After a great success in 2014 the Dutch National Ballet is ready for another series of Dutch Doubles, where choreographers with Dutch roots or a strong connection to the Dutch dance scene are teamed up with musicians, resulting in collaborations that otherwise might not have been likely to be seen on stage. The outcome varies from interesting experiments to proven combinations, giving mixed but interesting results.

Yuanyuan Zhang & Martin ten Kortenaar in <i>Impermanence</i> © Hans Gerritsen
Yuanyuan Zhang & Martin ten Kortenaar in Impermanence
© Hans Gerritsen

Dutch Doubles begins with Impermanence by Ernst Meisner, in collaboration with harpist Remi van Kesteren. The two worked together previously in the 2014 edition of Dutch Doubles, but this time they try a whole different approach. That means a lot of improvisation sessions and input from the dancers. The result is a vibrant work. It’s difficult to find a common thread in this piece, yet it is pleasant to watch. Whether it is Meisner's dynamic choreography or van Kesteren’s hypnotic music, there’s something appealing about it. The work consists of several shorter solos and duets that smoothly merge into one piece. The star studded cast shows different emotions, from excitement to fear and from calm to resistance, variations playfully related to the discovery of new paths, just as Meisner and van Kesteren intended to do. Meisner’s signature neoclassical style is elegant and fresh, yet remarkably familiar considering the completely new approach he wanted to implement. It is van Kesteren's thrilling score, which creates different atmospheres with not only the harp but a whole orchestra, accompanied with synthesizers, that gives Impermanence its tension.

Two and Only by Wubkje Kuindersma is the most affectionate work of evening. She created the piece especially for soloist Marijn Rademaker and élève Timothy van Poucke, an interesting partnership between a young dancer who is just starting his career and an experienced dancer who is at the top. The work is about universal love and the perishability of it. The duet between the two man combines power and masculinity with tenderness, and there is a sense of warmth and pain at the same time. Perhaps it is a memory of a relationship that once was. Singer and songwriter Michael Benjamin performs his touching songs live with the dancers on stage, adding to the intimate atmosphere.

Michael Benjamin, Marijn Rademaker and Timothy van Poucke in <i>Two and Only</i> © Hans Gerritsen
Michael Benjamin, Marijn Rademaker and Timothy van Poucke in Two and Only
© Hans Gerritsen

A work by the iconic Dutch choreographer Hans van Manen can’t be missing in Dutch Doubles. For Déjà Vu, he teamed up with Keso Dekker, his long time costume designer, and with soloists Igone de Jongh and Marijn Rademaker to form a powerful Dutch quartet. Déjà vu, a work that can be described as a typical Van Manen ballet, examines the relationship between men and women. It’s not all love and roses; on the contrary, Van Manen shows the struggles. The dance is intimate and close, but the atmosphere is tense. Passive aggressive body language; a sharp turn here and there, an impatient hand gesture or just an intense look... Van Manen’s muse Igone de Jongh knows how to portray the powerful woman in his works, and Marijn Rademaker is an equal match. Déjà vu – created in 1995 – is a wink to the première's critical review, which stated that his works would be to repetitive. Nearly twenty years later it proves instead to be a timeless work. The dancers of the Dutch National Ballet perform van Manen's works at their best, and tonight is no exception.

Igone de Jongh & Marijn Rademaker in <i>Déjà Vu</i> © Han Gerritsen
Igone de Jongh & Marijn Rademaker in Déjà Vu
© Han Gerritsen

Dutch Doubles ends with a bang. Annabelle Lopez Ochoa and singer Wende have teamed up to create a rocking large piece. The lights go down and an abrupt blast marks the start of the show. The tone is set for a half hour long energetic show that combines modern ballet with pop music, an interesting combination that's a first on the Amsterdam stage. A ensemble of finger snapping dancers appears, and for a few minutes it feels like we have landed on broadway. Singer Wende fills the stage with her powerful voice and charisma while the dancers form a line in the background. We’re attending her concert now, and the dancers are part of the setting, standing still and performing simple staccato arm movements. But the relationships between music and dance gradually change as the performance progresses. First the dancers and the singer clash, being opposed to each other, scaring each other off as if they were aliens and looking to challenge the opposition by simple sound and movements, but gradually they merge more. Wende and the dancers start to interact with small encounters on stage, and Wende turns out to be a natural mover who combines powerful singing with energetic movements effortlessly. When the ensemble makes place for duets and parts for 3 or 4 dancers the focus on the choreography gets stronger and it’s time for the soloists to shine in expressive choreography with a lot of beautiful lines and playful jazzy influences, yet it’s still an effort to shift focus from the choreography to the singing and vice versa. The concept of ballet and pop music together is exciting, but as a whole it doesn’t come together as smoothly as was hoped for.

***11