Hans van Manen Live REVIEW

Special guest writer Fleur returns for another review here on Just Sammthing. Unlike her previous reviews (Orphan Black and How To Get Away With Murder) she is not writing about tv this time. Not at all. This time she is writing about a performance by one of the leading ballet companies in the world: 'our' very own Dutch National Ballet. A national treasure I (and my sister!) happily support here on Just Sammthing.

by special guest writer FLEUR
A love story performed in a magnificent set with beautiful, elegant ladies in sparkling costumes dancing to the tunes of Tsjaikovski and the likes; these are the ingredients of a traditional ballet. The ballets van Van Manen, however, are decisively more modern yet not any less enthralling. The main focus is the dancing, with sets and costumes stripped down to a minimum. Van Manen is the most famous Dutch choreographer and his work is entwined with the National Ballet in Amsterdam. In his latest instalment, four of his works are performed; Metaphors, Twilight, Two Gold Variations, the first time that it is performed at the National Ballet, and finally the legendary Live.

The first piece of the night was Metaphors which was characterized by mirroring. My favourite part was where two men danced a pas de deux, something which is perhaps unconventional but Van Manen shows that it can be just as beautiful. Personally I liked the piece for its beauty and showing the dancer’s abilities, however it did not touch me. It seemed more like a demonstration of the dancer’s talent to me.

Next up was Twilight on John Cage’s The Perilous Night. Beforehand I was not sure what to expect, because I know John Cage mainly for his composition 4’33, in which a musician sits behind a piano for 4 minutes and 33 seconds but does actually not play. Instead the audience would listen to the everyday sounds around them. Therefore I was curious how John Cage’s experimental work would be combined with ballet. Hence the result really surprised me. The piece was played on a prepared piano for effect and in between you heard weird sounds. The dancers, a couple that were in a cycle of attracting and rejecting each other, really accentuated these musical effects with their movements. The woman in this piece was wearing heels, which I thought was also I nice change. Thus perhaps to my own surprise, I really liked the piece and found it rather uplifting.

Nevertheless I was really looking forward to the final pieces, Two Gold Variations and Live, because my favourite ballet dancer, Igone de Jongh, was starring in them. Ever since I saw her in a docu-series on the National Ballet I fell in love with her, but until this night I had never had the pleasure of seeing her perform. Therefore I felt my heart jump in my chest when I saw that she was among the dancers of that evening. And after seeing her, I can only say that I love her even more.

The first piece she starred in was Two Gold Variations; in intense dialogue between a man and woman, amplified six other pairs. When I saw her on stage, I was immediately entranced. She simply has a charisma that you cannot ignore. Also she really portrays a character; you believe her emotions and she takes the audience with her on her emotional ride. I was really touched by her performance, something which I had never experienced before like that with ballet. Most of the time I admire the talents and abilities of the dancers and let myself be immersed in the fairy tale, but they do not really touch me. Igone, however, did. I instantly understood why she was a prima ballerina.

But the true highlight of the night was for me the final piece: Live. In this piece Van Manen came up with the ingenious idea to put the wonderful Igone alone on stage with a cameraman who would simultaneously film her. Hence you saw Igone dancing, but you also saw close-ups projected on a screen behind her. Especially with Igone’s beauty that reminds of an Old Hollywood diva, this film in black and white is spot on. Live is not just a ballet piece, it is more like a short film. Especially because not all the dancing is happening on stage, in fact, some parts are performed in the lobby of the theatre. The audience thus only sees these parts projected on the screen. It was a beautiful story between two lovers, the man being another Dutchie, namely Marijn Rademaker. You felt the sexual tension between the two, yet there was also a distance that could not be bridged. Combined with the beautiful music by Frans Liszt it was a truly moving and heart breaking piece.

Thus if you want to go on an emotional journey, where you are first lifted up to be left devastated in the end, I would really recommend you to go and see this beautiful piece by the National Ballet. You can go see it up until the fourth of October. Prices range from 16 to 61 euros, but for the students among us, keep an eye on the National Ballet’s facebook page since there are often last minute promotions for students when all tickets cost only 15 euros. One more time I want to give a standing ovation for this magnificent evening.


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