Performing Arts: Dance
November 19, 2016
Netherlands Dans Theater artistic director Paul Lightfoot and artistic advisor Sol Léon have developed a sleek, athletic, and intensely theatrical profile for the company since taking over in 2011. Both worked under Jiri Kylian, NDT artistic director from 1975-2000 (continuing as choreographer until 2009), who brought the company its international renown. Kylian banned them from reviving his choreography until September 2017, forcing them to find their own aesthetic: a precise, sensual, but straightforward contemporary ballet language often framed within complex theatrical sets and lighting that add intrigue but can also overwhelm the dancing. Based in The Hague, they boast an international roster of dancers and choreographers; this program includes two of their collaborations, and new works by the German choreographer Marco Goecke and the Canadian Crystal Pite.

Pite’s The Statement searingly captured the byzantine backroom deals of today’s corporate culture in a deliciously slick critique reminiscent of Kurt Jooss’ deliberations around The Green Table (1932). The dancers embodied a disconcerting dialogue heard over a loudspeaker, their razor-sharp movements and spatial relationships around a table reflecting repeated references to “escalating situations,” and truth versus what is “on the record.” Goecke’s Woke Up Blind (seen in NY at Fall for Dance this year) once again blew away the audience with its rapid-fire, quirky, shaking hands and heavy breathing (I wrote about it here), perfectly in sync with Jeff Buckley’s fierce electric guitar and improvised skats. Haunting in their originality and ruthless engagement of our senses, these two works made the evening.

The program opened with Lightfoot and Léon’s Safe as Houses (2001) where a trio in black suits is joined by a larger group in white (pants for the men, leotards for the women). They alternate dancing near, around, next to, and appearing and disappearing behind a huge revolving wall, smoothly handling the obstacle with an upright, very frontal contemporary ballet movement. The NDT dancers played with dynamics and sometimes stared at us as they swung their arms swiftly, contracted their torsos or lifted into a still arabesque, seeming to float or hover like birds. In one indelible image, a line of dancers slowly shuffled backwards, slumped over with their heads on the wall, evoking the more famous wall in Jerusalem.

Lightfoot and Léon’s Stop-Motion (2014) closed the evening. Dedicated to their fifteen year old daughter Saura as they watched her transformation into womanhood, her slowly rotating, larger-than-life image was projected on a screen (a teenager’s nightmare?!) while dancers moved in and out of a white powder dropped midway onstage (reminiscent of Nacho Duato’s White Darnkness from 2001, but not). Highly charged dancing in several duets and solos teetered between strangely moving and overwrought, and eventually we lost an overall sense of purpose. But in one solo, Jorge Nozal’s sensual, broad and brazen movement quality encapsulated the beauty and fearful fearlessness of the NDT dancers.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Nicole Duffy Robertson

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