Present/s 1 and 2
Chapters, Variations for two couples, Consequence, Duet, Raï / The nature of difference, Souvenir d’un lieu cher, Short time together, Day4
Choreography: Krzysztof Pastor, Hans Van Manen, Juanjo Arqués, Christopher Wheeldon, Ted Brandsen / Ton Simons, Alexei Ratmansky, Lightfoot León, David Dawson
Dutch National Ballet
Het Muziektheater, Amsterdam
February 18 & 19, 2012
New creations are the exception in the life of most ballet companies, not the norm, and Dutch National Ballet deserves an avalanche of bouquets for going against the grain, especially in the current context. For its 50th anniversary season, the Amsterdam-based company has chosen to present a festival of no fewer than nine premieres, and this almost unparalleled undertaking has paid off handsomely, with two varied and accomplished programmes.
Present/s was conceived as an examination of the current state of ballet, and on the basis of the first programme, the trend for hyperextensions and existential angst isn’t going anywhere. Two works deployed both with wild energy: Krzysztof Pastor’s Chapters, otherwise let down by a rather obscure love entanglement, and Juanjo Arqués’s Consequence. Arqués, a company member, brought Wayne McGregor to mind with his writhing, highly articulate style and minimalist design choices, but his work feels more human and, for such a young choreographer – he is 34 – is quite promising.
Present/s 1 also ran the gamut of gender representation, from traditional roles to cheeky subversion – the latter a welcome alternative for the art form. Company director Ted Brandsen epitomised it in Raï, with bright-coloured short dresses for men and women alike and upbeat ensemble scenes in which their differences seemed to blur as they danced side by side. Christopher Wheeldon’s Duet, on the other hand, is the modern pas de deux at its most sentimental: swooning girl meets strong man, he manipulates her into new positions, and both lovely images and awkward partnering moments ensue. (…)