The advantage of seeing a performance in a small city is that one imbibes in the local atmosphere. In Gouda, a regular Tuesday turns into a very pleasurable evening when the Dutch National Ballet's Junior Company are on tour at the Goudse Schouwburg. What the young dancers lack in finesse is compensated for with risk-taking and boisterousness.

Alexandria Marx and Dingkai Bai in <i>What got you here</i> © Hans Gerritsen
Alexandria Marx and Dingkai Bai in What got you here
© Hans Gerritsen

The evening starts with Petipa’s classical Paquita Suite, adapted by Dutch National Ballet’s ballet mistress Rachael Beaujean. The original piece was composed by Édouard Deldevez and choreographed by Paris Opera’s Ballet Master Joseph Mazilier back in 1846. It was then presented by Marius Petipa in St. Petersburg and adapted again by the choreographer with new compositions added on by Ludwig Minkus. It is this last version that Rachael Beaujean worked from. It is a very festive, pretty piece with gorgeous red & white ballet costumes. The pas de deux danced by Lore Zonderman and Bela Erlandson stood out, Madison Ayton moved very elegantly and Kira Hill’s held her own in her part. Dingkai Bai made a valiant effort in his solo, which features a difficult series of powerful steps. Yuka Masumoto’s pirouettes gathered a big applause.

The next piece, What Got You Here, by Brazilian choreographer Daniela Cardim, is inspired by Bill Bryson’s book A Short History of Nearly Everything. Spoken text alternates with music throughout the piece, which is a nice feature. The message behind the piece is our common responsibility for the future of the planet. It is a coquettish piece with the dancers in summery casual, light outfits with a 1950’s feel that leans heavily on its sense of timing and on mime. It's accomplished, though predictable.

Manu Kumar and HNB's Junior Ballet ensemble in <i>Whithdrawn</i> © Hans Gerritsen
Manu Kumar and HNB's Junior Ballet ensemble in Whithdrawn
© Hans Gerritsen
Wubkje Kuindersma's Mesmer begins with a stream of dancers coming one by one from the right and moving into the sparse light coming from the left of the stage. It is set to effective soundscapes from Anthony Fiumora A Sort of Homecoming. The dancers are dressed in shiny skin-tight grey outfits for maximal reflection, Kuindersma it seems, wants to show the play of light on the dancers as they are moving. The piece is coherent, expansive, as it projects into the theatre and the movements certainly capture the attention with long arm lines and pretty extended legwork. The decision not to crowd the stage with too many dancers is a good one. It leaves room to see how closely the movement follows the sound. Look out for the crescendo towards the end.

Milena Sidorova’s inventive Withdrawn looks deceptively simple. The most telling tale of the evening, it elicits the most laughs and sparks tangible discomfort from the audience. It shows how modern technology distract us from real human interaction. Twelve dancers move around and bump into each other while staring at their phones, as suggested by their hand-held lights. The outfits are almost bland with grey trousers and a lighter T-shirt on top, as if each individual is a piece of the same blurred puzzle. The scores by DJ&su’s Butterfly and Emilie Satts YBMM keep the story going, till there is an intimate silence mid performance. It starts the most beautiful pas de deux of the evening, danced by Sander Baaij and a radiant Yuka Masumoto. First holding each other closely, they start moving through an increasingly intricate series of lifts and entangled positions, as they lose sight of each other. The beautiful choreography cleverly manages to increase their emotional distance while keeping them physically close. No matter the inversion or pose, the couple returns to stare at their screens. This piece, with its measured use of silence and music combined with complex lifts is a demonstration of Sidorova’s seemingly endless dance vocabulary. She rarely repeats herself.

Kira Hilli and Sander Baaij in <i>Fuse</i> © Hans Gerritsen
Kira Hilli and Sander Baaij in Fuse
© Hans Gerritsen

Fuse by Charlotte Edmonds is set to the percussive score of Yann Arthus-Bertrand documentary ‘Human’, composed by Armand Amar. The dancers wear aikido trousers as part of an outfit that moves from black on the bottom, through blue in the middle and yellow on top. The whole piece is visually pleasing and choreographically eloquent, but, at times, it bites off more than it can chew.

Ernst Meisner's Revelry, is a vibrant piece and it works well as the festive closure to an evening where lack of experience and finesse in the more difficult ballet moves were compensated for with sheer boisterousness and some risk taking. The outfits are modern in energetic red with black. Revelry contains some daring, epic throws and uses the full stage. This makes it an example of the Dutch dancing tradition that keeps testing the limits with more or less successful experimental choreography. DNB is right to continue t o give choreographers at different stages of their careers opportunities to create works and this is probably the reason why the low countries are one of the leading places in dance-innovation.

***11