Modern ballet, like any constantly evolving art form feeds off a huge variety of influences be they cultural, social or psychological. Equally, the contemporary dance forms themselves derive from the work of talented choreographers and composers/musicians who in turn take inspiration from one another historically. Nothing is new and yet everything is newly created to a point of realising a sense of newness, a renewal of creative conception and audience/dancer perception.
The true art of presenting a series or single dance work to an eager audience (and the same works for theatre) is the art of sharing. This is a subtle art or manner to convey truthfully and only when the presentation itself is perfect and joyous can the sharing aspects genuinely flow back and forth between audience and practitioner. With the current tour of Nederlands Dans Theater 2 at Nottingham Royal Concert Hall – 10th and 11th May we get that joy of dance and joy of sharing profoundly expressed on stage with their four part evening of thrilling contemporary dance.
I New Then choreographed by Swedish Johan Inger uses songs by Van Morrison and a four girl – five boy troupe working as definite individuals examining and expressing their feelings as each song plays out. It is comical, fresh and theatrical and this reviewer was reminded of Lea Anderson’s former dance styles with her sadly missed company The Featherstonehaughs & The Cholmondeleys of whom Matthew Bourne is an alumni. This memory stems from their use of natural gestures both male and female; instantly recognisable human traits that become evident in the dancers’ movements. They were then extended and repeated creatively with the techniques of training and practice underpinning the dance and often with a mix of humour and tenderness. Thus is it in Inger’s startlingly expressive I New Then.
Mutual Comfort choreographed by Romanian Edward Clug is a sharply characterised and detailed piece for four dancers (Alice Godfrey, Katarina van den Wouwer, Alexander Anderson, Miguel Duarte). The piece was Clug’s debut as a choreographer for Nederlands Dans Theater and demonstrates his interest in highlighting the dancer’s individual stories in his work. The piece illuminates human contradictions and this is well portrayed in the complex relationships the dancers display as they attract and repel each other with subtle mood swings in-between. Throughout the whole of the evening the young dancers (18-23 years old) demonstrate a maturity well beyond their years and it is best seen in Mutual Comfort.
Costumed more in the mode of classical ballet – three males in tights – Solo choreographed by Hans van Manen is a fast paced seven minute ballet about a single man looking at his place in the world. Dancers Guido Dutilh, Helias Tur-Dorvault and Paxton Ricketts move with admirable and athletic technique to Johann Sebastian Bach’s violin partita. The dance work is said to require extra-ordinary timing and these guys do it proud.
After the second interval comes the big show piece with all the entire NDT cours de ballet. Cacti is a quirky and stunning mix of rhythmically freaky dance theatre, part audio treatise on the nature and reception of creativity. Whilst being visually astonishing it also benefits from being very humorous in parts. Above all, it is beautifully choreographed by Alexander Ekman and danced with great precision by the NDT dancers. This reviewer was a little unsure whether the ‘reflection on the nature of art’ treatise was meant to be taken seriously – likewise the interactions with the cacti themselves – but both remained enjoyable none-the-less.
It is easy to see (and hear and feel) why Cacti has won so many international dance awards. Our standing ovation at the finale proves a suitable reward for this internationally renowned young dance company and big thanks to Dance Consortium and Arts Council England for once again bringing regional and international dancing excellence to our Nottingham Royal Concert Hall and beyond. As someone remarked on exiting the hall “We are blessed to have such a superbly high standard of contemporary ballet to enjoy.” Wij zijn het eens volledig. We completely agree. #culturematters
Reviewer: Phil Lowe