rudi van Dantzig (1933 – 2012), the company’s artistic director for twenty years; “Adagio Hammerklavier” by Hans van Manen (born: 1932) ; plus “Episodes van Fragmenten” and “Requiem”, both by Toer van Schayk (born: 1936). This wasn’t lightweight entertainment but a program upon which to ponder. I attended the last performance, the Sunday, September 25th matinée. (more…)

A Bright Opening

“Gala”
Dutch National Ballet
Dutch National Opera & Ballet
Amsterdam, Netherlands
September 07, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Grand Défilé, Dutch National Ballet © M.Schnater 2016Amsterdam’s National Opera House always radiates a light and welcoming atmosphere. This was especially so at this season’s opening gala on September 7th, which saw large crowds, women in evening gowns, flocking into the buzzing foyer amid flurries of camera flashes around the red carpet.

From the start the Grand Défilé, which opened the gala, gained warm-hearted applause. The program of the following three-and-a-half hours had been kept as a surprise. It included three highlights. (more…)

Handwritings

“Transatlantic”
Dutch National Ballet
Dutch National Opera & Ballet
Amsterdam, Netherlands
June 25, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Ensemble, “Year of the Rabbit” by J.Peck, Dutch National Ballet © H.Gerritsen 2016The program of “Transatlantic”, recently premiered by Dutch National Ballet, is a teaser. The mixed bill has four pieces: two world premieres by George Williamson and Ernst Meisner, a Dutch premiere by Justin Peck and “Overture”, choreography by David Dawson from 2013. A kaleidoscope of up-to-date ballet! Strangely, large parts of the auditorium were empty at, the sixth and second to last performance on Saturday, June 25th. Maybe the round of 16 matches of the European Football Championship kept many glued to the TV screens. They missed a lot. (more…)

Coveted, Discredited and Executed: Mata Hari – a National Celebrity

“Mata Hari”
Dutch National Ballet
Dutch National Opera & Ballet
Amsterdam, Netherlands
February 13, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. A.Tsygankova and ensemble, “Mata Hari” by T.Brandsen, Dutch National Ballet © M.HaegemanDutch National Ballet’s YouTube trailer for its new ballet “Mata Hari” reveals two pythons leisurely encircling a ballerina. No need to worry though, no reptiles appear on stage, and there is no snake dance either. Besides that wouldn’t have been appropriate anyway because Mata Hari, whose performances as bayadère during the Belle Époque in Paris made a great stir, was never a snake charmer but rather a charmer of men.

Ted Brandsen, artistic director of the Dutch company, has traced the life of the famous Dutchwoman in his recently premiered story ballet. Mata Hari was born in 1876 as Margaretha Geertruida Zelle. Her parents separated when she was fourteen. Her mother died one year later; her father married again, but Margaretha was brought up by relatives. (more…)

Emotions – that’s what it’s all about

“Lady of the Camellias”
Dutch National Ballet
Dutch National Opera & Ballet
Amsterdam, Netherlands
April 10, 2015

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2015 by Ilona Landgraf

1. M.Rademaker and I.de Jongh, “Lady of the Camellias” by J.Neumeier, Dutch National Ballet © A.Sterling 2015One feels immediately comfortable at the Dutch National Opera & Ballet, Amsterdam’s principal opera house. Its spacious foyers are flooded with light provided by large windows which allow a panoramic view over the Amstel River. Terraces on various levels are favorite meeting spots of the audience. The house radiates the city’s atmosphere: Amsterdamers are open-minded, easy-going and kind. Special excitement and anticipation was in the air on April 10 at the premiere of John Neumeier’s “Lady of the Camellias”.

After “Sylvia” in 2011, it is the second piece by Neumeier that the company’s director Ted Brandsen has added to the repertory. Ballets by Hans van Manen, established as the company’s associate and resident choreographer for more than five decades, by Krzysztof Pastor and by David Dawson are the backbone of the schedules. Rudi van Dantzig (1933 – 2012), for twenty years at the helm of Dutch National Ballet, also left his mark as a choreographer. (more…)