Many ballet companies offer opportunities for emerging choreographers to test their chops, but few can boast sustained mentorship and cultivation of the next generation of dance makers. A few exceptions include BalletX's season-long choreographic fellowship, The Royal Ballet's Young Choreographer Programme and New York City Ballet's New York Choreographic Institute. Now, Dutch National Ballet is joining the ranks of companies committed to developing new talent.
Starting in the new year, Juanjo Arqués and Peter Leung will be appointed as Young Creative Associates of Dutch National Ballet. Their relationship with the company will include both artistic and technical support for their work, over the course of several years.
Both men are former dancers with the company: Arqués has created work internationally and will premiere a ballet as part of Dutch National's Made in Amsterdam program in February 2017. Leung created the company's breakthrough virtual reality ballet and is an artistic director of the interdisciplinary House of Makers (which has had at least one event in Brooklyn!). In 2017, he'll make a new work for the Dutch National Ballet Junior Company.
For those wishing that a few women were included in this opportunity, Dutch National will partner with UK-based Rambert Dance for a program called Young Choreographer and Composer Exchange Project. Rambert's choreography fellow Julie Cunningham, and music fellow Anna Appleby, will join Leung and Arqués as the group meets with choreographers connected to both companies, observing their creative processes, and more.
Ballet has officially entered the 21st century. While more companies are using cinema or live-streaming to bring their performances to the masses, Dutch National Ballet has gone a step further. Last weekend, in a collaboration with &samhoud media and Chester Music, the company premiered its first virtual reality production. Night Fall, a dreamy ballet inspired by the white acts of Swan Lake and La Bayadère, was choreographed specifically for virtual reality by Peter Leung. Viewers are dropped right in the center of the action, with the dancers and a lone musician swirling around them.
The effect is goose bump-worthy: At one point, principal dancer Anna Tsygankova rushes right up to the camera—almost within arm’s reach—before she bourrées back into the darkness. Not only that, but the 360 degree camera allows you to have more than one, flat perspective. “The fact that [viewers] can look around and have some choice in what they look at will make it a unique experience,” says Leung in this behind-the-scenes video.
The downside? You need to wear a Samsung Gear VR headset or strap your smartphone to a Cardboard to get the full effect. But even without these devices, it’s fun to see where the future of ballet is going—especially if it means bringing in more audiences. For instructions on how to watch Night Fall, click here.