Review: THE NEXT GENERATION FESTIVAL: BUNDESJUGENDBALLETT, Royal Opera House

A group of gifted artists in their own right

By: Jun. 26, 2024
Review: THE NEXT GENERATION FESTIVAL: BUNDESJUGENDBALLETT, Royal Opera House
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Review: THE NEXT GENERATION FESTIVAL: BUNDESJUGENDBALLETT, Royal Opera House The Next Generation Festival continues at the Royal Opera House with two performances by the BundesJugendBallett AKA German National Youth Ballet.

The group was founded by Hamburg Ballet director and chief choreographer, John Neumeier in 2011, and has been directed by Kevin Haigen since its inauguration.

The company of eight international dancers aged 18 to 23 aims to “take ballet to new heights…and invests in the future of dance through the creation and promotion of young choreographic talent” - Amen to that!

For the double bill programme they present John Neumeier's In the Blue Garden (1994) and BJB Songbook Or What We Call Growing Up (2017). The latter being a collective work of 12 different offerings, by eight individual creatives and the BundesJugendBallett members themselves, addressing what it means to mature in a turbulent world.

In the Blue Garden looks at loss relating to the sea landscape, and if totally honest, I didn't get that at all. There's a lot going on, with nine characters, but everything comes across as abstract rather than literal via the narrative movement exploration.

The environment is well supported by low level lighting and an interesting set: a raised platform on a slant which extends into a soft ramp down to the stage, and the young company are totally immersed in their work. However, I don't really understand the addition of an ex-professional guest dancer - Marijn Rademaker - in the He role, as surely another member of the troupe could have tackled, and relished the opportunity.

We don't see a lot of Neumeier in the UK, and I'm often thinking I should experience more, but this taster didn't act as a serious amuse-bouche. His language is original, and I'm sure interesting for the dancer to embody, but as an observer it lacks overall phrasing and clear portals “into” the work, both dynamically and narratively speaking. Or perhaps I just need an intense, prolonged crash course: or not.

The addition of five live musicians was very welcome, but even they couldn't make this specific Ravel sing. An overall flat-ish experience.

Review: THE NEXT GENERATION FESTIVAL: BUNDESJUGENDBALLETT, Royal Opera House

Speaking of music, the BJB Songbook Or What We Call Growing Up featured more musicians than dancers. When does that ever happen? And I suppose this fact determines the nature of the piece: a happening, of many different genres.

The work is part contemporary dance, physical theatre, a play, factual documentary and music gig all rolled into one. It's presented as a whole piece, so it would seem reductive to discuss components as if separate, and I believe it works as a Gesamtkunstwerk, though some moments are unarguably more potent than others.

The dancers are something else; committed and free to another level. But at times I wonder if a tad too liberated…that's my physical theatre nod - as some of the release technique verged on masochism. Violence doesn't score extra points with me, as abandon with a sense of physical/spatial awareness can be even more powerful than an uncontrolled loose cannon.

It was also wonderful to see the musicians traverse the space, execute choreography and act as stagehands moving the cubist set, as did the dancers, adding a level of spatial tension to the already chock-a-block menu of delights.

This was a worthwhile visit by the BundesJugendBallett. They've proved themselves a relevant group of gifted artists in their own right, and an orchard ripe for picking by the high priest of Hamburg dance: Herr John Neumeier.

The Next Generation Festival continues at the Royal Opera House until 4 July

Photo Credits: Andrej Uspenski




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