Interview with artistic director Ted Brandsen
Text: Rosalie Overing
From Giselle to Wings of Wax and from George Balanchine to Annabelle Lopez Ochoa. This season, Dutch National Ballet is presenting a varied programme, in which famous classics alternate with ballets by contemporary icons and experimental new works. The company is also celebrating various milestones. Artistic director Ted Brandsen talks about the versatility of his programming and about keeping ballet alive.
In the coming season, it is the tenth anniversary of Dutch National Ballet’s Junior Company and the twentieth anniversary of the artistic management – with Ted Brandsen as director and Rachel Beaujean as associate director. Ted Brandsen says, “It’s going to be a festive season, full of milestones that we’ll celebrate not just by looking back, but also by expressly looking to the future.”
Brandsen is therefore particularly looking forward to the ballets that are having their world premiere this season. “Like, for example, Jocasta's Line: the big new production of the season. In this co-production with Dutch National Opera, Wayne McGregor – one of the most exciting choreographers of our time – is transforming Stravinsky’s masterpiece into a work for both opera and ballet. But I’m also very interested to see the new works by our Young Creative Associates Milena Sidorova and Wubkje Kuindersma, and by Juanjo Arqués, who held that position a couple of years ago.”
The key phrase ‘looking ahead’ is also applicable to the famous classics in the programming. Brandsen explains, “Just as museums offer people a new way of looking at old works of art, it’s our job to present the treasures of the classical repertoire in a fresh and relevant way. This season, for example,we’re reviving Giselle and Raymonda; two full-length ballets that Dutch National Ballet’s associate artistic director Rachel Beaujean has interpreted in a way that’s appropriate to today. By creating our own new productions of the classics, we keep these works alive for future generations. This is something unique, which makes our company one
of the most important custodians of the classical ballet repertoire.”
In the coming season, Dutch National Ballet is also adding a new classical work to its repertoire. “In the programme Stravinsky Fairy Tales, we’re presenting two fairytale ballets by Alexei Ratmansky: his successfulFirebird and the European premiere of his new version of the neoclassical The Fairy’s Kiss, which are both set to
phenomenal compositions by Stravinsky. Ratmansky is the most important choreographer of narrative classical ballets today, and I’m really looking forward to performing this double bill in our theatre.”
‘We keep the classics alive for future generations’
Big names of the moment
Alongside Ratmansky, the season includes works by contemporary masters like George Balanchine, Hans van Manen and David Dawson. “No other company is presenting all these big names – who are also major cornerstones of Dutch National Ballet – in the same season. Whereas the classics form a benchmark for our company to demonstrate our proficiency in the classical field, the works by these choreographers demand totally different qualities from the dancers, such as dramatic skills. This is also the case in the full-length ballet Frida, where the dramatic aspect is extremely important and the choreographer Annabelle Lopez Ochoa shows us a whole new way of telling stories.”
New soloists in leading roles
In addition, this season marks the first time that Dutch National Ballet is dancing a work by the world-famous Jiří Kylián, who was the artistic director of Nederlands Dans Theater for almost 25 years. “I’m really looking forward to performing his Wings of Wax here, and I know the dancers feel the same way. Kylián’s ballets are some of the most important works of the twentieth and twenty-first century, and it’s high time we included one of them in our repertoire!” Besides being a recurring theme in the programming, ‘looking ahead’ is also a key concept in the development of Dutch National Ballet as a company.
“So this season, several new soloists – fresh young talent – will get a chance to prove themselves in leading roles. That’s very important, as ultimately it’s the dancers’ interpretation that makes it exciting to watch a ballet time and time again.” Above all, Brandsen hopes to present a season in which ‘his’ dancers are shown off to their best advantage. “A season that shows the richness of ballet, in every aspect, with plenty of opportunity for our dancers to shine.”