Disclosure: Dance Dispatches received complimentary digital admission to write an open and honest review of Dutch National Ballet’s Four Seasons show.

“We are all ready to step into the light.”

With these words Ted Bransen, artistic director of Dutch National Ballet, described the company’s eagerness to return to the stage, and spoke for all of us longing for live entertainment as theatres begin to tentatively reopen. 

With the delightful programme Four Seasons, the company offers us a stepping-stone in this direction. A small and very much missed in-house audience was welcomed, while viewers at home were treated to not only a beautiful stage view, but also glimpses of the cast and crew behind the curtain, giving us a taste of that theatre intimacy we still miss.

Het Nationale Ballet performs ‘The Four Seasons’, choreographed by David Dawson.
Photo credit: Hans Gerritsen

Het Nationale Ballet 

Since forming in 1961, Dutch National Ballet (or Het Nationale Ballet) has committed to nurturing diversity and innovation, showcasing new and experimental choreography while honouring the best of ballet’s classic traditions. In this spirit of innovation, they bring us works by two of the most exciting figures in current choreography, Christopher Wheelan and David Dawson.

The Het Nationale Ballet Junior Company teamed up with ISH Dance Collective to create a fun family dance show about Grimm’s fairytales.

Dutch National Ballet: Four Seasons Review

The Two of Us by Christopher Wheeldon

British choreographer Christopher Wheelan’s latest creation The Two of Us opens the show, a piece for two dancers set to four songs by singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell. This tender and melancholy piece tells the story of a couple drifting apart, through both solos and pas de deux.

The seed for The Two of Us originally appeared in BalletBoyz’ Them/ Us performance in 2019.

There is an earnestness and spontaneity to the movement that makes it seem like a visual expression of the mental gymnastics one goes through when trying to understand conflicts with a partner. Ballet is so often about great love stories, so to see this end-of-a-love story portrayed with such poignant beauty is incredibly moving.

This duo dances Christopher Wheeldon’s ‘The Two of Us’ for Holland Festival.
Photo credit: Hans Gerritsen

Four Seasons by David Dawson

The evening’s title piece Four Seasons is inspired by composer Max Richter’s modern arrangement of Vivaldi’s famous baroque piece of the same name. A fellow Brit and former classmate of Wheelan, choreographer David Dawson takes us on a breathtaking journey through the cycle of life, performed with athleticism and artistry. Each extreme of weather is represented, as is each extreme of emotion and expression.

“David Dawson takes us on a breathtaking journey through the cycle of life, performed with athleticism and artistry.”

Dawson works in close collaboration with his design team to produce a complete creative package. The streamlined costumes showcase the expressiveness and individuality of the dancers, and the ingenious set design features simple geometric shapes that appear as lighting installations, too. The precision of the forms contrasts with the ‘nature’ theme and organic movement on stage; and they smoothly cast changing shadow patterns that slowly shift, reflecting the changing light of the seasons.

A trio of Dutch National Ballet dancers performs to Max Richter’s re-composition of ‘The Four Seasons’, choreographed by David Dawson.
Photo credit: Hans Gerritsen

The complete package experience is enhanced by the impressive efforts of the production team. In high quality audiovisual events like this, live streaming has a real potential to assist choreographers and companies make classical ballet relevant and appealing to a new audience. 

Star Rating:

This ballet is a seamless blend of classical and contemporary, manufactured and organic, and an ardent expression of some of nature’s elemental truths; even when it seems that the world has ground to a halt, seasons change, life springs anew, and people come together to dance. 

Given a new significance by the changes we have all experienced in recent times, it seems almost destiny that this premier was postponed by over a year. What could be a more elemental reminder of life’s persistence and capacity for renewal than nature’s own four seasons?

Although we caught the Four Seasons premiere as a Livestream, the rest of the performances are only available in person at the National Opera & Ballet in Amsterdam. Tickets for shows on Jun 26, 27 and 30 start at €22.

Purchase tickets here: https://www.operaballet.nl/en/dutch-national-ballet/2020-2021/four-seasons 

All information accurate and up-to-date at time of publication.

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