Magazine article The Spectator

Dutch Stunners

Magazine article The Spectator

Dutch Stunners

Article excerpt

Dance Nederlands Dans Theater 2 (The Peacock Theatre) Theoretically, interpretation should be an essential element of theatre dance. Yet, as many dance-goers keep lamenting, the species of the `thinking dancer', namely the artist capable of reading and conveying what is beyond the choreographic text, is almost extinct. The problem is felt particularly in relation to younger generations of dancers who appear to be more preoccupied with an accurate, often flashy, technical rendition of the given steps than with an in-depth reading of the choreographer's intentions. Still, dancers should not be blamed, for their apparent lack of dramatic response reflects the taste of contemporary audiences who do not seem to understand that there is more to theatre dance than mere acrobatics.

It was a great relief, therefore, to attend last week's performance of Nederlands Dans Theater 2, for the young performers displayed stunning technical skill as well as powerful dramatic ability, demonstrating that there is still someone able to put some art into the part. Not an easy task, considering the non-narrative nature of the works presented and their stylistic differences. Originally created in 1982, Song of the Wayfarer, the first item on the programme, is a typical example of Jiri Kylian's choreography. Without being a literal translation of Mahler's song cycle, the dance develops through a series of images prompted by the musical undertones. The dramatic nuances of the various situations are embedded in the movement vocabulary which, as is often the case with Kylian's creations, stems from a calibrated combination of contemporary ballet solutions and an expressive, metaphorical language of gesture. In other words, it is choreographic structure that suggests the moods of the work, providing the dancers with several interpretative possibilities.

Although Hans Van Manen belongs to the same choreographic school as Kylian, generally referred to as the North-European contemporary dance style, his creations have often been characterised by distinctive abstract solutions that do not leave much space for the dancers' personal input. It was quite surprising, therefore, to be confronted with Solo, a tailor-made bravura piece for three male dancers. Created last January, Solo focuses on a youthful, humorous approach to Bach's music, highlighting the different, personal responses of three youngsters to a classical score. The Violin Suite No 1 in D Minor is used here to accompany frenzied, discodancing-like actions which clash vividly with such a 'sacred' music piece. …

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