Students perform in petipa's raymonda act iii

Insight into Neumeier’s Yondering

Since the beginning of the year, students have been preparing for their upcoming Summer Performances in July at Opera Holland Park and the Royal Opera House.

Our 2nd and Pre-Professional Year students have been rehearsing John Neumeier’s Yondering. Yohan Stegli and Konstantin Tselikov from the Hamburg Ballet have been working with our students to set the ballet.

The creative team

John Neumeier is one of our alumni and an internationally celebrated choreographer. After an extensive career at the Stuttgart Ballet, he became Director and Chief Choreographer of the Hamburg Ballet in 1973. He will celebrate the incredible milestone of 50 years at the helm of the Hamburg Ballet next year. He founded the School of the Hamburg Ballet in 1978.

Neumeier’s choreography centres on the preservation of ballet tradition within a modern dramatic framework. He has received numerous awards for his works and has guest choreographed for many companies, including The Royal Ballet. In 1996, John Neumeier created Yondering over ten days.

Yohan Stegli is Deputy of the Artistic Director at the National Youth Ballet of Germany, of which Neumeier is also the Director. He trained at the School of The Hamburg Ballet and became a company member of the Hamburg Ballet in 1999, where he was promoted to Soloist in 2004. Konstantin Tselikov has been a teacher at the School of the Hamburg Ballet since 2020, where he also trained as a dancer. He joined the Ballet Hamburg in 2004 and was promoted to Soloist in 2011. Both Yohan and Konstantin have worked as choreographers and have staged performances for the Young Choreographers in Hamburg.

The ballet’s history

Yondering first premiered in 1996 at Canada’s National Ballet School. The piece was choreographed especially for the students and explores themes of innocence and adventure. Since its premiere, Yondering has been performed by many other schools including John Neumeier’s company school in Hamburg, the San Francisco Ballet School, The Royal Ballet School, and the Paris Opera Ballet School.

The title comes from a period in America when the frontier was marked by a discernible line and those who set out to discover what lay beyond were said to be ‘yondering’. The word ‘yonder’ means to go into the unknown, which resonates with our students who are transitioning from the School into the professional world. It is an exciting, albeit daunting, change for our students and so the ballet is very apt to their situation as they take the next step into their future.

The music for Yondering is comprised of a selection of songs by the 19th-century American composer Stephen Foster, sung by the acclaimed American baritone Thomas Hampson. Neumeier chose this material as he was said to have been moved by its folk-like quality, and the music is an integral aspect of the piece.

A ballet for students

The ballet has only ever been performed by ballet students, as Neumeier will not allow it to be danced by professional companies. He believes that only students can embody the spirit of the ballet and wants to maintain authenticity:

Yondering was meant to be danced by students – only very young people are able to embody the idealistic topic and the naïve, idealistic, folk-talk atmosphere.  In recent years many professional companies have left requests [to perform the work], which I have always rejected.

John Neumeier

Konstantin Tselikov told us why he enjoys working with and teaching students:

I love working with students, it’s what I do in the School of the Hamburg Ballet and I love working with the students here. It’s the energy that they bring to their work; they’re fierce.

Konstantin Tselikov

Exploring the themes

Yondering has no overall narrative but is instead a series of episodes that delve into the concept of youth. The piece explores what it means to be a young person, their behaviour and their relationships. spoke about how these themes are being explored with our students:

It’s an energetic ballet but it’s also about loss. It’s about losing friends, losing innocence. This is definitely relevant to today’s politics and today’s situation. There are people in Ukraine today who are losing their innocence and their friends and we are exploring all these themes in Yondering.

Yohan Stegli

See students speaking about their experience of rehearsing Yondering:

Find out more about our Summer Performances