It’s no surprise that the dancers of NDT2, the junior wing of Nederlands Dans Theater, are technically dazzling. They might be young (they’re all aged between 18 and 23), but the sensitive and nuanced nature of their performance is a fine thing to behold. Three works by company director Paul Lightfoot and Sol Leon begin the evening. The first, Schubert, is a duet of intense loveliness.
To the adagio of said composer’s string quintet in C, Katarina van den Wouwer and Alexander Anderson evoke a relationship’s subtle details in a physical language that constantly shifts between classical form and natural, almost banal, gesture. Her proud arabesques transmute into a slow folding of limbs around his torso, then she bats away his extended leg like you would an annoying beaded curtain.
Next up is Sad Case, in which a quintet of dancers put on a strange and ludicrous kind of variety performance to a medley of Mexican mambo music – there’s scuttling, hand flapping, crotch thrusting and occasional arse probing, but the length of the piece means that all this startling visual comedy starts to wane a little.
By contrast, Some Other Time is a sombre work for four black-clad dancers, punctuated by the brief moments of lightness and hopeful skeins of movement, danced to music by Max Richter, by turns melancholy and menacing. An emotional landscape that’s rich in ambiguity is also conjured up by Edward Clug’s mutual comfort as four dancers work their way through nervy configurations in which moments of contact and attraction quickly dissipate.
After this we have Hans van Manen’s Solo. To Bach’s Violin Partita no. 1, three male dancers catapult themselves across the stage at breakneck speed like some sort of baroque tag-team. Timing, precision and a crucial dose of irony are all there. The evening ends with Cacti, a wry party piece by Alexander Ekman for the whole company. The dancers start out accompanying themselves with a complex blend of hand claps and shouts, breaking off sharply into pouty voguing poses, or shimmying to a phrase of Schubert’s Death and the Maiden, each one poised on a white square block. These plinths are later arranged into a geometric structure on which the dancers position themselves with an air of slightly louche inscrutability, each one holding a cactus. These plants, a voiceover tells us, are “pulsating with meaning” – it’s a great lampoon of pretentious postmodern artspeak.
Nederlands Dans Theater were performing at Sadler’s Wells. Click here for more of their programme.