Dutch National Ballet Junior Company and ISH: Narnia: The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe

Theater de Spiegel, Zwolle
September 11, 2015

Maggie Foyer

Narnia: The Lion, The witch and The Wardrobe (dancers Dietrich Pott and Yuanyuan Zhang) Photo Michel Schnater

Narnia: The Lion, The witch and The Wardrobe
(dancers Dietrich Pott and Yuanyuan Zhang)
Photo Michel Schnater

The Junior Company of the Dutch National Ballet has branched out and embraced both street and high tech in an innovative staging of Narnia based on C. S. Lewis’ novel. After their launch in Amsterdam at the grand Muziektheater they have now embarked on their countrywide tour, opening in Zwolle where their audience was just what dance needs: diverse, predominantly young and very enthusiastic.

Thirteen dancers of the Junior Company have been joined by ten dancers from ISH, the street dance company founded by Marco Gerris. The show is jointly choreographed with Ernst Meisner, artistic co-ordinator of Junior Ballet in a vibrant mix of exciting young talent that maintained distinct flavours in a fluid blend.

C.S. Lewis’ characters lend them themselves to dance interpretations. Priscylla Gallo, tall and skinny on steely pointes, made her debut as the White Witch. She was an imperious presence whether poised on the highest point of the set, supported in high flying lifts by the Dwarf, a powerful Carl Refos, or reaching out in Meisner’s expansive choreography.

Three of the children, Riho Sakamoto, Nancy Burer and Martin ten Kortenaar, from the Young Company were joined by Thomas Krikken from ISH. The ballet dancers, typically well-groomed and with impeccable technique (as behoves nice middle class English children) also had the courage and sense of fun to deal with their adventures beyond the wardrobe while Krikken added extra spice and goofy humour.

Aslan, the Lion, played by Dietrich Pott, was a treat. With a portfolio of phenomenal tricks to offer on demand, he acted the archetypal tough guy then enhanced his character by revealing a bit of a soft centre. Gil Gomes Leal as Maugrim took the honours as the fiercest of them all. He had a magnificent stage presence to add to his technical ability and the costumes to complete the picture in great style.

The design elements both in the costumes by René van der Leest and Sigrid van Kleef, and the set and video by Aitor Biedema were an integral part of the magic. Brilliant use of projections and video technology dissolved and created scenes in a few seconds of wonderment. The audience were transported from an interior with a red door, through icy landscapes and into the lion’s kingdom with no loss of dance space or waste of precious seconds. The costumes particularly those for the animals, the wolves and lions, were wildly imaginative.

All the performers had full-on roles with plenty of dance and well-developed characterisations. Cristiano Principato was the Lamppost: not the most exciting of the characters but he scored with finely honed technique and brilliant pirouettes. Among my favourites were the pair of beavers, Raquel Tijsterman and Arnold Put. Cute and cuddly and a bit silly they proved, when push comes to shove, to be the bravest of the brave and had the audience rooting for them every inch of the way.

The dance sequences with the children and the beavers are a good example of successful integration across styles. As the story develops through different worlds and introduces so many strange characters there was little sense of two companies, just the right movement to suit the moment. The young audience lapped it up and children across the Netherlands have a treat in store for them as the tour continues.

For Maggie Foyer’s review of Dutch National Ballet’s September 2015 gala, click here.