Linbury Theatre, Royal Opera House


5 July 2019

Maggie Foyer

The Junior Company, founded in 2013, forms an important element in the life cycle of the mother company, as each year several of the young dancers join its ranks. Under the artistic coordination of Ernst Meisner, himself a former dancer with both the London Royal Ballet and the Dutch National, the Junior Company of 12 tours Holland and internationally as well as supplementing the main company when needed.

The programme they brought to London was uplifting, thoughtful and with a hefty dose of comedy. Each item had a different voice showing the versatility of these committed young dancers.

Dutch National Ballet Junior Company
Ernst Meisner’s No Time Before Time
Photo: Altin Kaftira

Ernst Meisner’s, No Time Before Time, was the most classical of the pieces. While not a traditional work, it showed the dancers ready to take their place in the ranks of a major company that prizes the classics as well as new works. The partnering was confident, the technique secure and there was an easy communication with the audience. Particularly impressive were Wenjin Guo and Dingkai Bai.

Dutch National Ballet, Junior Company
Fuse by Charlotte Edmonds
Photo: Hans Gerritsen

Charlotte Edmonds’ trio Fuse viewed our fracturing world and made a plea for unity although rather too short to develop the idea beyond the initial stages. The relationships were never without tension, rising to conflict levels briefly between the two men, Sander Baau and Alejandro Zwartendijk, before dissipating to an uneasy truce. The threesome moments, with Kira Hilli offered fluid interwoven shapes and the flowing costumes wide split skirts and neat tops gave a contemporary feel and the right signals of diversity. Delivered with maturity and sensitivity it contrasted well with the lighter works.

Dutch National Ballet Junior Company
What Got You Here by Daniela Cardim
Photo: Hans Gerritsen

Daniela Cardim also a former dancer with the company wrote What Got You Here to a witty text philosophising on the biological miracle that enabled us to get where we are. The dancers, nattily dressed in white and blue and looking like a bunch of college kids, nevertheless danced liked pros. The choreography with the words as a structural base was a lightweight and highly enjoyable mix of dance and humour.

Juanjo Arqués, Fingers in the Air, brought the audience into play giving us the chance to interact with the choreography and make some choices. It involved equipping the audience with finger lights in red and green to indicate preference but, given instructions by a rather bossy voice, the logistics played smoothly. Arqués ignored the dangers of offering the UK public a binary vote, as he had this one sussed. There were choices of male or female, duet or solo, finger lights or without, the choreographer cheerfully overriding the vote at will. (Would he please come and sort our constitutional chaos!) The bonus came when we got to see the alternative, so winners all round. With this clever idea giving purpose, Arqués explored the dancers’ skill in innovative movement, fluid floor work occasionally punctuated by a burst of virtuosity. I would have liked to see more than was allowed by the general low level of lighting and the dancers clad in dark metallic leotards tended to disappear into the gloom.

Hans van Manen’s In the Future, closed the evening with a cheeky, snappy and very distinctive work dressed in two-tone red/green unitards used to great effect. The simplicity of the movements contrasted with a masterly interplay as bodies formed cohorts, lined up and swapped places and colour combinations, with expert skill. The dancers lapped it up, walking with style, falling with nonchalance and interacting with a keen level of irony. Van Manen’s mix of balletic shapes and jazz rhythms is heaven – cool, understated, spot-on while Keso Dekker’s design and David Byrne’s voice and music formed the perfect partners. The master never fails!