The Dutch National Ballet presents its Junior Company in their very first tour through the United Kingdom, Spain and the Netherlands. The performance turns out to be much more than an introduction: it is a full-length programme filled with variation and energy.

Sleeping Beauty © Emma Kauldhar
Sleeping Beauty
© Emma Kauldhar

The first part of the programme consists of a tour through ballet history. Each dance is introduced by a short video clip by video master and former dancer Mathieu Gremillet. The documentary-style fragments show the dancers practicing and preparing. They also appear on screen talking, providing the audience with background information about the dance that they are going to perform, and telling us about themselves. In this way they close the gap between themselves and the audience. After the first introduction, which summarizes the origins of ballet, it is time for the first dance, directly related to ballet history. Nancy Burer and Thomas van Damme perform Ernst Meisner's Menuet to music by Handel. The choreography is basic and artistically not very interesting, as it mainly consists of the dancers stepping in circles in erect postures. But it does show the more primitive (and undeveloped) beginnings of ballet. And the total image, with a background projection of the court of Louis XIV and the dancers with their rococo costumes, looks top-notch.

Menuet © Emma Kauldhar
© Emma Kauldhar

Ballet 101 (Eric Gauthier, 2006), continues the theme of introductions. Daniel Montero presents a hundred different ballet positions in a row – but of course the inevitable mashup follows, giving Montero the opportunity to show off his skills. This results in a highlight with theatrical characteristics.

After this short trip to the present, the dancers return to their classical roots with choreographies from Swan Lake, Diana and Acteon and The Sleeping Beauty. Jessica Xuan shines in the Swan Lake pas de deux and is skillfully accompanied by Nathan Brhane. Sho Yamada and Michaela DePrince (who is warmly welcomed as the audience's favourite) make the most unlikely jumps in the most unexpected angles, in their pas de deux from Diana and Acteon. Finally, the pas de quatre from The Sleeping Beauty bubbles with energy. This cleverly composed overview is a fine introduction to the classical ballet repertoire. 

The Dutch National Ballet Junior Company © Emma Kauldhar
The Dutch National Ballet Junior Company
© Emma Kauldhar

The second part of the programme focuses on the twentieth and twenty-first century. Nathan Brhane, Daniel Cooke, Thomas van Damme and Wentao Li accompany Jessica Xuan in Hans van Manen's Kwintet. The choreography is set to three different parts from Mozart's Gran Partita, including the famous Adagio. The calm pace of the music and the meditative movement perfectly complement each other. Xuan, high on her pointes, forms a lovely contrast with the men, who move while kneeled or laying down.

Kwintet © Emma Kauldhar
© Emma Kauldhar

The last choreography buzzes with energy. Dawn Dances is choreographed by George Williamson, who is not much older than the dancers. His youthful enthusiasm shows in the energetic dancing to Judd Greenstein's equally vibrant music (Clearing, Dawn, Dance). All musical motifs are danced to by pairs or soloists, who are sometimes on stage by themselves, and at other times together with other dancers. When the full company is on stage they form beautiful mosaics and kaleidoscopic patterns. All in all, Dawn Dances blows over as a whirlwind.

This is the first tour of the Junior Company, but it will certainly not be their last. All members of the company show their skill and also the fun they have dancing. With its chronological structure and varied works, this programme is a must-see for any ballet lover or anyone interested in dance.