Nederlands Dans Theater 2 @ EFT
NDT2, the younger arm of Nederlands Dans Theater are an extremely popular company, a fact not lost on the enraptured audience at the Festival Theatre last week.
Just as ‘theater’ forms part of their name, theatricality is an inherent part of an NDT performance. From the moving mirror in Studio 2 to the curtain of swaying metallic cords in Gods and Dogs and the prop heavy Cacti, the theatrical space that is created is often electric. Not only does this create obstacles and tension for the dancers, it also works to provide context for the less narrative pieces.
The dancing really is astounding. The dancers amaze with strength, athleticism, stamina and control. A real dance language emerges particularly in the first two works. Leg extensions, specific hand movements and the gesture of touching a foot after an extension all create a company style.
Of the three pieces performed at the Festival Theatre, Studio 2 was most satisfying. First performed in 2009 to celebrate 50 years of the company, Studio 2 was inspired by the titular rehearsal space at NDT. Choreographed by Sol Leon and Paul Lightfoot (the latter currently the Artistic Director of NDT), it is a brilliant work. Beautifully staged by Gerald Tibbs, the ramp and mirror provide a fantastic space in which to play and work off. Entrances and exits are dramatic as the dancers walk into the light or rise and fall from the ramp.
And then there’s the dancing. Of the eight exceptionally talented dancers Jianhui Wang is a standout. Seemingly trapped, he erupts from a circle of light; his dancing spectacular. With strained facial expressions and clawed feet one couple play with the grotesque while another pair seem to grow and break free, as if they are swallows discovering flight. A beautiful metronomic quality to the music anchors the dancers throughout this exciting piece.
There was a much darker tone in former NDT Artistic Director Jiri Kylian’s Gods and Dogs. Again there was an element of the grotesque in this piece as dancers twitched and shook, hands fluttered and cast off energy. The moment when a dancer moved into the light and cast another in shadow was truly ominous. But while the dancing still impressed and surprised it was harder to enter into the world of this dance.
Cacti, by Alexander Ekman, uses the prickly plants to explore the ‘meaning’ of art. With its soundscapes, delightful interior monologue and large set pieces it’s funny and entertaining and the audience loved it. So this reviewer feels a little like Federation President Barry Fife (Barry Fife? Yes, Barry Fife), accusing Ekman of “flashy, crowd pleasing steps.” Compared to the other pieces, Cacti lacks substance.