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Heavenly: Introdans at the Joyce Theater

May 9, 2012

Rashaen Arts in Ed Wubbe’s Messiah Photo by Hans Gerritsen

I have longed admired the work of Dutch dancers and companies such as the Netherlands Dans Theater, Jiří Kylián, Hans van Manen, and Rudi van Dantzig and now I can add Introdans to that list. Introdans is one of The Netherlands three national dance companies, but it is the only one that has never performed in the United States.

That ended with the United States premier of the company at the Joyce Theater, May 1st thru 6th with “Heavenly”, a program featuring New York premieres by Nils Christe, Ed Wubbe and Gisela Rocha.  The Joyce engagement is part of the company’s 40th anniversary worldwide celebration.

The evening opened with Fünf Gedichte, Nils Christe’s exploration of the transition from life to death. The score for the piece is Wagner’s “Wesendonk Lieder,” five songs set to the poetry of Mathilde Wesendonk and sung by Jard van Nes . (The English translation of Fünf Gedichte is “Five Poems”).

Filippo Pelacchi & Vérine Bouwman in Nils Christe’s “Fünf Gedichte” Photo by Hans Gerritsen

From the moment the curtain rises I am transfixed! Beneath panels of cumulus clouds and blue skies (designed by Keso Dekker),  Zachary Chant wearing only nude briefs stands alone center stage, his back is to us and begins a solo so fluid he seems to pour into each movement. He is beautiful, daring and hypnotizing with his sincerity of movement.

Mara Hulspas and Rubén Ventoso Sanromán performed a duet that is enticing and exquisite as their lifts flow into air ending on the floor. The duet is a moving experience, for Mr. Christe experiments with movement and shapes that are novel and gives Fünf Gedichte a unique voice.

Mr. Chant reappears throughout the dance, usually stepping backwards from a mysterious dark opening from backstage. He would lift a dancer into his arms and remove them from the stage, only to reappear later to carrying another dancer on.

Jorge Pérez Martíne & Yulanne de Groot in Nils Christe’s “Fünf Gedichte” Photo by Hans Gerritsen

The 3rd Poem is for five dancers, four men and one woman. It has a ritualistic nature to it, for there is something that is solemn and even sacred here. Jorge Pérez Martínez pulls Yulanne de Groot to him, the men encircle them and then move away. Ms. de Groot is the men’s focus for they are drawn to her, engaging her alone, in pairs or as a group. She is never left alone.

Throughout Fünf Gedichte there lies an undertone of deep sensuality and emotion. Though it premiered in 1996, it has such prominence of statement and musicality that it is timeless. I enjoyed this piece so much that if the company had given an intermission and just repeated a performance of Fünf Gedichte I would have been perfectly fine with it. I long to see this work again!

Now for  Paradise?, I so try to be positive and look for the good in everything, but in this dance you have to look hard, it’s there… but it’s desperately in need of some serious editing. The score by Michael Sauter at first opening, sounded so powerfully I thought this is going to be good…I was wrong. Choreographed by Gisela Rocha with the imput of its 15 dancers in 2006, it is discribed as a hip-hop battle, but I saw no evidence of a battle or hip-hop.

Marc Beaugendre & Yulanne de Groot in Ed Wubbe’s Messiah Photo by Hans Gerritsen

Dancers standing very casual, hands in pockets, friendly arms draped around someone’s shoulder, they began to move in pairs, small groups or individually. The actual dancing aspects of this work are great especially in relationship to the score and Mark Truebridge genius of a lighting design, rows of overhead lights that move and alter as the piece progresses. The design of the dance is fragmented, something occurs here, then something else of there, often overlapping in interesting ways.

Again the movement (actual dancing) aspects of the dance have strong hints of brilliance woven within, but then Mara Hulspas comes on with a microphone and starts to sing a contemporary version of Somewhere Over the Rainbow. Now Ms. Hulspas has a great voice but I do not see how this fits into the work. This is soon followed by Rashaen Arts dressed in Fred Astaire-isc white suit and he begins to tap? See what I mean by editing!

If the tapping, someone singing that odd version of Somewhere Over the Rainbow (and how does that fit in with hip-hop anyway?) were omitted and leaving just the dancing, I think it would be a genuis of a work. Paradise?, with some serious editing could be a brilliant. But as it stands it just bad.

Introdans in Ed Wubbe’s Messiah Photo by Hans Gerritsen

The evening was redeemed by Ed Wubbe’s Messiah, premiered in 1988 it has since been a vital part of the repertoire for Introdans. Most of the dancers are in all black with some appearing behind a scrim in voluminous white skirts. As they crossed the stage behind the scrim the skirts were whipped and twirled in motions that would ripple and flow into shape that would circle around the dancer. Worn by both men and the women, it created a weightless almost etheral effect, especally the way the lights rebounded off the white fabric.

The dancers in black, some of the women on point, created shapes that contrasted with the circular airy moves of those in white. The darkly clad dancers seemed somewhat ominous, representing a darker aspect of life, while those in white seemed freer and unrestrained. The dancing for those in black was angular and sharp, its shapes quick and fast. It’s a stunning work!

Hopefully we will not have to wait another 40 years for the return of Introdans to the States. I would be sadly disappointed if they did!

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