Summer has arrived and the dancers of Dutch National Ballet send us off into the summer with four modern pieces.

Justin Peck's Year of the Rabbit has a beautiful set up with vivid blue costumes, good lighting and high speed choreography set to great music. It is an angular Balanchine-inspired piece that really takes off halfway through with some surprising and daring jumps by a playful Qian Liu and a light Erica Horwood into the arms of Jozef Varga. The pas de deux by Varga and Horwood is elegant and meditative. I feel the piece underuses Remi Wörtmeyer's and Anna Tsygankova's talent (the two are recent winners of most expressive dancers award at the St. Petersburg Open Dance Ballet Festival). Tsygankova – always feminine and great to watch as she moves from fast strength to incredible subtlety - deserves grander gestures and more romantic movement. The piece is too show-y at times, and lacks urgency and clearer aesthetics, though it features a great virtuoso solo by the steady and powerful Young Gyu Choi. Overall, the work is likely to pick up as the show progresses.

<i>The Year of the Rabbit</i> © Hans Gerritsen
The Year of the Rabbit
© Hans Gerritsen

George Williamson's Crane has an eary sci-fi feel to it with spectacular costumes and round, hurried dances in solos and groups. Startrek's robotic collective The Borg would have been blue with envy at these oufits and the individuality of the ballerinas. The dance gives ample space especially for the female dancers to express themselves in short, driven solos. Aya Okumora's style is very well suited to the work: fast, modern and with a hint of evil wizardness staring from blackened eyes. Suzanna Kaic's light and sharp dancing across the floor is always very pleasant. Jessica's Xuan's and Amanouela Merdjanova's entries on stage also grip the audience's attention with a dynamic range of deliberate moves from slow to fast speed. The solos are among the best in this piece. The group work is not as gripping perhaps due to the lighting. It lacks the visual coordination and viscosity of the gold standard set by Canadian choreographer Crystal Pyte. At times it reminded me of Chinese choreographer Shen Wei's Sacre du Printemps (2013) as a vortex of ongoing energy. Sho Yamada stood out among the male dancers, but the dance vocabulary of the men was too similar to that of the women's to provide a great counterpoint. Unisex dancing is fine, but here it resulted in lack of polarity. There is just so much tiptoeing that male dancers can do, before they need to put their foot down.

Ernst Meisner's Merge sees young corps the ballet dancer Martin ten Kortenaar against first solist Igone de Jongh, to Lowel Liebermann's Gargoyles with Ryoko Kondo on piano. Ten Kortenaar, in his early twenties, makes powerful jumps and turns very fast in his solo. He has clear potential and a lot of power for his age and height. De Jongh, in a beautiful summer dress, rejects him and exudes calm. “You make too much of an effort” she seems to say in the beginning as she sends him off stage. This is the exact dynamic that Meisner seems to want to portray between these two dancers. Enthusiastic youth versus subtle experience as the audience falls silent to De Jongh's movements. As the music gets more beautiful the dancers get closer and the lifts higher.

<i>Crane</i> © Hans Gerritsen
Crane
© Hans Gerritsen

Matthew Rowe's conducting of the orchestra in David Dawson's Ouverture set to Szymon Brzoska's romantic new (2013) score is great. Dawson's piece is an inverted love story from winter to spring, ending rather than starting with 'first love'. Background knowledge of the piece is not needed to grasp and enjoy this 50 minutes long  ballet of pure aesthetic that feels like it's only 25 minutes long. The sky is filled with white light beams that change position, the stage with a cadre of 20 panting dancers in fluorescent yellows, oranges and pinks. Wherever you look there is something beautiful going on. In fact, so much attention is paid to coherent framing and Dawson's signature overstretched poses, that you could cut out parts of Dawson's tableaux and hang them on a wall. Yangyang Zhang and Sebastian Galtier's pas de deux is especially graceful and beautiful featuring long stretches and large, expansive lifts, she trusting him enough to engage in a long daring backward fall over his shoulder and into his confident grasp.

Ouverture © Hans Gerritsen
Ouverture
© Hans Gerritsen
Artur Shesterikov and Michaela De Prince's pas de deux is fast and exciting as both dancers continue to notably improve their skills over time. Vito Mazzeo's pas de deux with Jing Jing Mao is beautiful and tender. He carries her outstretched above him onto the stage. But before the gallant gentleman can reach out and finally touch her, she is dragged from underneath him leaving him empty handed. James Stout and Sasha Mukhamedov's duet is pleasant and happy. Edo Wijnen finally clears the stage of all  the dancers with a long focused solo. Ouverture is balanced and beautiful. It works for regular and new audiences alike.

Dutch National Ballet deserves credit for its continued gutsy investment in new modern ballets. Transatlantic is a great pick-me-up to start the summer.