Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

July 9, 2023

REVIEW: Jacob’s Pillow, "Dutch National Ballet"

Jacob’s Pillow, Becket, MA
through July 9, 2023
by Josephine Sarnelli

The debut of Dutch National Ballet at Jacob’s Pillow offers a varied program that demonstrates the breadth of this 62-year-old company, from traditional classical to contemporary ballet.  The wide range of techniques and physical demands in these choreographies could only be executed by outstanding dancers. The entire performance was flawless.  

Photo by Christopher Duggan
Three of the six dances were choreographed by Hans van Manen, the company’s resident choreographer.  The opening “Variations for Two Couples” highlights the simple beauty of form.  The sleek lines of the poses that each couple dances into are magnified by their basic costuming in leotards.  Although balletic, this is definitely not traditional ballet.  Some of the partnering is done in ballroom frame.  The four musical choices add a haunting allure to this award-winning piece.

“Solo,” a second of Manen’s creations, has an exhilarating quality as three male dancers individually explode onto the stage to perform solos.  There is a comic element blended with frenetic energy, athleticism and grace. 

The finale, Manen’s “5 Tango’s” to the music of Astor Piazzolla, begins with seven couples in appropriate costuming … women in black/red short dresses with men in black shirts and trousers.  That is where the likeness to traditional tango ends.  There is no foot play, leg wraps or molinettes as are found in traditional tango.  The second movement has one woman on center stage kneeling and surrounded by six male dancers with whom she individually dances. Perhaps this is a sly reference to the disputed theory that tango developed in the brothels of Argentina.  The fourth movement starts with two men dancing with each other, and later joined by two female dancers. This could be an acknowledgement of how men in Buenos Aires learned and practiced with one another before graduating to dance with women.  This tradition extended from the 1870’s until as recently as the 1950’s.  The high point of “5 Tango’s” occurs in the third movement in which Young Gyu Choi performs a breathtaking solo.   

Wubkje Kuindersma’s 2018 choreography “Two and Only” exposes the raw emotion of love that lingers long after a relationship has ended.  The two men partnering in this dance represent these universal feelings that afflict all relationships. 

“The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude” by William Forsythe is a parody of classical ballet … right down to the chartreuse disc-like tutus.  The speed and complexity of the movements offer both homage and rebuke of the classical dance form.

The 1949 “Grande Pas Classique” of Victor Gsovsky is revered as one of the most difficult pas de deux.  Its execution by Elisabeth Tonev and Victor Caixeta is noteworthy.  The overhead lifts appear effortless, as do the graceful fish lifts. The performance earned rousing applause both during the movements and at its conclusion.

Dutch National Ballet truly has something to offer to everyone!