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Dutch National Ballet 2005-06 Season


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HNB performs September-November -- they're currently touring the Netherlands with an all-Balanchine program -- before the NYCB season starts and during the March/April break, as well as overlapping part of the NYCB.  Sylve can be one busy dancer if she chooses to do so.

This seems like a good time to start a brand new thread for a new season.

Here's a LINK

to the company's website, which lists the entire season and has an excellent English translation.

The Balanchine tour -- under the umbrella title, Ballet and Broadway -- consists of Apollo, Symphony in C and Who Cares? There are 5 more stops on the tour: Groningen (Tuesday 9/27), Eindhoven (Wednesday 9/28), Arnhem (Tuesday 10/4), Utrecht (Wednesday 10/5), and Leeuwarden (Friday 10/7).

Following that they will perform a mixed bill at the Holland Dance Festival in the Hague (Oct. 30 and November 6). (A further incentive for a visit to the Hague -- though completely irrelevant to this thread -- might be Sylvie Guillem's scheduled appearance there with The Ballet Boyz in October 31 and November 1. Difficult to compete with that!)

Some of our posters live in or near the Netherlands. Others are planning to visit. Please share with us your thoughts, reactions and reviews.

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The Balanchine tour -- under the umbrella title, Ballet and Broadway -- consists of Apollo, Symphony in C and Who Cares?    There are 5 more stops on the tour:  Groningen (Tuesday 9/27), Eindhoven (Wednesday 9/28), Arnhem (Tuesday 10/4), Utrecht (Wednesday 10/5), and Leeuwarden (Friday 10/7).

Some of our posters live in or near the Netherlands.  Others are planning to visit.  Please share with us your thoughts, reactions and reviews.

I think this tour is especially nice for the non-frequent visitors: it seems to be a nice pick from recent and forthcoming shows, showcasing what they've got.

But since all these are in other performances as well, I'm just gonna see those in good ol' Amsterdam... :)

Is anyone by the way planning on going to "Partners" on Oct 30th or Nov 6th? I'm not sure yet, but it does sound intriguing.

From the website:

The Dutch National Ballet takes part in the Holland Dance Festival for the first this year, showcasing a programme composed of duets and a sequence of films made by principal dancer and VJ Altin Kaftira.

He pointed his camera on the process of a ballet and shows what is going on with a dancer during the rehearsals in relationship to the choreography, the music, their body, each other and the audience. Partners promises to become an intimate performance starring the fabulous dancers of the Dutch National Ballet.

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Following that they will perform a mixed bill at the Holland Dance Festival in the Hague (Oct. 30 and November 6).  (A further incentive for a visit to the Hague -- though completely irrelevant to this thread --  might be Sylvie Guillem's scheduled appearance there with The Ballet Boyz in October 31 and November 1.  Difficult to compete with that!)

Or the original "Girl with the Pearl Earring" in the Mauritshuis


and the gorgeous "View of Delft."

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I don't do this usually, but since there are most likely going to be very few press reviews of this show (the Dutch generally only review premiere shows), I will give some of my impressions, having watched a Apollo and Sym in C rehearsal in the studio and the The Hague stop of the Balanchine tour.

It was a very good night.

I had fairly low expectations of the Symphony in C, for two reasons. Nathalie Caris had been absolute magic in the previous season's performances - basically her valedictory victory lap as a DNB dancer - bringing an stunning intensity to the slow mvt, beautifully partnered by Altin Kaftira (one of the best partners in DNB). And this happened two or three times. How could those performances be equalled? Plus, on the down side, I had seen some really sloppy corps work before, particularly in the finale.

However the corps was excellent last week, and Larissa Lezhnina's performance, whom I can't recall having seen before in the slow mvt, was riveting. How should I put the difference between these two interpretations? While Caris seemed to be saying "please lift me, the air is crushing me", Lezhnina's partner (the excellent new Rumanian soloist Dragos Mihalcea) needed to keep her from floating upwards, as it were.

In the 3d mvt Marisa Lopez was partnered by Cedric Ygnace. The previous season Gael Lambiotte made a terrific impression (and he's no true Balanchine dancer), together with Julie Gardette, the company's natural comédienne. Ygnace has a rather low center of gravity and an uniquely fluid way of moving. Suddenly you realize a low jump, if well executed, can be more beautiful than straining for a high one - making you marvel, how can he jetée so close to the ground ? In mime roles (Petrushka) Ygnace is no success; I'm sorry to say he can't act his way out of a paper bag. However when the moves are the entire drama, as in Balanchine, you're truly seeing the music with Ygnace.

Apollo was a debut performance for Raphael Coumes-Marquet, a dancer who, on a good night, can make the classics look as new, being a favorite with some of the company's choreographers (notably David Dawson). I'd have to say in this first performance I didn't quite see the lethal menace integral to Apollo yet, but he had to jump schedule for an absent Boris de Leeuw.

The muses were wonderful: Sarah Fontaine's Calliope; Sofiane's powerful Polyhymnia, and a stellar Terpsichore by Igone de Jongh (I recall the studio pianist said she was going to get in trouble for taking it so slow - there was no trouble; just a spellbinding performance).

Who Cares? was premiered one and a half year back in Amsterdam. I recall the show kind of fell apart in subsequent performances, and the best thing I remember was a thrilling "The Man I love" with husband and wife Gael Lambiotte and Sabine Chaland. However last week's The Hague perfomance easily topped the best show in the first run. Everything felt natural, fun and great. Marisa Lopez in "Stairway", Yumiko Takeshima's fouettees in "Embraceable" and Kaftira in a moving "Who Cares?" solo.

For me there were two stars this night: Igone de Jongh who has definitely shed the introvertedness that sometimes, formerly, prevented her from being as big, bold and beautiful as she is.

Sarah Fontaine was the other star. She was in every piece, danced more miles than anyone else, and she has this fantastic wit. Even when there are twenty people on stage, as in Who Cares?, Fontaine's eyes are saying "you'd better watch me, 'cause I'm where the fun's going on." She does this every single time. It's never just steps with Fontaine. I love this dancer. (In case you've got the Sleeping Beauty dvd: she's Lilac. She was an amazingly intense Les Sylphides Waltz nr 7. And she's great in contemporary.)

And I have the feeling the new ballet master Eve Lawson should be mentioned. When I visited the studio she was working like a demon (a demon with a smile), and I think the results showed, in Symphony in C and Who Cares?

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Thank you so much for your great review! It sounds like a wonderful set of performances, with many highlights and dancers to watch. I'm glad you noted the "excellent new Rumanian soloist Dragos Mihalcea." A friend of mine did several work stints in Romania over the course of a year, and he went to the ballet and opera often. His point of reference was the Metropolitan Opera and the the major ballet compnies in New York. He was very impressed with both the ballet and opera in Bucharest. The opera singers seem to have the first opportunities in the West, and I'm glad to see that the dancers aren't far behind.

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Yes, thank you Herman. It's wonderful to watch the Balanchine repertoire moving so successfully to so many parts of the dance world. Based on video viewing and recent reading, the Dutch ballet is something I'd go out of my way to see if I were in your corner of Europe.

P.S. I especially appreciated your point about low jumps -- something I've noticed often, but not really articulated for myself.

Ygnace has a rather low center of gravity and an uniquely fluid way of moving. Suddenly you realize a low jump, if well executed, can be more beautiful than straining for a high one  -  making you marvel, how can he jetée so close to the ground ?
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By friendly help I came to this side, only to discover that there is not much life in what should be a lively forum with lots of discussion, don't you agree..........!


Well, lets hear from all lovers of ballet all over the world, and holland off cause. Let them know that there is light in dark Europe!

Hi Harry, I hope you don't mind my responding in this place.

Of course it's kind of quiet in this spot; there aren't that many members located in The Netherlands. But I have reason to believe people abroad are checking this out just the same.

So if you have been at a HNB / DNB show this (almost) past year, I'm sure many of us would be delighted if you'd share your impressions.

I'll contribute. Last night I was at the Nutcracker's opening night, with Sofiane Sylve and ABT's Marcelo Gomes, who executed Wayne Eagling's fiendishly difficult 2nd Act PDD brilliantly. Every time I get to see Sylve dance I'm mesmerized by her push-pull timing. Her recent Tchaikovsky PDD, with Dragos Mihalcea, was a exquisitely breathtaking instance of this.

Two new HNB dancers fascinated me, as they did on previous occasions: quicksilver slender Anu Viheriaranta as one of the lead Snowflakes (a version I find marginally more thrilling than the classic Balanchine take) and Asta Bazeviciute (formerly at Birmingham) in Waltz of Flowers. Most likely Bazeviciute will not pass the Robert Gottlieb No-Smiling-Please Test, but I'm falling in love with her long lines and radiant stage presence fast.

BTW, speaking of Eagling: last night's program notes mentioned he was appointed AD at the English National Ballet a month ago. Good for him, and good for them.

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Hi Herman,

That's oke. The last year was very busy for me, so that for the first time in my life I was not able to leave Groningen, ( that's the place I live in) and see all there is to see. Coming year I will contribute more about what I have seen. If I remember correctly there was a ballet company from Russia in Groningen. I think it was from Perm. They did Swanlake with so many swans that the stage was crowded with them, nice to see, but I had a severe cold and was not able to take everything in, as to be able to tell wether is was good or not.

But I enjoyed it immensly. I agree with you about Asta Bazeviciute, as with Anu Viheriaranta, I have noticed the same things you did.



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I should perhaps preface my impressions of the DNB 2005 Nutcracker run by telling what the Amsterdam Nutcracker and Mouse King looks like. Like many continental Nutcracker versions it does not have a Sugar Plum Fairy. The second act Clara / Masha dances the big PDD with her prince, and of course the prince is the nutcracker transformed. The first act Clara is an early teenage student of the Ballet Academy, but as the clock strikes midnight and Clara slips in the deserted living room to become an accidental witness to the battle of mice and toys the regular dancer takes over. The highlight of the first act is her duet with the injured Nutcracker when the mice have fled, to the lofty music opening Scene 2, used for the moving bed in Balanchine's version. Clara comforts the Nutcracker and eventually puts him in bed to recover.

All good Nutcrackers are about a young woman discovering love, but the beauty of the Toer van Schayk / Wayne Eagling version is not just that Clara gets to do the discovering herself, rather than by the Sugar Plum Fairy's example. The other beautiful thing is this is not just about girl-meets-prince love but about the exercise of pity and loving care. (It's after all only a dream the young Clara turns out to be dreaming.) During the folk divertissements she also manages to save her little brother Fritz who'd been abducted by the Arabians.

It looks like the DNB is recycling this 1996 Nutcracker on a biannual basis, and I was at two performances this year. The premiere was with Sofiane Sylve and ABT-guest soloist Marcelo Gomes. The other performance was the penultimate one with Anu Viheriäranta, a brand new arival from Finland whom I had noticed before, partnered by Matthieu Gremillet. In both cases the overall performance was not flawless. The Dec 31 corps was occassionally really sloppy, displaying end-of-the-run blues, I guess, but let's talk about the soloists.

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At the first night I had the distinct feeling I had seen Sylve doing this piece with more passion, particularly in the Act I duet. Predictably however the Act II PDD was dynamite. This is one of the toughest PDDs in the DNB repertory. It's long (the celesta variation is part of this piece) and it is duper-virtuoso, the way Eagling's stuff usually is. Sylve's and Gomes' adagio with the two hop-on-his-shoulder jumps and all the other great stuff brought the house down, as it should. And yet I left with the feeling that this Nutcracker should be about more than just working your way towards the grand PDD. I know Sylve can do this; I have vivid memories of a 2002 Nutcracker when she did connect all the dots; this night however she was "Sofiane Sylve in The Nutcracker". (It may well be she grew into the part the second or third performance.)

Anu Viheriäranta is in some ways Sylve's antithesis. She is one of those tiny waferthin dancers who do not seem to have any bones in their arms. Her upper body is just totally fluid - the arms, the neck the back: it's all soft and supple, and there are about a thousand different shades she can express with her limbs. The fearful pas de bourrees during the mouse - toy war, and the flowing turns in the duet with the wounded Nutcracker were unsurpassed, as were her little mime-and-dance interventions during the divertissements. I have never seen better.

The only probem was the final pas de deux. The opening adagio was beautiful: not athletic in the way Sylve and Gomes did it, but soft and tenderly, which arguably makes a lot of sense if you look at the big picture. But on the other hand one might argue Eagling did intend this PDD as the big blast for the balletomanes enduring all the mouse stuff. In the celesta variation the softness of the adagio turned into anxious and insecure pointe work. Gremillet's variation wasn't completely confident either. Viheriäranta has danced the same role with the Finnish National Ballet too, recently, but this Viheriäranta - Gremillet Nut was a single show at the end of two weeks' worth of other casts and perhaps they just weren't as well-rehearsed as they should.

As I recall the Clara part was created on Larissa Lezhnina who'd joined the company in 1994, and obviously she has all the elements needed, combining little-girl softness and a steely virtuoso technique. And yet, despite the flaws towards the end, I'll remember the Viheriäranta performance as one of the most powerful ones I have seen. This dancer is one of the best things that happened to the DNB in 2005 (another wonderful thing is, obviously, Sylve rejoining the company on a shared basis with the NYCB). However it looks like Viheriäranta needs some solid and rigorous training in pointe work to become the great dancer she can be.

I should also mention Altin Kaftira who was Mouse King on both nights. I doubt this is a role one dreams of as a kid, dancing with a mouse helmet on one's head all night. Nonetheless it is a big role and Kaftira manages to endow it with lots of pathos through the expressive use of his hands and legs.

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Hey everyone,

I'm new to the dancers' forum and from there I found this forum. I was wondering if this is still operating, as the last post appears to be from over 4 months ago?

If so.... Anyone been to DNB's Swan Lake? Or going to Swan Lake now that it's touring?

Seen the Masterclass with Guillaume Graffin? Anything since Nutcracker?

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Welcome to Ballet Talk, ~Mimi~. We don't have a lot of activity on this forum, but hopefully your questions will remind someone who has seen the Company to post.

Please take a moment to introduce yourself on our Welcome Forum by clicking "New Topic" in the upper right hand corner of the page.

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This afternoon the Friends of the Dutch National Ballet watched the film Ballet Russes in a cinema near Leidseplein, and as a lovely surprise it turned out several dancers and David Dawson were there too! :bow:

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Oh, please do, Mimi! We will read your reports eagerly. (We have activity in this forum from time to time -- there have been three or four regular posters, but then there's no activity and they go away for awhile. I hope you'll bring some of them home!)

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Yes! I'm with Alexandra. There's interest in, and affection for, this company here, partlly due to the availability of its work on video. Not to mention the Sofiane Sylve connection, one of a number of links between Amsterdam and New York (formerly Nieuw Amsterdam) over the centuries. :bow:

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By the way, if no one else is posting here, is it okay if I post my notes on Swan Lake and the Masterclass?

Hi Mimi,

please by all means do.

I have been terribly busy writing a book, which is why I hadn't spotted your posts before.

Unlike previous times I have only been at one Swan Lake night, with Sofiane Sylve and guest soloist Inaki Urlezaga. I have to say I was not quite bowled over on that particular night. It was interesting to see that Sofiane's interpretation had softened and become more idiomatic compared to the previous round of DNB Lakes. (It was also interesting to notice that S.S. has returned as a full member of the Dutch company, in addition to being a NYCB principal.)

As I'm writing I distinctly recall being overwhelmed by the fierce beauty of Swan Lake as the orchestra was revving up in the Overture - incredible: you're two minutes in and everything outside the musical drama is wiped out. It took till the Black Swan adagio variation to get close to this degree of involvement again, I have to confess. It may just have been me.

However I spent all night wondering about the reason why either S.S. or the company invited Urlezaga over as Sofiane's partner. Their chemistry was well below zero. All by himself, in Act I, I.U. was dead in the water, too, as far as I could tell. Admittedly the partners Sofiane used to have in previous Lake runs have moved to other companies, but I could name one or two men within the company who would have done better than I.U. on the night I saw.

Corps work wasn't too hoppin' either. I'm quite ready to call it an off-night, but anyway it kept me from going to another show / cast this time around. I would have loved to see Anu Viherianta's debut as Odette / Odile in the Rudy van Dantzig version (her Nutcracker & Mouse King was fabulous, as I mentioned on the previous page), but her only outing is at an impossibly remote stop of the Lac tour (thanks a buncha, guys!).

So please tell us about the night you saw Swan Lake, Mimi.

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^^^ :speechless-smiley-003:

See, THIS is why I was waiting for regular Ballet Talkers to post first...!

I am not that experienced in watching ballet, and therefore have less insight in everything. I still tend to experience a ballet as something magical...

But I read this in one of the introductionary topics on the BT for D forum:

It's ok to say “Wow, that really big jump the main guy did was awesome!”


So on that notion, here's my two cents...

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I saw Swan Lake twice:


On Tuesday March 22, I saw the dress rehearsal, at which Yumiko Takeshima and Tamás Nagy were dancing Odette/Odile and Siegfried. It was the first time I saw Swan Lake (in any choreography or cast!) so I can't really say anything about their interpretations: I was still very much watching 'what was happening' rather than 'how they were doing it'.

What did strike me anyway though, was the huge emotional weight Félipe Diaz managed to give to the role of Siegfried's best friend Alexander.

(I understood that in other versions this friend is called Benno?)

For those of you who are not familiar with the HNB version of Swan Lake: this version is not so much about Odette, but about Siegfried.

About him eventually giving in to temptation, failing to be true to his ideals...

In the end Siegfried drowns, and Alexander finds Siegfried's dead body.

He carries him to the middle of the stage, lays him down there, and finally kneels by him, grieving...

There was so much tenderness, so much care in the way Félipe Diaz' Alexander carried his deceased friend...

Such intense sadness...

It was instantly felt how incredibly dear Siegfried was to him, how pure his desolation was...

Really powerful!


The second time I saw Swan Lake was on Sunday March 26th.

Ruta Jezerskyte and Altin Alexandros Kaftira were dancing Odette/Odile and Siegfried.

I am SO thankful I got to see this cast, especially because I just love the way mr. Kaftira can really bring roles like Siegfried to life, and really makes you feel involved in the story!

One minor point of criticism though: I think I would have preferred it if he would have held back *just a little bit* in the beginning.

Of course he had to communicate that the empty pleasures of the court life couldn't fulfill Siegfried, but I guess the problem with that part of the choreography is that with even a slightly overdramatic approach, Siegfried easily turns from an idealistic young man searching for meaning, to merely a pouting boy.

However the nano-second this bothered me was amply compensated for by the rest of the performance!

Besides I am most likely the only person who has had this thought, so it's probably my bad, rather than mr. Kaftira's.

I was also really happy to see Mathieu Gremillet as Alexander.

I just always like to see him, because he makes such a direct connection with the audience.

In the cast I saw with the dress rehearsal he was in the pas de six by the way.

From what I understood, they employ nearly the entire company in each performance for shows like Swan Lake, making it really intense working for the dancers. Not to mention touring the Netherlands, and having to stay over in the remotest places!

I hope their rehearsal schedule for the Van Manen show leaves them a little breathing space, to repair wrecked sleeping patterns and such!

(Though of course some might argue a hotel accomodation actually provides better sleeping circumstances, depending on the normal situation...)


I will later post my notes on the wonderful Swan Lake Masterclass Guillaume Graffin taught to Boris de Leeuw and Asta Bazeviciute.

For now I have studying to do... :speechless-smiley-003:

But on a side note: I never really understood why Odette and Odile are both danced by one person, especially because it's said to be such a physically demanding role! Is this simply traditional, because some smaller companies would not have that many principals capable of performing the role, or is there another reason?

Maybe a more experienced Ballet Talker can shed a light on this?

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Thanks, mimi, for those wonderful insights. This is a company that deserves more attention, IMO.

I can imagine how difficult it is for a company of this size to do a full productdion of SW. Resources are indeed streched. A number of US companies have the same problem.

I hope other more serious SW watchers will address your point about Odette-Odile. My own though was: are there ANY companies nowadays who divide the role between 2 dancers, except in the case of injury? Wasn't this once much more commom?

Looking forward to your thoughts about the Graffin master class. :speechless-smiley-003:

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Thanks for your great report on Lake o' Swan, Michelle!

I'm pretty sure HNB's male dancers have been lighting thank-you-dear candles for you, if not sending you bouquets straight away. You have seen two Swan Lakes and it looks like you've only been paying attention to the guys.

It's true Rudy van Dantzig gives some additional depth to the Siegfried character in the slow variation in Act I, and the image at the end when Benno (or Alexander, what's the diff?) carries the drowned prince downstage is striking. However as far as I'm concerned this is a really classical, traditional version of Swan Lake, and I admire Van Dantzig for doing just that, back in the eighties. In other words, there's plenty of Odette / Odile action. The reason why Odette and Odile are performed by one single dancer is that it's more challenging that way, and in classical ballet it's all about meetingthose challenges. Every dancer I have ever spoken to about Lake o' Swan has mentioned this.

Unfortunately I was unable to see Ruta Jezerskyte's / Altin Kaftira's Swan Lake. I love both dancers. Ruta is a true classical ballerina, and the wonderful thing about her is she's also one of the company's top contemporary dancers getting plum roles from Krystof Pastor and David Dawson. (The other wonderful thing about her is she's really a sweetheart.) Sight unseen I could imagine Altin seemed a little over the top in Act I, because the only other Siegfried you had ever seen before was Tamas Nagy, who is very noble and restrained, usually.

Like everybody else I'm really curious about the masterclass you sat in on.

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Hahaha, yes, reading back I also noticed I seem to have forgotten about the girls...! :)

I think this is part coincidence (like I said Félipe Diaz' performance just "hit me" in the first show, and with the second show I more or less went there to see mr. Kaftira dance!), but I think I also have more trouble comparing the girls to eachother. I'm not really sure why, perhaps it's simply because there are more of them, or perhaps I'm just not paying enough attention because I'm a little too eager to tell the world that ballet is not just about "girls in tutus"...

Actually, I think it's mainly the latter.

Sight unseen I could imagine Altin seemed a little over the top in Act I, because the only other Siegfried you had ever seen before was Tamas Nagy, who is very noble and restrained, usually.

This sounds like a very reasonable hypothesis, but I think you are forgetting that my way of watching and seeing a ballet is no where near as evolved as yours. Much more than comparing interpretations, I'm just trying to figure out what is going on on stage! :D

For the second I was talking about, I just felt a feeling of nuisance with prince Siegfried: "Oh COME ON, WHAT are you POUTING about???!".

It was not like "Hmmm, this prince appears to be more outspoken in his apprehension than the prince I saw some days ago.".

I really don't think Tamás Nagy's performance had anything to with it.

Well enough about this. Let's not forget it was just a nano-second of a full-length ballet, and probably nothing but a random thought of mine anyway!

(The other wonderful thing about her is she's really a sweetheart.)

I believe you immediately!

But is this to say she is sweeter than the other girls in the company?

Because -from the dancers I have met so far- I think the company harbours a number of angels...! :)

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