Grimm, an ongoing cooperation between Dutch National Ballet’s Junior company and the ISH hip hop dancing collective is a crowd pleaser. Due to issues with publishing rights, the Junior Company and the ISH dance collective were unable to present Narnia, which was originally programmed. Director-choreographers Marco Gerris (ISH) and Ernst Meisner (The Junior Company) had to come up with a new story. They chose to draw inspiration from a combination of some of the Grimm brother fairy tales. We follow two boys (the gifted Thomas Krikken & Nicholas Landon) who are swallowed into a video game to emerge on the other side in Grimm territory, a wink to Narnia's wardrobe. There we follow the lads across a series of combined Grimm tales (Snow white, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Little Red Riding Hood and Rapunzel among them) that are adapted and stringed together to form the backdrop of this thoroughly entertaining performance.

Junior Company and Ish dancers in <i>Grimm</i> © Michel Schnater
Junior Company and Ish dancers in Grimm
© Michel Schnater

The story line is easy to follow but not so easy to relate, with quarrelling princesses, conniving evildoers, clumsy dwarves and some surprises along the way. I will therefore not try to reproduce it here. This cooperation is more entertaining and dance-driven than the aforementioned true-to-the-storyline Narnia and therefore, I found it a welcome replacement. The interactions are funny and the different styles are paired well throughout the piece. It’s clear who are the hip-hop dancers and who are the ballet dancers though most of the time. But at no point is this interaction awkward and that is a great feat in itself. The piece gets its energy from the light hearted storyline and the balance of group performances, solos and duets. This leaves plenty of room for individual dancers to shine. Among them: bouncing princes (Dietrich Pott, Carl Refos, Conor Walmsley), an untamed Little Red Riding Hood (Alexandria Marx) and a surprising Micka Karlsson taking her Rapunzel literally in the air with Anatole Blaineau. Dietrich Pot & Carl Refos get the audience revved up with their virtuoso hip hop solos. The conniving well timed Wolf (Gil Leal) & “voguing” Witch/Evil Stepmom Sarada Keilman in her bat-shaped battle-dress give the kids enough to recoil from in horror, as kids want to do.

Dancers of the Junior Company and Ish in <i>Grimm</i> © Michel Schnater
Dancers of the Junior Company and Ish in Grimm
© Michel Schnater

It is the Grimm trio of princesses that interacts heavily with the central duet that keeps the story on track; a light on her feet Sleeping Beauty (Inés Marroquin), a positively salsa-inspired Cinderella (Raquel Tijsterman) and a pleasantly pouting romantically rejected Snow White (Madison Ayton). So no, Meisner and Garris do not follow an original story line but they have kept some of the central elements of the Grimm tales. In the group performances, that of the 7 dwarves stands out, with every dancer showing they are capable of entertaining an audience with their individual acrobatics as well as making a fool of themselves collectively. 

The simple but effective stage design and the pleasant dreamy video (Aitor Biedma), the beaming costumes (Studio RUIM) and accurate moody lighting (Mike de Ottolander) are very well produced. Topped by Scanner’s energetic score, this production makes for a pulsating one hour and 40 minutes of family entertainment. This is a performance for any hip-hop- or young ballet fan and generally for the young audiences. ISH & the National Ballet’s Junior Company are likely to sell out with this performance throughout the country as they continue their tour along the smaller stages.