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Den Haag (The Hague), OT (Netherlands)

Nederlands Dans Theater honors Jiri Kylian's 70th birthday in several brilliant programs

by Helma Klooss
November 4, 2017
Houtrustweg 505
Den Haag (The Hague), OT (Netherlands) 2583 WB
+31(0)70 88 00 333
Helma Klooss is a Netherlands-based dance writer and festival organizer. More about her dance festivals can be found at www.danskaravaan.nl, www.danskaravaan-educatief.nl and www.stranddans.nl
Nederlands Dans Theater opened its 2017-18 season with two programs and an exhibition in celebration of Jiri Kylian's 70th birthday. Part of the yearlong 'Celebrating Kylián!' festival, the exhibition showed unique photos and films from 1973-2009 chronicling the years of his artistic leadership at Netherlands Dans Theater and the 73 illuminative ballets he created for the company.
(Click here to read my review from this past March).

NDT's performance programs took two stylistically different approaches. Program A focused on a more pure dance concept, with new works by choreographers Edward Clug, Medhi Walerski and Lightfoot/Leon, while Program B focused on the theatrical side of NDT in a trilogy of works by choreographers Gabriela Carrizo and Franck Chartier.

When Kylian withdrew his ballets from the company for three years, his wish was that NDT would regenerate with new choreographers. This worked out successfully when we take these two programs into consideration. The diversity of NDT now is mainly due to young choreographers and the wonderful dancers who work with them. Some of the dancers became successful choreographers like Medhi Walerski. NDT artistic leader Paul Lightfoot is responsible for these opportunities and together with Sol Leon he also presents one or two ballets a year which vary in quality.

Program A - Side A: Split Into One
Reviewed September 22, 2017 (runs through December 16, 2017)

"Proof" by Edward Clug

Romanian choreographer Clug made a funny, energetic robotic dance to the music of Radiohead. The ballet was carried out at a high rhythmic level by seven excellent dancers. Group dances alternated with duets and solos. A transparent white zeppelin filled the stage and comes slowly down to the floor. The piece becomes more melodic when the songs get a hypnotic character to them. It was dancer Jianhui Wang who attracted our attention. In his watching the zeppelin move it seemed as if he was watching his life pass by. Finally he sat in front of the zeppelin and watched a naked dancer enter it as an alien in a new world.

"Soon" by Medhi Walerski
It was the beauty of the dancers, the scenery and music that made "Soon" by Medhi Walerski my favorite. Walerski chose the poetic songs of the singer-songwriter Benjamin Clementine for his lyrical piece. The four dancers just joined NDT1 and they expressed the mood of the songs with an extraordinary freshness in their duets. The duets alternated playfully with the group dances, while above them an elegant sculpture was circling. Walerski’s choreography radiated poetry.

"Sisters" by Sol Leon & Paul Lightfoot
Sol Leon & Paul Lightfoot creates with "Sisters" a ballet with more drama about human relations, life and death. Apparently Sol Leon has a sister that is missing an arm. This inspired the creation of one of the characters in the work. The dancer's left arm is fit into her dress, technically difficult to balance, but she does wonderfully well. Due to the complex structure of the choreography and the incoherent music, the ballet didn’t touch me as other ballets of theirs did.

Program B - Side B: Adrift
Reviewed October 5, 2017 (runs through December 21, 2017)

Side B: Adrift was different in character than Side A: Split Into One. The three ballets connected effortlessly and were an expression of Grand Guignol, the theater of horror and suspense reminiscent of the television series "Twin Peaks". The three works called for a sure grasp of dancer technique and sinuous agility of the body and were executed brilliantly. The two Flemish/French choreographers (from the Belgium group Peeping Tom) began choreographing for NDT four years ago.

"The Missing Door" (2013) by Gabriela Carrizo
In the first ballet "The Missing Door" by Gabriela Carrizo the stage and scenery are set for all three ballets on the program. A dark brown room with doors and a window. This scenery is rearranged by the dancers themselves for the second and third ballets, slightly different each time.

Reality and fantasy merge into a timeless dream. Dancers try to make contact with each other, but fail. Dancer Marne van Opstal pulls a female out of a chair but she slips away by moving fluently. He then picks her up and revolves her around his neck and waist while turning around the room. In other duets, the Chinese female dancer Meng-ku Wu bends backward like flexible bamboo to slip out of the hands of her partner. Her dancing is astonishing. A lone figure at a table, dancer Roger van der Poel tries to put on a coat but fails time after time. He is not only locked in his body, but also in the room and sees the others pass through his window. The soundtrack of scary noises seamlessly supports these dance moves completing the nightmare of losing one's grip on life.

"The Lost Room" (2015) by Franck Chartier
In "The Lost Room" by Franck Chartier the scenery is transformed into a bedroom with a balcony. A couple was necking on the floor while the terrifying screams of a baby were heard from outside the room. A door then sprung open and five dancers were thrown into the room driven by the wind. One dancer flew out into the balcony where the snow started falling and she shivered and desperately screamed until rescued.

"The Hidden Floor" by Franck Chartier
"In The Hidden Floor" by Franck Chartier the scenery becomes the deck of a ship, with a railing, restaurant and reception area. A desolate scene, an old man portrayed by guest dancer Jeff Stevens reads his journal at a table unperturbed while another dancer continuously eats without stopping. A turbulent storm rages outside as a bilge of water pours in through the cabin doors dragging with it more dancers. Duets are danced in slow motion, mostly in the nude. Four dancers do a circular dance in slow motion in the water that recalls Matisse’s painting "La Dance". The ballet's ending is grim. Fire breaks out and victims of it are carried away while we hear the sound of breaking bones.

Bonus Review:

"Singuliere Odyssée" by Sol Leon and Paul Lightfoot
Reviewed February 2, 2017

Since its premiere Lightfoot/Leon's "Singuliere Odyssée" has been a huge success. Composer Max Richter made a new score for the ballet, "Exiles," played live by The Ballet Orchestra. We hear the in the pulse of the music and its cadence, a travelling sound that is closely related to a train trip.

On stage we see an elegant train station, slightly out of perspective, with a stagnant clock and a small entrance. A tall dancer crawls through the small door revealing the red hair of dancer Marne van Opstal. He exaggerates his moves with large steps and his arms stretched out. He gasps for breath and then walks in maladroit moves throughout the elegant room. This stationmaster is a lonely person.

Meanwhile others enter, couples taking very small steps followed by more dancers who distract the main character from his thoughts. The couples reach out towards each other, turn around and touch the floor until they hold their moves and stand still.

These tableaus correspond well with this nostalgic place where time seems to have stopped. Roger van der Poel then leads a group of gorgeous dancers dressed in wide manteau. They repeat movements in concert with the swelling and pace of the music. A confrontation with Van Opstal is not going to happen although once there was a short attempt. Van Opstal withdraws in a corner, upright against a wall. Autumn passes by outside the train's windows as thousands of brown leaves fill the stage emphasizing the loneliness of Van Opstal's character which he portrayed superbly.
Nederlands Dans Theater in Edward Clug's 'Proof.'

Nederlands Dans Theater in Edward Clug's "Proof."

Photo © & courtesy of Rahi Rezvani

Nederlands Dans Theater in Medhi Walerski's 'Soon'.

Nederlands Dans Theater in Medhi Walerski's "Soon".

Photo © & courtesy of Rahi Rezvani

Nederlands Dans Theater in Sol Leon & Paul Lightfoot's 'Sisters'.

Nederlands Dans Theater in Sol Leon & Paul Lightfoot's "Sisters".

Photo © & courtesy of Rahi Rezvani

Nederlands Dans Theater in Gabriela Carrizo's 'The Missing Door'.

Nederlands Dans Theater in Gabriela Carrizo's "The Missing Door".

Photo © & courtesy of Rahi Rezvani

Nederlands Dans Theater in Franck Chartier's 'The Lost Room'.

Nederlands Dans Theater in Franck Chartier's "The Lost Room".

Photo © & courtesy of Rahi Rezvani

Nederlands Dans Theater in Franck Chartier's 'The Hidden Floor'.

Nederlands Dans Theater in Franck Chartier's "The Hidden Floor".

Photo © & courtesy of Rahi Rezvani

Nederlands Dans Theater in Sol Leon and Paul Lightfoot's 'Singuliere Odyssée'.

Nederlands Dans Theater in Sol Leon and Paul Lightfoot's "Singuliere Odyssée".

Photo © & courtesy of Rahi Rezvani

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