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FridaWorld premiere

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Dutch National Opera and BalletWaterlooplein 22, Amsterdam, North Holland, Netherlands
February 06, 08, 11, 13, 14, 15, 18, 23 14:00, 25 (at 20:15 unless shown)
Programme
FridaMusic: Salem, Peter
Choreography: Annabelle Lopez Ochoa

Frida by choreographer Annabelle Lopez Ochoa was inspired by the life story of Frida Kahlo. One of the most intriguing artists of the twentieth century, the Mexican-born Kahlo refused to bow to misfortune, zealously fought taboos and championed women's rights, and painted portraits that became famous the world over.

Frida Kahlo's (1907-1954) life was anything but easy. Contracting polio when she was six, at 18 she was in a near-fatal accident that permanently injured her pelvic bone and spine. As a distraction from the pain and isolation, she began painting. Her colourful self-portraits were personal ‘journals’ in which she could express her soul. At the age of 22 Frida married fellow artist Diego Rivera. Though they would spend the next 25 years painting each other, theirs was not a happy marriage, thanks in no small part to Rivera's ongoing infidelities. Towards the end of her life, Kahlo said she had suffered two bad accidents in her life: ‘One was the streetcar, the other was my husband. My husband was by far the worst’.

Annabelle Lopez Ochoa is half Colombian and half Belgian, but she made her name as a dancer in the Netherlands and started to choreograph while still dancing. In recent years, her international career has really taken off. She has created recent works for New York City Ballet, English National Ballet, Scottish Ballet and Ballet Moscow. For Last Resistance, her choreography for Dutch Doubles 2018, she took inspiration from one of the best-known and most versatile singer in the Netherlands: Wende Snijders. The versatile choreographer, whose work includes flamenco, hip-hop, classical ballet and contemporary dance, received the Jacob's Pillow Dance Award in March 2019.

Ochoa – whose Last Resistance, a co-creation with Dutch singer Wende Snijders, won acclaim in early 2018 – became fascinated by the Mexican artist after seeing the film Frida (2002). ‘Until that moment I’d never understood why she was so famous, but this film made me realise how she managed to transmute her pain and immobility.’ Ochoa grabbed the opportunity to pursue this fascination in 2016 when Tamara Rojo, artistic director of the English National Ballet, asked her to contribute to She Said, a triple bill of choreographies by women, inspired by iconic women of the past. The result was Broken Wings, titled after Kahlo’s biography, Alas Rotas.

Ochoa: ‘Even before Broken Wings premièred, I felt it should be a full-length ballet, because there was too much happening in too short a space of time.’ Therefore it was a ‘dream come true’ when Ted Brandsen, artistic director of Dutch National Ballet, offered her the chance to develop her ideas in a large-scale new production. Like Broken Wings, Frida is less a linear story of the artist’s life and more a visual reimagination of how she felt and experienced the world.

In creating this full-length choreography, Ochoa’s aim was to flesh out the ‘expressive surrealism that dance – by analogy to Kahlo’s paintings – can embody’, delving even deeper into the loneliness that haunted Kahlo all her life, her relationship with Diego Rivera, her bisexuality, and the way she crafted her own image.

British composer Peter Salem, best known for his work for film and theatre, is creating a longer arrangement of the music he wrote for Broken Wings, this time also using Mexican instruments. Internationally acclaimed Dutch designer Dieuweke van Reij is supplying the colourful sets and costumes.

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