I was fortunate enough to see this extraordinary performance by the legendary Nederlands Dans Theater, who are in Australia for a very brief Melbourne only tour.
This was a thrilling, dazzling triple bill of contemporary dance. The performance featured two works choreographed by the Company’s Artistic Director and Artistic Advisor respectively, the duo of Sol Leon and Paul Lightfoot with one work by Canadian Crystal Pite.
The dancing was superb. At times the performers appeared boneless though they always exercised total control. Fabulous soft jumps were combined with crisp footwork , laser sharp legs and fine epaulement. Some of the lifts in the three works were striking, unusual and very demanding.
The opening work was the amazing Sehnsucht as choreographed by Sol Leon and Paul Lightfoot, performed to the magnificent music of Beethoven. The title Sehnsucht comes from the German and connects to a certain yearning and describes a deep emotional state of missing something intensely.
The piece opens with a striking solo by Prince Credell, full of powerful, barely contained movements. The work centres on the relationship between a man and a woman – Parvanaeh Scharafali and Mehdi Walerski – who are trapped in a room, comprising a box that tilts. It is as if they defy gravity.
Their relationship is intense yet dreamlike and appears to be manipulated by Prince. In this work Prince has incredible long fluid arms and a hypnotic, commanding presence. Much is made of classical ballet line and balance and holding a position en attitude.
There is a pas de deux that is perhaps a pas de trois at one point . Prince is in control, but always just outside the box of the room At one point Mehdi slips through the door – the ensemble arrive and then there are flying jumps featuring a trio of impressive male dancers. The piece featured synchronized, stylized arms and angular sculptural pas de deux.
Is it all Prince’s Prospero like creation? A dream ? His imagination? This is a visually breathtaking, superbly danced piece.
The middle work, Solo Echo, choreographed by Canadian Crystal Pite was also mesmerizing . There is a wonderful snowing effect used throughout. The piece is inspired by the poems Lines For Winter by Mark Strand and is performed to Brahms’ melancholic , passionate music.
The cast wear grey sleeveless unisex costumes. The choreography undulates, pulsates, slips and slithers in the ‘snow’ against a black wintery background. At one point the ensemble become a sculptural line of bodies fluidly moving in space. It appears that the group rejects one of its members – or do they?! Floating lifts are contrasted with bobbing weaving tai chi like snatches of choreography and rolling floor work. Wheeling, angular lifts and angular linked criss crossed arms are also employed.
The final work was Stop –Motion choreographed by Leon and Lightfoot. The work’s themes are longing, life in the service of love in its many forms, and the concept of how the past, the present and the future blur. Like a lot of contemporary works, the piece combined film projection and live dance. With this piece black and white film featured the choreographer’s daughter Saura in period costume. The marvelous music was by Max Richter. The work was haunting and elegiac.
The choreography was again extremely demanding and athletic featuring small solos breaking out from fluid ensemble work., Backward runs were also included. The dancers become covered in a white chalk like dust as they slipped, slide and darted across the stage.
Special mention must be made of the gripping performances by Prince Credell, Jorge Nazal and Parvanah Scharafali . One female dancer wore a black Victorian style gown that had a very long train – and the skirt was split at the front to allow movement.
Captivating…Towards the end as Saura in the film holds a hand, there is a cascading waterfall like effect which was mesmerizing – the set’s panels were stripped back to the walls of the theatre, and the dancers kept moving until the final tableaux. A captivating mix of illusion and reality.
Running time allow 2 hour 20 mins including two intervals.
Nederlands Dans Theater are performing at the State theatre, Melbourne Arts Centre until 25 June.