It is now 5 years since the Dutch National Ballet established it junior company. It has been successful: one third of the main company now consists of dancers who started their career with the youth ensemble. And, thankfully, the Junior Company has proven itself to be more than just a feeder company for the larger ensemble. Apart from extensively touring the country, (something that the main company not always doesn't always have the opportunity to do), and bringing ballet to local theatres, it also has its own artistic identity. Collaborations with other companies (such as Grimm in collaboration with the hip-hop dancers from ISH, which is performed simultaneously with this jubilee programme) brought a breath of fresh air to the Dutch National Ballet. To celebrate its' 5th anniversary the company went for a triple bill, rather than their traditional gala, which included a surprising and innovative première by Juanjo Arques and a timeless work by Hans van Manen. 

Alexandria Marx & Michele Esposito in <i>Fingers in the Air</i> © Michel Schnater
Alexandria Marx & Michele Esposito in Fingers in the Air
© Michel Schnater

But before we get to the modern fireworks there's first excerpts from Napoli. The juniors perform the pas de six and the tarantella. The reason for choosing this ballet is obvious; there is plenty of opportunities for the dancers to shine in solos, duets and group works and the ballet is colourful and cheerful. Yet, it doesn't have the appeal and energy one hoped for. The Bournonville style seems simple, but appearances are deceptive, and making it look effortless and natural is actually a great challenge. The juniors performed to their abilities and without major mistakes, but didnt dance the work with the ease of experienced dancers. Their energy and dedication were obvious, but perhaps Napoli is just not the perfect exciting opening for a programme.

Up next is a thrilling première by Juanjo Arques, Fingers in the Air. It is a fun and fresh concept that invites the audience to actively participate in deciding the course of the choreography. Audience members are provided with a green and a red light and have several opportunities to vote during the performance. A voice asks whether we’d like to continue with the ladies or the men and whether we’d like to see duets or solos. It caused a lot of excitement and giggles in the audience, yet it never got disturbing. The choreography to electronic music by scanner is so fascinating and hypnotizing that the attention soon switches back to the dance after a jolly voting session. The choreography is intense and sensual and has a nice flow. Most noticeable is how every movement causes a reaction, which reminds me of Newton Kinetic Balls, to which the choreography even refers. This is where the deeper meaning of the work lies; every vote or decision leads to a reaction. However, not every decision leads to a drastic result; as the choreographer demonstrates when, at the end, he shows us every part we have missed due to our voting. It makes the sequence of the choreography substitutable and different every evening. All-in all, it's an interesting concept in which Juanjo Arques excels. As for the dancers it's hard to believe that we are still watching the same group as in Napoli. Over 15 minutes they have transformed into super mature and confident performers that surely match the standard of the company.

Stakes are high, but Hans van Manen keeps up with In The Future, a ballet created in 1986. It is extremely fresh, given it was choreographed over thirty years ago. It is timeless, probably because of the no nonsense approach. There is no human relationship or complications staged this time, just pure dance to jazzy music. A voice over gives several ideas about what our future world might look like. Will we have a world without religion, a world without food, or will it be the contrary? While thinking about these options the dancers march along on the beat. The movements are square and the dancers create shapes, lines and forms. The colours of their costumes, green at front and red at the back, make the spectacle of lines and shapes even more fascinating. In the Future is simplicity at its best. 

In the Future is definitely the Junior Company's best programme so far. It is fresh, challenging and innovative and it shows off the dancers, especially in the two modern works. Understandably there needs to be a classical piece in a programme that presents the future stars of the Dutch National Ballet, but the evening would have been better balanced and interesting if it were a triple bill of contemporary works instead. 

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