This is an unsettling, powerful and provocative triple bill from the wonderful Nederlands Dans Theater. This time the umbrella title of the program screened was called ‘An evening with Sol Leon and Paul Lightfoot ‘, the artistic directors. It is returning in May to be performed again at the Lucent Theatre at the company’s home at the Hague.
Technically, the extraordinary dancing of the company was as always more than marvellous. The dancers are superb, with a liquid style of movement, fluid line, and amazing jumps and turns where required. All this is contrasted with sharp, short, angular movements and the incorporation of speech if desired.
However I was a bit disappointed with this strange, somewhat unsatisfactory program. I loved the middle work (‘Shoot The Moon’) but the other two works, whilst magnificently performed, did not really ‘grab’ me at all.
Each work was prefaced by wonderful black and white shots of one of the dancers, like an atmospheric keynote production photo. (And the interval mini-documentaries/discussions were quite illuminating).
The opening work, ‘Sh-Boom’ I found contrived and artificial. It was supposed to be funny but I didn’t find it that at all, although I must admit the Lucent Theatre live audience seemed to enjoy it immensely.
I was reminded in parts of Matthew Bourne’s ‘Town and Country ‘ and with the guys in their white underpants are we meant to think of his ’Spitfire’? or is it that the work is stripped back and very revealing?. There are also chilling possible allusions to the musical ‘Cabaret ‘.
Created in 1994 this is a supposedly playful work set to the music of Vera Lynn and Stan Freberg , golden oldies where men in love attempt to impress women. It has apparently been updated and revised several times.
There is a sharp, angular pas de quatre for the women reminiscent of Macmillan’s ‘Las Hermanas’. It also features a black and white jacketed George/Marcia routine delineating the breakup of a relationship (done by one performer). This work also features a magnificent nude male solo (with discreet gloomy lighting and strategic placement of a saucepan).
To the music of Philip Glass, in the haunting, ghostlike, dreamlike ‘Shoot the Moon’ we catch glimpses of the intimate life of three couples. (possibly three generations ?) With the climbing up the wall for instance there are references to silent movies.
The pas de deux are fabulous with some amazing, very unusual lifts and poses. The lyrical, atmospheric lighting is superb. In some ways it has a despairing Chekhovian atmosphere at certain points. I also had the feeling there was a Pina Bausch influence. There is an incredible, tense pas de deux where the couple do not look at each other.
Revolving walls, with striking William Morris like black and white wallpaper, create three separate rooms, each revealing their own story. There is also much symbolic use of a closed/open door and/ or window – the start or end of the relationship? The enthusiastic cries of Bravo at the end were richly deserved.
‘Same Difference’ (2007) , inspired by the chaotic influence of the Ego on our lives, is a confusing , alienating piece where the dancers also speak . There are various archetypal characters – eg The Poet, The Soldier (mad and Woyzeck like?), the Marias etc. Also to Philip Glass music it attempts to put the audience into a Surreal world but just doesn’t quite work .
The performances are tremendous , but it is jarring and bizarre. There are strange repeated phrases of movement, and again some terrific unusual lifts. One of the female roles, seemingly an older woman in black , is deliberately and excellently played by a man. The set includes a low bridge (symbolic as in Japanese theatre ? ) .There are some fabulous, small shining solos and magnificent ,powerful and hypnotic lighting .
But for me it was jumbled and incoherent.
Nederlands Dans Theater- ‘An evening with Sol Leon and Paul Lightfoot’- was at selected cinemas January 20 & 21 2013.
Running time – 2 hours .There are two ‘intervals’ that have fascinating insights into rehearsals and behind the scenes info for this production