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Ah, the Dutch / The Nederland Dans Theater2 (NDT2) at the Joyce….

February 19, 2015
NDT2’s Katarina van den Wouwer, Clement Haenen, Casia Vengoechea & Spencer Dickhaus in Johan Inger’s “I New Then.” Photo: ©Yi-Chun Wu

NDT2’s Katarina van den Wouwer, Clement Haenen, Casia Vengoechea & Spencer Dickhaus in Johan Inger’s “I New Then.” Photo: ©Yi-Chun Wu

After a five year absence, the Nederland Dans Theater2 (NDT2) returned  to the Joyce this February with a program that included three works by NDT2 house choreographers Paul Lightfoot, Sol León and Johan Inger, and one by Sharon Eyal and Gai Behar of Israel.

NDT2 was founded in 1978 as a launching pad for young dancers between the ages of 17 to 22. The initial aim of NDT 2 was to “feed” the main company (Nederlands Dans Theater 1) with its young dancers. NDT2 serves as a “bridge period” to mature the freshly graduated dancers from the various classical conservatories and schools for a professional dance career. Today, over 70% of Nederlands Dans Theater 1’s dancers have started their career in NDT 2.

Choreographed in 2012 to five songs by Van Morrison, Swedish choreographer Johan Inger’s I New Then, just made me smile from the beginning till the end. It is a work for five men and four women all wearing causal street attire. Mr. Inger’s choreography is relaxed, spontaneous and more than a little whimsical.

There is individuality to each dancer’s movements, each dancer possessing their own voice. When one or two dancers are moving other dancers will casually walk across the stage. But when two dancers begin sharing the same movement phrase it is akin to a conversation in a crowded room. Those two are focused on each other where the rest just pass by, each of the other dancers with their own destinations/intentions in mind. Greg Lau is an amazing young dancer, with his long lean line he flowed through the work like silk…Mr. Lau is fresh out of Juilliard and has an exciting career before him.

NDT2’s Clement Haenen & Benjamin Behrends in Johan Inger’s “I New Then.” Photo: ©Yi-Chun Wu

NDT2’s Clement Haenen & Benjamin Behrends in Johan Inger’s “I New Then.” Photo: ©Yi-Chun Wu

Mr. Inger’s choreography is wonderful mixture of quick movements and sudden changes in direction or focus. A dancer will pass another dancer who is in the midst of a movement phrase and as suddenly mirror that dancer, then he will suddenly break off with that same abruptness and continue on walking.

Even though the choreography is quick and sometimes quirky it is never erratic. There is an intelligence to be seen with in the total as well as great emotion. I say bravo to all! I hope I get the chance to see the work again and soon.

NDT2 in Johan Inger’s “I New Then.” Photo: ©Yi-Chun Wu

NDT2 in Johan Inger’s “I New Then.” Photo: ©Yi-Chun Wu

I had  a chance to see Sol León and Paul Lightfoot’s “Shutters Shut” at the 2012 Fall for Dance Festival. I thought it brilliant then and I think so still. The program notes states it is “A short study of the poem written and read by Gertrude Stein “If I told him: A completed portrait of Picasso.” 1912”. “If I told him: A completed portrait of Picasso” is a rambling, tongue-twisting, satirical bit of genius…

Imre van Opstal and Spencer Dickhaus were wonderful. The work is filled with fast, quirky moves. Beginning solo, Ms. Van Opstal responded to Gertrude Stien’s as she spoke “If I told him, would he like it, would he like it if I told him” swinging her left arm up she grabs her forehead and yanking her head back to then swiftly move both hands up to her mouth in a shocked expression, as if “did I just do that?…

She was soon joined by Mr. Dickhaus and for the next four minutes the two cross the front of the stage with scalpel precision. Using their bodies they create a language unique to them but can still impressively be understood by all. It is the starkness of the spoken word used instead of music that help lend to the individuality of the piece.  Shutters Shut is one of my favorite pieces from the choreographic team known as Lightfoot León.

Sharon Eyal and Gal Behar I just never seem to get. There is a cerebral aspect to the work that I recognize and try to respect but that’s about all the good I can say about their work. Sara was premiered in 2013 at The Hague. The work has an original composition by Ori Lichtik: The Knife “From On to Off” comprised of repetitive synthesized percussions that do not help the work in the least.

NDT2 in Sharon Eyal & Gal Behar’s SARA. Photo: ©Yi-Chun Wu

NDT2 in Sharon Eyal & Gal Behar’s SARA. Photo: ©Yi-Chun Wu

As a group the dancers start to move forward, relaxed arms held with elbows bent, the head looking left and right, made them seem like sleepwalkers from a 1950’s science fiction movie. A woman separates from the crowd and moves center stage to lip-sync to a raspy unintelligible whisper from the soundtrack. There is a minimalist aspect to the work that may appeal to some, but sadly I always find Sharon Eyal and Gal Behar wanting…

Subject to Change was premiered in 2003 and also choreographed by the Nederlands Dans Theater resident choreographer duo Lightfoot León.  It is a work for five men, one woman and a red carpet. The piece won the Zwaan award for best dance production of 2003. The work was created during an a time of personal turmoil for Sol Leon and Paul Lightfoot.

Reported in an interview in 2006 with Ian Palmer….

We had a very dear friend who was exceedingly sick and she had had a brain hemorrhage at the time we were creating the piece. So we were in the hospital with her every day and then going back to the studio so the piece is actually about her confronting the possibility of death…Sol Leon and Paul Lightfoot.

Yukino Takaura and Olivier Coeffard performed a fluid duet throughout the work. Ms. Takaura dances with both a sense of fragility and strength. Mr. Coefield has a wonderful line and his leaps were breath taking.

There is an intense emotion portrayed by the dancers, the hint of death stalking around the red carpet, waiting for Ms. Takaura to step off so they my sweep her into their grasp is riveting. This is truly one of the most exciting works I have seen in recent years…

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