We have spent much of 2020 bemoaning the fact that the arts have suffered greatly because of the pandemic and even those theatres that have managed to re-open briefly, have had to close again before we’ve drawn breath. But much as we crave live performance, the plethora of live-streamings and digital creations has meant that there have been offerings that we may otherwise have missed, had we not had the luxury of watching online. Dutch National Ballet performed 3 live shows of Back to Ballet – classic, available to watch from home. Due to some technical difficulties I only managed to catch the last one in full, but it was worth the wait.
Inevitably directors and choreographers have to step through a minefield of Covid rules before they can get their dancers back on stage with bubbles and social distancing, thus a carefully chosen programme had to come into play. Ted Brandsen gave us a great balance of fireworks and tranquility in Back to Ballet – classic, even managing to include students from the school and a performance from the Junior Company.
We don’t get to see Dutch National Ballet enough in the UK and it’s always a bit of a wake-up call when one realises what we are missing. The programme opened with Balanchine’s Valse Fantaisie (Photo), given by the Junior Company. Led by Elisabeth Tonev and Leo Hepler, the entire cast embraced the style with aplomb and look set to be on an upward career trajectory from here on in. Balanchine’s choreography is notoriously difficult to master but these young dancers were fleet of foot and highly accomplished. Anna Tsygankova and Costa Allen followed with a serene Swan Lake, pas de deux from Act II. The two of them gave mature, deeply felt accounts and the connection between them was palpable. Brandsen’s most recent work, Classical Symphony, was created especially to show off the depth of talent among the men. And let’s just say, there can be no doubt that the company boasts a fine roster. This was a tremendous highlight – with the energy and sheer attack, inspiring instant excitement. With James Stout, Conor Walmsley, Martin ten Kortenaar and Sem Sjouke leading the Larghetto and Joseph Massarelli’s all too brief solo in the Gavotte, the joy of the dance was amply transmitted.
Salome Leverashvili and Tim van Poucke, who are grand sujets, not yet soloists, gave a fine performance of Le Corsaire pas de deux and must have been feeling the pressure of a ‘one chance only’ scenario, fearing another impending lockdown. Yet they appeared confident and secure and since they have not long been full members of the company, they are both making rapid progress with gratifying results.
Rachel Beaujean’s excellent production of Paquita closed the performance. Across the board, there was much to be applauded – from the students opening with the mazurka, (perfectly drilled) to some dazzling dancing from principals and soloists alike. Especially good was Daniel Silva in the Pas de trois – he is surely one to watch with his charismatic stage presence and exemplary technique. Principals Qian Liu and Semyon Velichko in the lead roles, filled the stage with grandeur and elegance. I note that Velichko was promoted to principal earlier this year, after his debut as Albrecht in Giselle – good news and well deserved in a year filled with so much doom and gloom. With a great deal of first rate dancing in this glittering performance, a small mention must be made about the filming which was sensitively done, with a full appreciation of when to film a full stage and when to focus on faces. If we missed the audience’s applause, the quality of the dancing and the Dutch Ballet Orchestra (with Koen Kessels conducting) remained undiminished.
By Deborah Weiss