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A deep bow for Gesamtkunstwerk A Christmas Carol by Carl Davis and The Dutch Don't Dance Division

So this: 'It is not easy to compete with YouTube, Netflix and other entertainment giants lying at our fingertips...'

Wise words from Jiří Kylián In the foreword to the programme booklet of A Christmas Carol. The renowned choreographer sees The Dutch Don't Dance Division create something magical at the Zuiderstrand Theatre with their latest production: with limited resources in this multimedia age, the dance company from The Hague enchants a demanding audience. Not only because of Charles Dickens' fascinating story, but also because of the creativity and imagination of the creators Thom Stuart and Rinus Sprong.

And Carl Davis.

Carl Davis and ballet.

For years, the American Brit has managed to hold the attention of viewing audiences by writing music for films and TV. Think The French Lieutenant's Woman, or Pride and Prejudice. Davis, however, wanted to do something with ballet since he was 9 years old. When he secretly bought a pair of tights, put them on and looked in the mirror, he immediately thought: no. Becoming a dancer was not in the cards for him. Nevertheless, as a teenager in New York in the 1940s and 1950s, he experienced the last period of the Ballets Russes as well as the early years of the New York City Ballet. This, and a background of performances ranging from Martha Graham to Broadway shows, must have shaped his admiration for dance.

This resulted in, among other things, an arrangement of music by Tchaikovsky for Alice in Wonderland (also a production by Davis and The Dutch Don't Dance Division). In 1992, it was followed by A Christmas Carol at British Northern Ballet. This production is now rigged in all-new choreography: playful, free, with ballet on pointe (see a beautiful dance of three flames of fire) and modern dance on knees (even a dancing angel has mastered ground technique).

But what gives the performance its power above all is the composition of the cast: from 5 years old to 65+, from non-professional dance volunteers to talents from The Dancers of The Dutch Don't Dance Division.

Community ballet.

A Gesamtkunstwerk, Davis calls it himself, this involvement of participants of all ages from the local area, as well as the use of singing and acting. It is no less impressive for it: especially the many dazzling group dances whip up the performance, played at a brisk pace by a sparkling Residentie Orkest conducted by Dane Lam. How special, as a child from The Hague, to be able to dance with a large symphony orchestra just like that!

A Christmas Carol by Carl Davis Dutch Don't Dance Division
(Photo: Menno van der Meer)

Choreographer Nils Christe, hired by Hans van Manen at the Nederlands Dans Theater as a 17-year-old boy in The Hague, and his partner Annegien Sneep, are also impressed by the group dances of the beautifully dressed children. 'You don't always see that, that with so much attention children are coached to dance well.'

A Christmas Carol.

As if to underline that the production has been built from scratch, new, the performance begins without a set. Technicians walk around a bit, cloths descend and slowly an atmospheric, classic Hague scene emerges. When everything is ready, you enter a world from which you only awaken at the applause at the end. In that world the many highlights (witty and creepy) and drama (sad and conciliatory) from Dickens' tale of the miser coming to repentance. On a positive note for the whole family: for adults to re-examine their lives, and for the youngest to remember the impressive performance much later. It might even just be that among those children there is a new, future Carl Davis or Jiří Kylián.

Or, as Charles Dickens puts it in his preface to his Christmas Books: 'To awaken some loving and forbearing thoughts, never out of season in a Christian land.'

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Wijbrand Schaap

Cultural journalist since 1996. Worked as theatre critic, columnist and reporter for Algemeen Dagblad, Utrechts Nieuwsblad, Rotterdams Dagblad, Parool and regional newspapers through Associated Press Services. Interviews for TheaterMaker, Theatererkrant Magazine, Ons Erfdeel, Boekman. Podcast maker, likes to experiment with new media. Culture Press is called the brainchild I gave birth to in 2009. Life partner of Suzanne Brink roommate of Edje, Fonzie and Rufus. Search and find me on Mastodon.View Author posts

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