Like me, you must have been asking yourselves, where did all those old style heroes go, who do not end up in the arms of the girl, but ‘mission first’ walk out instead? The answer is on Dutch National Ballet's stage in the form of Marijn Rademaker, teasing Igone de Jongh who is more than up to the challenge, and who gets the audience laughing at the start of the company's season opening gala.

Het Nationale Ballet in the Grand Defile © Michel Schnater
Het Nationale Ballet in the Grand Defile
© Michel Schnater

Sarcasms by Hans van Manen, is delightfully blunt and stubbornly Dutch. In our popular TV- and mainstream film global culture, which diffuses images of married at first sight brilliant gorgeous women and muscular hunks repeating rehearsed punchlines, we had been waiting for a classic male protagonist who could match the female. A good opening.

Artur Shesterikov and Maia Makhateli were convincing in the Giselle excerpt with great jumps and precise footwork by Makhateli.

Revelry is the title of Ernst Meisner’s new piece set to the happy and sometimes dissonant music of Lowell Liebermann by the same name. A well-tuned Dutch Ballet Orchestra masterfully charts its way confidently through the score, lead by Philip Ellis. The slow flute section could easily have turned into a barrage of false tones, but instead we could hear them as if they were coming from a long distance, akin to two jet airplanes on an air show passing us overhead, barely missing each other. Revelry is happy, young and free, which suits the Junior Company well.

Next up is one of the evening highlights, the grand pas from Don Quichotte. And grand it was tonight, featuring powerful endless jumps from Daniel Camargo, playful interaction between him and his partner (Elisa Badenes, from Stuttgart Ballet) and a miraculously unwrapped turn with which Badenes (Stuttgart Ballet) easily wrapped the audience around her finger in an instant. Amsterdam is and has been spoilt with the likes of Anna Tsygankova and Jurgita Dronina’s Kitri, but there will be an extra tick pencilled in my agenda come February. And Minkus’ music just works so well here.

Het National Ballet in <i>Moving Rooms</i> © Michel Schnater
Het National Ballet in Moving Rooms
© Michel Schnater

Qian Liu (who gets more and more expressive over the years) and born gentleman Jozef Varga stormed the stage with the third act pas de deux of Onegin (ch: John Cranko): a series of impressive lifts and a dialogue between the two characters ending… in disaster. Thank you Pushkin for reminding us, that love does not conquer all, if left too late.

Balanchine’s Stravinksy Violin Concerto is perfectly executed by an exceptionally strong corps de ballet, with sound performances by Edo Wijnen and Jared Wright and great stage presence by Floor Eimers and Yuanyuan Zang. Personally I’m tired of Balanchine's Tarantella. Aya Okumura executes it well with a light touch and Remi Wörtmeyer’s performance is perfectly adequate but I am not taken by this work anymore. A cake can have too much cream.

Ted Brandsen’s Replay is a sound work, with strong choreography. It is playful and intimately danced by the virtuoso that is Italian Vito Mazzeo and the sleek sensual Igone de Jongh in eye-catching black costumes by François-Noël Cherpin. 

Two and Only (ch: Wupkje Kuindersma) is a wonderful romantic modern dance, sang by Michael Benjamin on guitar and piano. It made for a nice surprise in between the other pieces. Rademaker and Timothy van Poucke were strong and performed synchronously, easily connecting with the audience. There is something Johnny Cash-like with a tiny hint of Marco Goecke about this work.

Courtney Richardson and James Stout in Dawson's <i>Tristan and Isolde</i> © Michel Schnater
Courtney Richardson and James Stout in Dawson's Tristan and Isolde
© Michel Schnater

David Dawson’s Tristan and Isolde is a rapturous venture, danced by the muscular James Stout and Courtney Richardson, who are both perfectly cast. Both the opening and the closing of the piece are magnificent, but with its relentless pace, a pause in the middle would make it more dynamic.

In La Esmeralda Anna Ol and Young Gyu Choi don't pull any punches. Ol’s tambourine routine is a ballet lesson, her balance superb and Choi literally jumps for joy. The evening closes with a classic Moving Rooms excerpt by Krysztof Pastor.

*****