Tag Archive: Ted Brandsen

Dancers’ Choice

Spring Special”
Dutch National Ballet
Dutch National Opera & Ballet
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
April 05, 2021 (online)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2021 by Ilona Landgraf

1. N.Tonoli, S.Yamada, J.Spunda, and S.Leverashvili (Peasants), “Giselle“ by M.Petipa after J.Coralli and J.Perrot, production and additional choreography by R.Beaujean and R.Bustamante, Dutch National Ballet 2021 © H.GerritsenFor most artists, the flow of opportunities for performance on home stages or abroad has either thinned to a trickle or dried up altogether since the onset of the pandemic. The Dutch National Ballet filled some of those gaps with a “Spring Special” -gala that featured a selection of ten short pieces in total – eight excerpts from the company’s existing repertory, one new acquisition, and one world premiere. Each dancer was able to choose which piece to perform in (with appropriate attention to pandemic-related restrictions of group size). All of the principals, several soloists, and one member of the corps de ballet participated. The gala was streamed live on April 5th. A second broadcast is scheduled for April 10, 2021

2. S.Velichko (Count Albrecht) and Q.Liu (Giselle), “Giselle“ by M.Petipa after J.Coralli and J.Perrot, production and additional choreography by R.Beaujean and R.Bustamante, Dutch National Ballet 2021 © H.GerritsenThe opening piece – the peasants’ Pas de Quatre from the 2009 adaption of “Giselle” by Rachel Beaujean and Ricardo Bustamante – sparkled buoyantly. The peasant couples – Salome Leverashvili & Jan Spunda and Nina Tonoli & Sho Yamada – were well matched. Spunda and Yamada, both attentive partners, delivered confident solos. Tonoli cheerfully stitched together her steps as if creating a fine piece of crochet work; Leverashvili, after adroitly finishing her solo, seemed to sigh with happy relief.

3. S.Velichko (Count Albrecht) and Q.Liu (Giselle), “Giselle“ by M.Petipa after J.Coralli and J.Perrot, production and additional choreography by R.Beaujean and R.Bustamante, Dutch National Ballet 2021 © H.GerritsenLater in the program, Qian Liu and Semyon Velichko danced another excerpt from “Giselle” – the Pas de Deux of the second act. Without the frame story and most of the scenery, it’s hard to evoke an appropriate atmosphere – but it was astonishing to see the depths to which Liu plumbed Giselle’s tragic love. Her Giselle was as light and ethereal as a spider’s web. If the camera had zoomed in on her face, I wouldn’t have been surprised to see tears flowing. Velichko’s Albrecht, understandably, was made ashen by grief.

“Duet”, a Pas de Deux created by Wayne Eagling for the company in 1995, was similarly packed with emotion. Isolde’s love-death from “Tristan and Isolde” served as his source of inspiration; accordingly, the music is Richard Wagner’s. Eagling 5. A.Ol and A.Shesterikov, “Duet” by W.Eagling, Dutch National Ballet 2021 © H.Gerritsen4. A.Ol and A.Shesterikov, “Duet” by W.Eagling, Dutch National Ballet 2021 © H.Gerritsendepicts an earthly relationship between lovers in an attempt to explore love as a cosmic principle. His choreography is as velvety as the dark blue night that surrounds the couple (Anna Ol and Artur Shesterikov). Ol melts in Shesterikov’s arms, huddled up like a child, or lets loose, stretching her limbs wide as if flying. Each step is built from mutual trust. A beautiful piece of work!

6. R.Wörtmeyer, “Classical Symphony” by T.Brandsen, Dutch National Ballet 2021 © H.GerritsenThe same is true of the gavotte from “Classical Symphony”, with choreography by Dutch National Ballet’s artistic director Ted Brandsen to Prokofiev’s “Romeo and Juliet”- music. The gavotte is less than one and a half minutes long – but that’s sufficient for Remi Wörtmeyer to dazzle us with an eye-popping performance. Wörtmeyer teases and swaggers nonchalantly, radiating Mercution-like charm. It was particularly amazing to watch his legs vacillate between being incredibly long, rubber-like, or sharp-edged.

Brandsen’s second contribution to the program was “Replay”, a Pas de Deux originally created for Igone de Jongh and Vito Mazzeo in 2014 to piano music by Philip Glass. At the time, Mazzeo was a younger man performing with an older woman. This time around, his partner, Yuanyuan Zhang, was the younger one. Mazzeo depicted an initially protective man, who soon had to accept his partner’s pursuit of independence. Arms stretched in embrace suddenly moved apart. Hands held just together snapped asunder like the 8. V.Mazzeo and Y.Zhang, “Replay” by T.Brandsen, Dutch National Ballet 2021 © H.Gerritsen7. V.Mazzeo and Y.Zhang, “Replay” by T.Brandsen, Dutch National Ballet 2021 © H.Gerritsenopening of a latch. Surprisingly, Mazzeo (quite tall) seemed more vulnerable than Zhang (quite small). The pair never separated from one another, only moving seamlessly between tight closeness and less tight closeness.
Glass’s music was played live by Ryoko Kondo.

9. J.Xuan (Princess Aurora) and J.Feyferlik (Prince Florimund), “The Sleeping Beauty” by M.Petipa, production and additional choreography by Sir P.Wright, Dutch National Ballet 2021 © H.GerritsenJessica Xuan’s first principal role with Dutch National Ballet was Princess Aurora in 2017; Jakob Feyferlik’s last role before the first lockdown was Prince Florimund. It’s no surprise, then, that the pair chose the Grand Pas de Deux of the Sleeping Beauty (a version by Peter Wright) to take up the thread again. The piece’s regality which included boldly swift fish dives was an interesting contrast to the other pas de deux’s deep emotion.

Wubkje Kuindersma created “Two and Only” in 2017 for Marijn Rademaker and Timothy van Poucke. After Rademaker left the company, Jozef Varga inherited the role. The piece is accompanied by guitar & piano music and a song by Michael Benjamin (who played live), but according to Kuindersma, 10. T.van Poucke and J.Varga, “Two and Only” by W.Kuindersma, Dutch National Ballet 2021 © H.Gerritsenthe song’s lyrics (about painful yearning, true love, and the desire to forget) aren’t to be taken literally. To me, it seemed as if an older men (Varga) wanted to re-invigorate his romantic relationship with a younger one (van Poucke). For a moment, he’s successful; they roll on top of one other, thrust their arms upwards (as if pushing a murky memory towards heaven), and mirror each other’s movements. Eventually, though, confrontational face-offs ensue until van Poucke, held by Varga in a trusting embrace, slips away, leaving Varga in a lonely void.

The sunny vibe returned with “Delibes Suite”, a Pas de Deux by José Carlos Martínez to music composed by Delibes for 11. A.Tsygankova and C.Allen, “Delibes Suite” by J.C.Martínez, Dutch National Ballet 2021 © H.Gerritsen12. C.Allen and A.Tsygankova, “Delibes Suite” by J.C.Martínez, Dutch National Ballet 2021 © H.Gerritsen“Coppélia” and “La Source”. The piece was a wonderful vehicle for Anna Tsygankova to show off her assured technique. She playfully – even mischievously – vacillated between gentle tenderness (think of butterflies fluttering on a sunny spring day) and verve. The long-limbed Constantine Allen has an elegant line and spacious jumps, but he underpowered the jeté en manege. With his physique he could dash through like an arrow.

13. A.Ol and J.Stout, “Alignment” by J.Nunes, Dutch National Ballet 2021 © H.GerritsenThe new piece, “Alignment”, was second to last in the program. The piece was choreographed over Zoom by Brazilian choreographer Juliano Nunes for Anna Ol and James Stout and was accompanied by edgy, strident string music by Ezio Bosso. Restlessness, desultoriness, and subtle anxiety permeate the atmosphere within its six-ish minutes. Lifts, leg splits, and embraces return again and again in Nunes’s choreography. Sometimes Ol’s legs quiver with fear. Stout bent her leg and arm upwards into a bud-like shape, carried her like a bundle behind his neck, or circled her like a carousel horse. Intermittently, the pair danced apart from one another; 14. J.Stout and A.Ol, “Alignment” by J.Nunes, Dutch National Ballet 2021 © H.Gerritsenonce, they fell to the ground as if exhausted. The costumes – full-body leotards by Oliver Haller with a yellow-red color gradient – lend the movements an intriguing visual aesthetic. Nunes didn’t focus on depicting the emotional fabric of the relationship, leaving us in the dark about what keeps this couple together.

The gala concluded with a dashing rendition of a piece new to the repertory: Pyotr Gusev’s 15. M.Makhateli (Niriti) and Y.Gyu Choi (Noureddin), “Talisman Pas de Deux” by P.Gusev, Dutch National Ballet 2021 © H.GerritsenTalisman Pas de Deux. As Niriti, daughter of the Queen of Heavens, Maia Makhateli flirts with feminine reticence, hemming creamy, soft movements with crisp edges. Her arms and wrists are especially expressive. I was completely surprised by Young Gyu Choi’s performance as Maharaja Noureddin – never before have I seen Gyu Choi give such a fiery performance, jumping forcefully and beaming with joy. Bravo!

Each piece except the first one was preceded by a short video made from snippets from the rehearsals and the dancers’ comments on their choices. Applause came from the very few lucky ones who were allowed to attend the performance – among them staff, colleagues, and Hans van Manen.
16. Y.Gyu Choi (Noureddin) and M.Makhateli (Niriti), “Talisman Pas de Deux” by P.Gusev, Dutch National Ballet 2021 © H.Gerritsen 

Links: Website of Dutch National Ballet
Photos: 1. Nina Tonoli, Sho Yamada, Jan Spunda, and Salome Leverashvili (Peasants), “Giselle“ by Marius Petipa after Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot, production and additional choreography by Rachel Beaujean and Ricardo Bustamante, Dutch National Ballet 2021
2. Semyon Velichko (Count Albrecht) and Qian Liu (Giselle), “Giselle“ by Marius Petipa after Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot, production and additional choreography by Rachel Beaujean and Ricardo Bustamante, Dutch National Ballet 2021
3. Semyon Velichko (Count Albrecht) and Qian Liu (Giselle), “Giselle“ by Marius Petipa after Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot, production and additional choreography by Rachel Beaujean and Ricardo Bustamante, Dutch National Ballet 2021
4. Anna Ol and Artur Shesterikov, “Duet” by Wayne Eagling, Dutch National Ballet 2021
5. Anna Ol and Artur Shesterikov, “Duet” by Wayne Eagling, Dutch National Ballet 2021
6. Remi Wörtmeyer, “Classical Symphony” by Ted Brandsen, Dutch National Ballet 2021
7. Vito Mazzeo and Yuanyuan Zhang, “Replay” by Ted Brandsen, Dutch National Ballet 2021
8. Vito Mazzeo and Yuanyuan Zhang, “Replay” by Ted Brandsen, Dutch National Ballet 2021
9. Jessica Xuan (Princess Aurora) and Jakob Feyferlik (Prince Florimund), “The Sleeping Beauty” by Marius Petipa, production and additional choreography by Sir Peter Wright, Dutch National Ballet 2021
10. Timothy van Poucke and Jozef Varga, “Two and Only” by Wubkje Kuindersma, Dutch National Ballet 2021
11. Anna Tsygankova and Constantine Allen, “Delibes Suite” by José Carlos Martínez, Dutch National Ballet 2021
12. Constantine Allen and Anna Tsygankova, “Delibes Suite” by José Carlos Martínez, Dutch National Ballet 2021
13. Anna Ol and James Stout, “Alignment” by Juliano Nunes, Dutch National Ballet 2021
14. James Stout and Anna Ol, “Alignment” by Juliano Nunes, Dutch National Ballet 2021
15. Maia Makhateli (Niriti) and Young Gyu Choi (Noureddin), “Talisman Pas de Deux” by Pyotr Gusev, Dutch National Ballet 2021
16. Young Gyu Choi (Noureddin) and Maia Makhateli (Niriti), “Talisman Pas de Deux” by Pyotr Gusev, Dutch National Ballet 2021
all photos © Hans Gerritsen
Editing: Jake Stepansky

Second International Ballet Conference at Dutch National Ballet

“Positioning Ballet 2019”
Dutch National Ballet
Dutch National Opera & Ballet
Amsterdam, The Netherlands

February 16/17, 2019
by Ilona Landgraf

Copyright © 2019 by Ilona Landgraf

This February, the Dutch National Ballet welcomed international dance professionals for a two-day working meeting at the second “Positioning Ballet” conference. In 2017, at the first iteration of the event, the key topics were heritage, diversity, and identity. The 2019 meeting dealt with the relevance of ballet in the 21st century, the work culture ballet aims to embody, and the types of leadership required from artistic directors. Unlike in 2017, this year’s conference was closed for the press on the first day. As such, I missed the two keynote speeches – one by Jennifer Homans, the author of “Apollo’s Angels”, and the other by Theresa Ruth Howard, the founder and curator of MoBBallet (Memoirs of Blacks in Ballet) – and the discussions that followed. Homans spoke about internal and external threats to the arts and ballet in particular, while Howard’s speech was titled “The Deconstruction of the Anatomy of Culture and Leadership in Ballet”. (more…)

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…)

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…)

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…)

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…)

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…)