Mixed Bill – Dutch National Ballet Junior Company: 5 July 2019, Linbury Theatre, Royal Opera House, London

Making Sense

Hmm, bus? Train? DNB’s Junior Company ponder the big questions in Daniela Cardim’s What Got You Here.

As part of the Royal Opera House’s Young Talent Festival in the Linbury Theatre, Dutch National Ballet’s Junior Company showed London just how good they are. Aimed at bridging the gap between leaving school and joining a company full-time, they also tour internationally as well as across the Netherlands and nothing seems to hold any fear for them.

Ernst Meisner’s No Time Before Time started things, a perfectly eloquent slice of neo-classical ballet set to Alexander Balanescu’s score of the same name. The stage was probably a little small for such an ensemble piece but the dancers floated through it beautifully with Dingkai Bai standing out for his elevation, quick feet and presence of manner. Charlotte Edmonds’ Fuse popped up next, which saw her in surprisingly balletic mode, with strong extensions, intricate partnering and a real appreciation of the percussive score.

Daniela Cardim took to Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything for inspiration for her opus. What Got You Here cleverly uses a voiceover (which explains just how unlikely a conglomeration of atoms it took for all of us simply to exist) to power the movement and does so in a way that’s both funny and thought-provoking. It even manages to leave us with a strong message warning of the environmental dangers facing the planet. Excellently put together and a great watch.

Following the first interval was Juanjo Arqués’ frankly frustrating Fingers in the Air. The audience were given finger-lights that allowed us – at selected moments – to choose what would happen next, e.g. a solo or a duet. In terms of getting the audience involved, it was a nice idea but the choreography – a sculpturally emotionless set of big extensions – meant it really made little difference what was voted for.

The final offering was an absolute gem from Hans van Manen. In the Future is a satisfyingly bonkers arrangement of green and red unitarded dancers to the unlikely accompaniment of David Byrne’s slightly oompah music. It shouldn’t have worked in a million years as a combination but the stringent physical adherence to a sense of line and bounce somehow gelled to perfection. That the dancers looked just as good in this as all the other pieces is a testament to their superb abilities.

Gerard Davis

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