Nederlands Dans Theater
at City Center Review

Above photo of The Statement: Rahi Rezvani courtesy of NDT

My colleague Jocelyn Delifer wrote this review of Nederlands Dans Theater at City Center. Jocelyn works in New York as a financial analyst and cultivates balance between his day job and ballet training. Jocelyn, born in Paris, was inspired by his mother, who was a ballerina trained at the Royal Academy of Dance. He first took ballet as an adult at the New York Conservatory of Dance under the direction of Patricia Dokoudovsky. He has danced in New York-area productions including the original production of Le Cid by Venti Petrov, Drosselmeyer in Lumiere Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker; he performed the peasant pas de deux in Giselle staged by Svetlana Caton-Noble, and appeared in Connecticut Ballet productions of Coppélia and The Nutcracker.

Nederlands Dans Theater returned to New York City this month to showcase the recent works of their artistic directors and associate choreographers. The company is known for its exceptional repertory of contemporary creations. I first saw them perform at the Koch Theater three years ago and was blown away and my high expectations of them were exceeded in the mid-November performance at City Center because they truly bring contemporary dance to another level.

The first work, Safe as Houses, by Sol León and Paul Lightfoot, premiered in 2001. Unlike many contemporary works, where the audience is asked to go through the mental effort of connecting with the dancers to understand the message, Safe as Houses requires no effort to be transported by the dancers. The creators simply describe their work as an intention “to be a search into our spiritual soul; to remind us all of the vulnerability of environment and how every element of us is vital into keeping balance in this world we inhabit.” Everyone can relate to this quest in a way or another, and the performance judiciously leaves room for interpretation. The set deserves special attention: the stage is transformed into a square room, all white with black shapes on the wall; in the center is a wall that divides the room in half before it starts to rotate becoming the main attraction. The interactions between the dancers and the wall are cleverly orchestrated: they reach the wall, run away from it, disappear behind it and make their entrances from it. The black and white contrast is reflected in the dancers’ clothes, where one can find a reference to the Yin and Yang. I was impressed by the richness of styles: while some dancers emphasized jumps and aerial combinations, others had a stronger connection with the ground and there were the fast dancers contrasting with the slow dancers. And this diversity of roles seemed tailored for the NDT dancers who all have exceptional skills of their own.

The second piece, Woke up Blind, was created by Marco Goecke and premiered in February of this year. Although I was less touched by this work than the rest of the program, I was impressed by the originality and the audacity of the creation. Goecke pushed the physical limits of the dancers by incorporating incredibly fast movements that were intended to translate a mix of emotions, but I found these spasmodic movements to be rather distracting and almost painful to watch. But again the dancers had the skills to execute this choreography flawlessly.

For the third work of the evening, the company presented another recent creation, The Statement, by Crystal Pite. Pacific Northwest Ballet recently presented another work by Pite, Emergence, performed in New York which gave us a look at the extraordinary creativity of the Canadian choreographer. In The Statement, Pite uses a rather unusual context: the scene takes place in an office meeting room where two colleagues are confronted with an internal investigation by the people from “upstairs”. The use of mime is used in such a genius way that the audience is immediately blown away by the interpretation of the four dancers. Anyone who has worked in a corporate environment will find the described situations pleasantly accurate. I was so captivated by the story that every detail in the choreography as well as the light and the set took another dimension. For instance the use of massive conference table made it possible to create a vertical dynamic.

The last piece, Stop Motion, created by Leon and Lightfoot in 2014 offered us a journey through its creators’ vision. There was something very touching in the purity of the work and the melancholic mood reinforced by the music. Once again the audience enjoyed a beautiful staging where dancers performed on a stage covered in white powder turning each move into fireworks. Partnering was an essential component and was full of sensuality. This piece was an example of the perfect harmony that we always hope to find among the dancers: always together on the music; the result of a total commitment to the choreographer’s vision and countless hours of rehearsal.