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Although they weren’t written for that purpose originally, Ludwig von Beethoven’s compositions lend themselves to dance. 250 years after his birth the Dutch National Ballet is performing two existing masterpieces from leading Dutch choreographers and one premiere accompanied by Beethoven’s music. Hans van Manen’s Grosse Fuge is still one of his most highly acclaimed and often performed ballets. Toer van Schayk’s lively and playful choreography for Beethoven’s 7th Symphony, too, will be returning to the stage. Young choreographers Wubkje Kuindersma, Ernst Meisner and Remi Wörtmeyer each created one part of The Creatures of Prometheus.
The Russian choreographer George Balanchine once said: ‘Dance is better off leaving Beethoven alone; his music cannot be choreographed.’ Since then, a great many choreographers
have proven that although it’s not an easy task, it is certainly possible. This year, in which we are celebrating the composer’s 250th birthday, the Dutch National Ballet will dance two masterworks and a new creation to music by Ludwig van Beethoven.
Hans van Manen
Hans van Manen was the first in the Netherlands to prove Balanchine wrong. He created a sublime choreography based on Beethoven’s string quartet Grosse Fuge, which was called the ‘most important European ballet of the decade’ following its premiere in 1971. Recent performances of this thrilling double quartet, which is one of the most often performed Van Manen ballets around the world today, were called ‘brilliant and dazzling’ and ‘one big chunk of bundled energy’ by the press.
Toer van Schayk
In 1986 Toer van Schayk (for years was part of the Big Three in the Dutch dance world, along with Van Manen and Rudi van Dantzig) was inspired by Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony to create a ballet full of joie de vivre, dynamism and vitality. The choreography received long cheering and standing ovations at its premiere – and at later performances – and in 1987 it received the Association of Theatre and Concert Hall Managers’ Choreography Prize.
Wubkje Kuindersma, Ernst Meisner and Remi Wörtmeyer
Beethoven wrote one ballet during his lifetime, Die Geschöpfe des Prometheus (‘The creatures of Prometheus’), an allegorical ballet d’action composed in 1801 as a commission for Vienna’s imperial court. Although the music was a success, nothing remains of the choreography except for a brief synopsis – about Prometheus, who stole fire from the gods to give it to two mortals. With Beethoven, the Dutch National Ballet presents the world premiere of a new, more abstract rendering of Die Geschöpfe des Prometheus, created by three rising stars of choreography: Wubkje Kuindersma, Ernst Meisner and Remi Wörtmeyer. Each will take a part of Beethoven’s ballet.
Ludwig van Beethoven is considered one of the greatest composers in music history, along with Bach and Mozart. At the age of eleven he could already play almost all of Bach’s The Well-tempered Clavier
by heart and had written his first compositions. Later, he studied in Vienna with Joseph Haydn and Johann Schenk. Beethoven, Mozart and Haydn, are said to constitute the First Viennese School. Beethoven is also the composer who bridged the gap between the Classical and Romantic periods, putting personal emotions into music. In about 1800 Beethoven noticed the first signs of deafness. He became a withdrawn, suspicious man. His last works, in their time often not understood, were composed after he had gone completely deaf.
The Dutch National Ballet is one of the regular co-producers of the Holland Festival. Over the last 59 years, it has become a leading ballet company, drawing dancers from all over the world with a unique and broad repertoire, and a tradition of innovation. The company has a prominent place on the Dutch cultural scene as well as beyond the national borders. The Netherlands’ largest dance company by far, the National Ballet has 76 dancers in the tableau, and its Junior Company is a springboard for talented young dancers. With its current team of permanent choreographers – among them director Ted Brandsen, master choreographer Hans van Manen and artistic associate David Dawson – the National Ballet has several of the most important representatives of contemporary ballet in its ranks. Since 1986 the company has presented approximately 70 performances a year in the National Opera & Ballet’s theatre on Waterlooplein. The company also makes an annual tour of the Netherlands’ major theatres, and performs abroad as well.
Hans van Manen (1932) has succeeded in making modern ballet popular with a wide audience. Also nicknamed ‘the master of simplicity’, he is internationally famous, as is evidenced by the more than fifty companies outside the Netherlands who present his ballets. Among the international stars who have performed his ballets are Anthony Dowell, Marcia Haydée, Natalia Makarova and Rudolf Nureyev. Van Manen has created more than 150 ballets. In the late 1940s, Van Manen had his first ballet lessons from Sonia Gaskell, and in 1951 he joined her group Ballet Recital. Later he danced with the Ballet of the Dutch National Opera and Roland Petit’s Ballets de Paris. In 1957 he made his debut as a choreographer with Feestgericht, which was awarded the State Prize for Choreography. From 1961, Van Manen alternated working for the Netherlands’ two most important dance companies: he was co-artistic director of the Netherlands Dance Theatre and subsequently the house choreographer of the Dutch National Ballet and the Netherlands Dance Theatre. Since 2005 he has been the Dutch National Ballet’s resident choreographer. In 2007 Hans van Manen was appointed a Commander in the Order of the Dutch Lion. In 2013 he was appointed a patron of the National Ballet Academy, part of the Amsterdam School of the Arts. In 2017 he was named a ‘Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres' by the French Ministry of Culture.
Toer van Schayk (1936) is also known as ‘the last of the renaissance men’. He is a multi-talented artist: besides choreographing, he paints, sculpts, and designs stage sets and costumes. Everything he does is characterised by skill, precision and an eye for detail. He has worked for the Dutch National Ballet for over 50 years. Van Schayk had his first ballet lessons from Iraïl Gadeskov and continued his studies with Sonia Gaskell. In 1965 he began dancing with the Dutch National Ballet, where he became a valued soloist. In 1971 Van Schayk made his choreography debut, at the insistence of its director Rudi Van Dantzig, with Onvoltooid verleden tijd. In 1976 he was appointed resident choreographer of the National Ballet, for whom he created over 30 ballets and of which several have been performed by companies over the Dutch border. His best-known choreographies include Voor, tijdens and na het feest, Life (with Van Dantzig), Landschap, 7e Symfonie, Requiem and Notenkraker & Muizenkoning (with Wayne Eagling). In 1999 he also created the choreography for the musical Elisabeth, produced by Joop van den Ende. Van Schayk also enjoys fame as a visual artist and as a set and costume designer, having designed the sets and costumes for virtually all of Van Dantzig’s ballets as well as his own creations. During the premiere of Hollandse Meesters in 2016 Van Schayk was appointed an Officer in the Order of Orange-Nassau by minister Jet Bussemaker.
Wubkje Kuindersma is a Dutch choreographer, born in Cameroon. She studied at the Rotterdam Dance Academy (Codarts) and danced with several European companies. In 2009 she made her debut as a choreographer with Aquasomnia, with which she won a prize in the U30 choreography competition in Cologne. In 2016 Wubkje received the BNG Bank Dance Award for choreographic talent and her piece Doubleyou toured the Netherlands with the Korzo Theatre’s Dansclick company. She has choreographed works for the Danish Dance Theater, Nederlands Dans Theater, the Dutch National Ballet and the Junior Company van HNB, Ballet Dortmund, BalletX, Noverre, National Youth Ballet of John Neumeier’s Hamburg Ballet, Hessische Staatsballett and Beijing Dance Academy. Her duet Two and Only for the Dutch National Ballet received international acclaim. Dance Magazine included Wubkje in their Top25 to watch list for 2019.
Ernst Meisner is a choreographer, and since 2013 also the artistic coordinator of the Dutch National Ballet’s Junior Company. He has danced with The Royal Ballet and Dutch National Ballet. He began choreographing early in his dancing career. His choreographies for the Dutch National Ballet include Saltarello (2012), And after we were (2012) and a production for very young children, De kleine grote kist (2011). In early 2013 he created Study in Six, to music by Jude Vaclavik, for the New York Choreographic Institute, allied with the New York City Ballet. He has also made choreographies for dance films by Crystal Ballet, and for Bounden, a dance game/app made by GameOven Studios. In 2014 Meisner made Axiom of Choice for the Dutch National Ballet for their Back to Bach programme and in 2016, he created the duet Merge for the Transatlantic programme. His recent creations for the Junior Company include Embers (2013), Lollapalooza (2013) and No Time Before Time (2016). For Made in Amsterdam he created a new work in 2017, In Transit. In 2018 his Impermanence had its premiere. Since September 2018, Ernst Meisner has been the artistic director of the National Ballet Academy (NBA).
Australian Remi Wörtmeyer joined the Dutch National Ballet in 2010 as a grand sujet and a year later was promoted to soloist. Since 2013 he has been a principal dancer with the company. He trained at the Australian Ballet School and joined The Australian Ballet in Melbourne then danced with the American Ballet Theatre in New York for a year. He is a winner of the Walter Burke Award (2005) and won a silver medal at the eighth Asian Pacific International Ballet Competition in 2001. In 2014 his Homebody, a multidisciplinary performance by theatre group ODD Continent which he choreographed, premiered in the Amsterdam Stadsschouwburg. In 2016 the company premiered Morning Blossoms, for which he once again did the choreography. Since then he has created various choreographies that have frequently been performed at international ballet galas. Remi’s latest creation You Before Me premiered at the Dutch National Ballet’s 2018 Gala. In 2018, he also made a choreography for Ballet de Catalunya, inspired by the work of Piet Mondriaan.
- Grosse Fuge
- choreography, costume
- Hans van Manen
- J.P. Vroom
- 7e Symfonie
- choreography, costume, set
- Toer van Schayk
- Jan Hofstra, Toer van Schayk
- Wubkje Kuindersma, Ernst Meisner, Remi Wörtmeyer
- set, costume
- Tatyana van Walsum
- Carlo Cerr
- Willem Bruls
- Ludwig van Beethoven
- performed by
- Het Nationale Ballet
- music performed by
- Het Balletorkest
- conducted by
- Marzio Conti