Imagine you are a ballet dancer. Imagine you have danced all your life, been to ballet school as a child, perhaps went to a high school where dance was offered as a subject, you have finished your training and may have been part of a company before. Now, imagine you are part of a company that consists of just eight dancers. Here you are a soloist and a group member at the same time. You will create your own repertoire and have the opportunity to come up with your own choreography. This company is part of the Hamburg ballet, with John Neumeier, one of the most successful choreographers around, as the director. You'll tour different countries and bring dance to your audiences rather than hope the seats will be filled at the ballet. You'll perform in theatres, just as much as empty swimming pools, retirement homes or inside a prison.
What a unique opportunity, no? Sounds exciting and too good to be true?
Well, for Natsuka Abe, Sara Ezzell, Charlotte Larzelere, Freja Maria Lützhoft, Marcelo Ferreira, Artem Prokopchuk, Emiliano Torres and Ricardo Urbina Reyes that is the daily grind. These eight dancers make up the Bundesjugendballett, the National Youth Ballet of Germany. Let's take it apart:
Bundes / National
The term “national” doesn't mean the dancers are German. Quite to the contrary – there is not one German dancer in the company this time around. But some of the dancers have completed their professional training with German institutions, such as the Hamburg Ballet. The dancers in this squad hail from the USA, Mexico, Japan, Argentina, Brazil, Denmark and Ukraine and are part of the company for two years. The current team started working together in September 2017, when five new dancers joined them.
Each year the National Youth Ballet holds an audition to fill the places that have become vacant and each year a couple of hundred of dancers are eager to move to Hamburg, Germany to be part of this exceptional group of young dancers. The dancers are between 18-23 years old and have already finished their professional training. If “youth” evokes the idea of amateur dancers, you couldn't be more wrong. You can read the biographies of the current dancers on their website, every single one boosts an impressive cv.
The basis of their dancing is ballet, however, these dancers give it a very creative twist. Even though they exist under the umbrella of the Hamburg Ballet, they are very much independent. Because the National Youth Ballet is small, each dancer is a soloist and a group member at the same time. The dancers are getting an in-depth look into all the areas that are necessary to get a ballet together. The ballet also performs in rather usual places to bring dance to a new audience. The company has performed in a theatre, a prison, but also visited retirement homes.
Usually the National Youth Ballet rehearses within the Ballettzentrum Hamburg, but sometimes it is good to branch out. So they were on the hunt for a space where they could work for a few days. Here they wanted to create, change, rehearse, improve and finalize their programme. They found this space in an old warehouse complex in Hamburg. Surrounded by other studios, architects, artists and designers.
Here they rehearsed for their premiere of “Im Aufschwung IX” which was put on stage this past week in Hamburg at the Ernst Deutsch Theater. For the ninth time, the theatre offered the ballet its house to showcase the new show. Using every inch of the stage and with very little props, the dancers let their performance do the talking.
They took the stage together with nine musicians and the playlist consisted of classics such as Igor Strawinsky, but also Leonhard Cohen and Tracy Chapman. The music and the performance take you on a beautiful journey of what it means to grow up. Putting to music that the process of growing up is not always fun, but can be confusing, tricky and painful. But in the end friendship, love and happiness prevail.
Listen to that journey yourself. We put the song list together in a Spotify list for you to enjoy.