Following a successful touring programme, Dutch National Ballet’s Junior Company is ready
to take up a new challenge. This month, the young dancers share the stage with dancers from the urban dance group ISH. Ballet and streetdance complement each other in this narrative performance based on the second book of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. The production is thrilling, fast-paced, cinematic and fun, and it was clear that all
dancers enjoyed performing it.

Junior Company Het Nationale Ballet and ISH in <i>Narnia</i> © Michel Schnater
Junior Company Het Nationale Ballet and ISH in Narnia
© Michel Schnater

Over the past few years Dutch National Ballet has been collaborating with different
artists and dance companies. In 2009 they joined forces with urban dance
company Don’t Hit Mama, and in 2011 they worked with diverse Dutch dance groups
in the large participation project  Yes We Can Dance . It was at this event
that Marco Gerris - artistic director of ISH - and Ernst Meisner - back then
one of the participating choreographers and now artistic coordinator of the
Junior Company - first met and got inspired each other’s work. Their wish to
collaborate has now taken shape in Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. It is a big and exciting step for the Junior Company - this is their very first co-production.

The production follows the original storyline in which Peter, Susan, Lucy and
Edmund find a wardrobe that leads to the fantasy world of Narnia. There the children ally with the fair lion Aslan against the evil witch Jadis. The story provides a clear plot and a lot of interesting and funny characters, but the choreographers go through the story rather rapidly. This makes the meeting with faun Tumnus, who first decides to kidnap Lucy and then changes
his mind not to hand her over to Jadis, unclear and the frequent travelling to and from the world of Narnia is confusing. The second half of the performance is more coherent, but after many consecutive battles the climax of the story lacks tension.

Junior Company, Het Nationale Ballet, and ISH in <i>Narnia</i> © Michel Schnater
Junior Company, Het Nationale Ballet, and ISH in Narnia
© Michel Schnater
Although based on a classic fantasy, the production is all but childish and traditional. Everything from set to costumes and from music to lightning has a modern look and feel and contributes to the enchanting atmosphere of the performance. The attractive minimalistic visuals created by Aitor Biedma support the story but also stand on their own as fascinating work of art. An interplay of lines is driven by the dancers movement to create a map of the house, geometrical shapes form a rocky landscape and Biedma effectively uses color and light to suggest a magical world. The electronic music by Robin Rimbaud (also known as Scanner) helps to build tension and matches the style and personality of the characters.

Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is a meeting of two worlds. 
The dancers are not trying out each other’s styles. Instead the choreography highlights the strengths of each dancer, and allows them to show off their own signature moves. The Junior Company dancers perform well, but the most remarkable solos come from the ISH dancers. They are unique artists with different backgrounds, which makes their performances very interesting and varied. Apart from strong breakdancers the company also has dancers who specialize in tap, waacking and voguing, all of which can be seen in this production. There is a sense of freedom and fearlessness about ISH's dancing, and the dancers all share an outstanding ability to entertain. Further, their personalities shine through in performance.

ISH and the Junior Company found a way to successfully combine their styles in one
performance. Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is a well-balanced production and there is a strong conjunction between the dancers. Combined with strong visuals and designs, it becomes a unique and very alluring experience for a broad audience.