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Jiri, Oh Jiri, the Nederland Dans Theater at Lincoln Center….

April 17, 2013
Nederlands Dans Theater Silas Henriksen in Sehnsucht, Photo by Rahi Rezvani

Nederlands Dans Theater Silas Henriksen in Sehnsucht, Photo by Rahi Rezvani

It was with untold glee that I grabbed my umbrella and headed to Lincoln Center for the first appearance of the Nederland Dans Theater in NYC in eight LONG years. Oh, how I have longed for the sublime majesty of Jiri Kylián’s choreography or the complicated yet simplistic beauty offered by Hans Van Manen. But this is not the same Nederlands Dans Theater of Jiri Kylián or Hans Van Manen, but a new hybrid incubated under the auspices of Paul Lightfoot that prominently features the works of Leon Lightfoot, the choreographic team of Sol Leon and Paul Lightfoot.

Two works were shown, Sehnsucht, which loosely translates to yearning or longing and Schmetterling, German for Butterfly. According to the Joyce website both pieces are the exploration of love, Senhsuct is the love of another, perhaps of a love past or a love unobtainable and Schmetterling is the exploration of love but that between a mother and child. (I wish I had read this info before the performances, it would have assisted me somewhat, how I’m not sure, but I’m sure it would have…)

Sehnsucht began with the curtain rising to reveal Silas Henriksen bent-over; the only thing you see is his back, knees and elbows which created a sculptural and intriguing image.

Nederlands Dans Theater Medhi Walerski in Sehnsucht, Photo by Rahi Rezvani

Nederlands Dans Theater Medhi Walerski in Sehnsucht, Photo by Rahi Rezvani

Mr. Henriksen rises; he is a young blond man, bare-chested and wearing loose-fitting white pants. Mr. Henriksen begins to move in a slow, contemplative manner; it is more emotion that movement. We are then shown a cube suspended slightly above the stage, a small room of an apartment, white walls, a door, a window, a chair and a small writing deck are the contents. Panvaneh Scharafali is seated and her head inclined on the writing desk, Medhi Walerski stands behind her. It is uncertain if he is the cause or the solution to whatever the woman is thinking or feeling at that moment.

Silas Henriksen is just phenomenal, a slinky dancer whose fluidity of movement cannot be matched. I am marveled by him and his dancing, his ever movement is somewhat hypnotic, I have a hard time taking my eyes off of him.

Nederlands Dans Theater Medhi Walerski & Parvaneh Scharafali in Sehnsucht, Photo by Rahi Rezvani

Nederlands Dans Theater Medhi Walerski & Parvaneh Scharafali in Sehnsucht, Photo by Rahi Rezvani

Medhi Walerski is possible the tallest dancer I have seen since Peter Martins, and like Mr. Martins, his height does not impede his dancing but rather enhances it. Mr. Walerski utilizes every inch of his frame in movements of passionate expression that are perfection in themselves.

But, though the dancing itself is superb, it is the work itself that remained muddy. The actually choreography for Sehnsucht does not stretch the imagination and while the concept of the work is intriguing, a man’s reflection of a past relationship that is mirrored in a suspended apartment which rotates with the inevitability that some things are unstoppable, this is where the intrigue ends.

The wide selection of Beethoven that is used does not seem to relate to the often tender emotionality of the dancers’ movement. The music is too heroic, too strong and seemed at war with the work.

Nederlands Dans Theater  Silas Henriksen (Front) & Parvaneh Scharafali (Back) in Schmetterling, Photo by Rahi Rezvani

Nederlands Dans Theater Silas Henriksen (Front) & Parvaneh Scharafali (Back) in Schmetterling, Photo by Rahi Rezvani

Sehnsucht is divided into three sections, the first and third sections are with Mr. Henriksen and the rotating room, the second section consisted of fourteen dancers in black loose-fitting pants, the men bare-chested and the women topless. But where and how this fits in I am not sure.

The music/choreography selection for this piece reminded me of the great symphonic ballets but lacked the beauty or artistry of those works. I wondered if it may have been some tongue-in-cheek parody of those ballets.

Sehnsucht ended with the curtain lowering behind Mr. Henriksen as he returned to the crouched position in which we found him at the beginning of the piece. The house lights came up and there was no bow of the cast at the end of the work. Mr. Henriksen is left in this position throughout intermission with the curtain behind him open few feet so we can so the stage crew changing sets. It took us all a few minutes to decide if this was intermission or part of the work.

Parvaneh Scharafali (Front) & Silas Henriksen (Back) in Schmetterling, Nederlands Dans Theater.  Photo by Rahi Rezvani

Parvaneh Scharafali (Front) & Silas Henriksen (Back) in Schmetterling, Nederlands Dans Theater. Photo by Rahi Rezvani

Towards the end of intermission Mr. Henriksen slowly departs the stage and Keiko Nisugi enters. The orchestra pit has been covered and the stage extended to create a more intimate experience for the audience. Ms. Nisugi is wearing a loose neutral colored tunic with mime face. She moves nonsensical about the extended stage, her facial expressions range from silently screaming to giving the audience stern looks, at times quietly singing to herself.  At one point she comes and sits with her feet hanging of the edge of the stage, but it is never quite clear why?

Schmetterling translate to “Butterfly”, the stage is covered by a series of black curtains that frame a middle entrance, like a door from another plane. The dancers are in all in black, as the slide into the framed doorway and then slide back out, there back to the audience.

Medhi Walerski (facing camera) and Parvaneh Scharafali (back to camera), in the background: Silas Henriksen in Schmetterling, Nederlands Dans Theater.  Photo by Rahi Rezvani

Medhi Walerski (facing camera) and Parvaneh Scharafali (back to camera), in the background: Silas Henriksen in Schmetterling, Nederlands Dans Theater. Photo by Rahi Rezvani

The work progresses into a series of solo and duets, some humorous and some more serious of tone. At first I really did not like this work; I just did not get it. But as Schmetterling progresses it pulls you into its dark embrace. Dancers not exquisitely and technically gifted could not pull off this work, but these dancers are and do.

Schmetterling is a swirling romp set to songs from Magnetic Fields’ Sixty-nine Love Songs and Max Richter. As the piece progressed the entryway widened revealing a panoramic view of Death Valley. So was the piece about death in its many aspects? No, Idea! But was the work engrossing, absolutely. I wouldn’t mind seeing the work again, for I think it is a work that is many layered that probably should be seen several times to truly grasp it’s intricacies.

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