DUTCH NATIONAL BALLET.
For this season's "Dancing to Beethoven" program, Het Nationale Ballet's artistic director, Wayne Eagling, picked a sure winner as the centerpiece of three distinctly twentieth-century choreographies set to music by this eighteenth- to nineteenth-century giant.
Hans van Manen's Adagio Hammerklavier bristles with virtues--simplicity, inventiveness, logic, and sensitivity. Within a strict pattern of adagios for three unchanging male-female pairs, the choreographer begins by highlighting the dancers' classical balletic stance. As the music's initially separated chords merge and flow, the movement too takes wing.
Of a much younger generation than such early neoclassicists as Bronislava Nijinska, George Balanchine, Frederick Ashton, or Harald Lander, van Manen inserts expressionist tension into his balletic vocabulary; presumably this is done to bare the soul. Two motifs--an elbow-thrust and a bent, flexed pose that women assume during some lifts--suffice to create this contrast with the predominantly harmonious traditional steps.
The first adagio couple (Natalia Hoffmann, Tamas Nagy) is the most conflicted. The second couple (Sabine Chaland, Wim Broeckx) is tightly allied. The third pair (Larissa Lezhnina, Gael Lambiotte) is the richest in movement and the most free, permitting each to have solo passages within the adagio structure. It was a good cast with Lezhnina, particularly, utterly clear and authoritative in both performances. Lambiotte, on September 18, was especially supple in his "crouched" solo. The setting by Jean Paul Vroom, a rippling curtain of pale blue seen through a rectangle cut from a black drop, reflected this bailers formality and freedom.
The program opener and only new work, Adagio, by Beijing-Folkwang-trained choreographer Xinpeng Wang, uses the sound of a heartbeat to lead into the slow movement of the Ninth Symphony. Dancers, curled embryonically on the floor, rise and aggregate into a cluster to embrace; the closeness becomes too constricting for some of them. Duets follow, with two lead couples (Enrichetta Cavallotti and Nicolas Rapaic, Igone de Jongh and Rubinald Rofino Pronk) plus three subsidiary pairs. The movement's scoops and spirals require pliancy, partnering skills, and more semimodern dance ability than balletic traits. Wang's idiom, though, hasn't enough variety, nor is it very apt musically, and his imagery is stock. At the end, the dancers again cluster so densely that one of the women, who had collapsed initially, now does so with finality.
Much more interesting was Toer van Schayk's 7th Symphony--the entire Beethoven symphony--for twenty dancers led by Lambiotte. Its formations and maneuvers, decor and costuming (also by Van Schayk), and even the women's hairstyles evoke Leonide Massine's symphonic ballets of the 1930s. None of Massine's specific characters or symbolic figures appear, yet a strong sense of conflict, climax, and resolution pervades the piece. Van Schayk has lots of choreographic ideas that employ, again like Massine, acrobatics and sports smoothly blended into ballet technique. Missing is the way Massine passed motion themes along a line from dancer to dancer. The ensemble mastered the ballet's geometries with good cohesion on September 18, but in neither performance did it muster the weight that Ballets Russes could invest in such movement.
This program used fewer than half the company's eighty-two dancers. More were on display last year for a Russian bill (La Bayadere's Shades scene, several Soviet pas de deux, and the Paquita divertissement) at the older, smaller Stadsschouwburg. Even without having a hallmark style, Dutch National Ballet dancers still form a true company that is able to tackle the varied repertory Eagling chooses.
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|Article Type:||Dance Review|
|Date:||Dec 1, 1999|
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