Combining the best of both: this is literally the premise for the four brand new choreographies presented in Dutch Doubles. Performed by dancers from the Dutch National Ballet, each work combines a newly invented choreography with another arts discipline: design, video, music or fashion. And the artists in question are not just any artists.

Roulette © Angela Sterling
Roulette
© Angela Sterling

The evening opens with Roulette, a choreography by Juanjo Arques danced on a set designed by Krijn de Koning. The set consists of blocks in different colours that are arranged in such a way that they form an abstract building. Percussionists from Slagwerk Den Haag perform on the ‘roof’ of the building; a nice invention to bring music and dancers closer together. The earthy rhythms by Michael Gordon and David Lang are paired with organic movements by the dancers. The rhythmic sections are juxtaposed with melodic parts with music by Dutch composer Jacob ter Veldhuis (1951) whose String Quartet no. 1 is tragically beautiful. As the dancers flaunt with proud, elegant movement, Holland Symfonia plays hauntingly, touchingly under Clotilde Otranto. The latter makes her Dutch debut in this performance and proves to be an excellent conductor later on in the performance. There is a constant interaction between classical and modern movement in Roulette. The dancers stay low to the ground, their dance earthy, yet there is a pointed foot, a long leg in the air, a boy lifting a girl; only to fall down in bent motion. This combination is interesting but the rhythmic compositions tend to get boring after a while.

Romance © Angela Sterling
Romance
© Angela Sterling

This work is followed by a purely classical choreography: Romance by Ton Simons. To Mozart’s Piano concerto in d flat, II: Romance, Peter Lueng and Erica Horwood present different stages in a relationship: love, sex, fighting (with a lovely call-and-response structure in the dance), estrangement, making up. I caught myself thinking how terribly romantic this was, only to remember the title. The choreography is framed by two clips by video artist Rineke Dijkstra that show the two principals before and after the ballet: first preparing and concentrating, then trying to catch their breath and cool down. It is touching to see the dancers so closely, on a huge screen. You can almost touch the muscles in their bodies and feel their focus.

Dances with Harp is the third choreography in Dutch Doubles. The dance is made by living legend Hans van Manen; the harp played by rising star Remy van Kesteren. His appearance with his beautiful golden harp on the far right of the stage is a pleasure to watch. After rather unsettling music by Carlos Micháns, Van Kesteren goes to the core of the tones in Frederic Mompou’s miniaturist music; moments later he plays a joyful Bach (Goldberg Variations). The stage is taken over by three men who boast and take big, cheerful steps to the lively music. Even though the men dance rather unevenly, this refreshing choreography by Van Manen brings a smile to one's face. The trios seamlessly blend into the pas de deux that, danced to a completely dark background and minimal music with penetrating harp chords, are magical.

Shape © Angela Sterling
Shape
© Angela Sterling

Dutch Doubles ends with the most anticipated work, Shape. The reason for this is that the dancers, who dance a choreography by Jorma Elo, wear costumes designed by a Dutch duo of fashion designers: Viktor & Rolf. “Aah”s and “ooh”s were heard as the curtain went up to reveal a breathtaking snow white tableau. Viktor & Rolf reinvented the tutu, resulting in five different designs including a square one. This one looked particularly stunning, but although the half tutus and those with large bites taken out of them may have been artistic, they were not really pretty. More than pretty was Elo’s fiery choreography, danced to Beethoven’s equally fierce second part of his Symphony No. 9 in D minor. Watching this utterly classical, continuous and passionate choreography is a delight. But the best thing about Shape is Beethoven’s Concert for Violin in D Major, in which Noé Inui delivers the purest violin solo I had ever heard. If the ballet was not there to require one’s attention, Beethoven’s music would have made for an excellent concert.

Dutch Doubles shows the potential of crossing the border, of working interdisciplinary. Some elements are inevitably more successful than others – which depends, for the bigger part, on one's taste in art and music. But the work certainly includes several choreographic highlights that will hopefully be implemented in the contemporary ballet repertoire – and with that, Dutch Doubles is a successful experiment.