Dutch National Ballet Tours to the U.S. This Summer

June 28, 2023

Dutch National Ballet has not toured to the U.S. in over four decades. That’s about to change.

Starting July 1, the company will embark on a two-week American tour, making stops at Ballet Sun Valley in Sun Valley, Idaho (July 1–2); Jacob’s Pillow (July 5–9); and The Music Center in Los Angeles (July 14–16). With a unique program lined up for each location, The Netherlands’ national ballet company is prepared to make its grand reentrance to U.S. stages.

DNB artistic director Ted Brandsen explains that a conversation with L.A. Music Center CEO Rachel Moore set this year’s tour in motion: “She came to Amsterdam to see us perform Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s Frida. When she saw it, she said, ‘I’ve got to show this!’ ”

Dutch National Ballet in Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s Frida. Photo by Hans Gerritsen, courtesy Los Angeles Music Center.

That was over three years ago, he says, as the pandemic delayed initial efforts to bring the production stateside. But a benefit of that postponement was the opportunity to add additional stops at Ballet Sun Valley and Jacob’s Pillow. When those decisions were made, Brandsen decided to bring more repertoire to showcase DNB’s history and versatility.

“We necessarily had to go for smaller-cast ballets because we couldn’t take the whole company, and much of our repertoire wouldn’t fit on the smaller outdoor stages,” he says. “Those locations will be interesting for us to experience since it’s not something we’re used to.”

DNB will perform a different mixed bill at both Ballet Sun Valley and Jacob’s Pillow, featuring ballets like William Forsythe’s The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude, Hans van Manen’s 5 Tangos, Wubkje Kuindersma’s Two & Only, and Grand Pas Classique. The company will present the U.S. premiere of Lopez-Ochoa’s Frida at the L.A. Music Center.

  • A man and a woman perform the 0 pas de deux onstage, wearing cream and gold bejeweled costumes in the classical ballet style.

Brandsen says that the tour is not only important for the company, it’s also personally meaningful, as he began dancing during his studies at Hamilton College in upstate New York. “The fire of dance was lit within me in the U.S.,” he says. “To bring this company that I love so much to these audiences is really special.”

That excitement is mutual across venues. Ballet Sun Valley executive director Kelli Quinlan shares that the festival is thrilled to welcome its first international ballet company. “We are honored to be the first stop on their U.S. tour,” she says, “especially since it has been 40 years since they have visited the country.”

For several weeks now, the DNB dancers have piled additional rehearsals on top of their typical end-of-season schedules; the company wrapped up an all-Forsythe program this week. Some dancers, like principal Olga Smirnova, have had to bow out of touring due to injuries.

“We will miss them—very much,” says Brandsen. “Fortunately, we have wonderful talent throughout the ranks, so it also creates new opportunities for younger dancers to step up.”

Dutch National Ballet in Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s Frida. Photo by Hans Gerritsen, courtesy Los Angeles Music Center.

But while preparing for a tour overseas amid end-of-season busyness has been challenging, Brandsen says, what he’s most nervous about has nothing to do with ballet: “The bears!” he admits, laughing. “Annabelle [Lopez Ochoa] warned us—she’s been an artist in residence at Jacob’s Pillow for a few years now. So, yeah, we see this as an adventure.”

Bears aside, Brandsen looks forward to showcasing the company and making connections with U.S. audiences. “We are a company that’s international in its scope, but very Dutch, in a way: matter-of-fact, get things done, clean lines. But also a robustness—we like people to move big. It’s spontaneity and touching audiences, eating space.”

“I’m super-excited to meet other dance artists and to meet patrons of the art,” he continues. “There’s a quite different system in the U.S., with great involvement of sponsors and donors. I’m grateful to meet people who feel so passionate about the art form. We’re looking forward to a wonderful summer.”