Up and Coming Choreographers
It will be clear to those of you who are regular readers of these pages that I am an unashamed and unapologetic fan of the Nederlands Dans Theater. I also spend a lot of time at the Korzo Theater in Den Haag, an establishment whose aim is to promote and celebrate new and experimental work in contemporary dance. So, when the two institutions come together to present three world premieres you can be sure it is going to be something special.
With Up and Coming Choreographers, a rather unimaginative name for a programme which is full of imagination and originality, three ….err…. up and coming choreographers have been given the opportunity to work with NDT2, part of one of the best contemporary dance companies in the world.
First up was A Tale of Impermanence by Ihsan Rustem. This started as a series of short tableaux punctuated by blackouts. Centre piece of the performance was a two-meter-square mirror on wheels constantly moving, constantly concealing and revealing the two boys and four girl dancers. It was almost like a magic show when the magician and his glamourous assistant, who is locked in a box, instantly change places as a curtain is quickly raised and lowered.
Visually, A Tale of Impermanence was outstanding. A giant cloth draped across the back of the stage sometimes gave the impression of the sky, sometimes the sea, sometimes a wet beach. The dramatic ever-changing lighting by Lisette van der Linden, often low-down from the side, contributed to the performance as did the excellent soundscape by Davidson Jaconello. All the dancers were outstanding but special mention must go to Nicole Ishimaru who was superb throughout.
The second piece was Juliano Nunes’ Mirrors of Life which, unlike the first piece, had nothing to do with mirrors. Again, this was a work that was impossible to fault. The costumes and décor, also by Mr Nunes, were beautiful. The three boys and three girls were all dressed the same in sand-coloured transparent tight-fitting tops, loose fitting, almost dhoti, sand-coloured pants and they danced on a sand-coloured stage. There was some really excellent ensemble work but each of the dancers had a solo at some point.
I loved the mix of the sound for Mirrors of Life, combining classical music with contemporary soundscapes. The cocktail of Bach, Beethoven and Chopin skillfully blended and shaken with a dash of Travis Lake and Samuel Barber worked beautifully. Again Lisette van der Linden’s lighting was superb. The effect, at the end, when all the lights slowly came to full-up, flooding the stage with light only to suddenly and dramatically cut to a single spot shining down on the huddled-together dancers was brilliant.
One thing I am not keen on at the Korzo is the way the audience is told to leave the auditorium during the intervals. I would prefer to stay in my seat and avoid the scramble for the bar, preferring a moment of quiet contemplation or the chance to write up some notes. But the theatre needs the time to prepare for the next part of the evening. Fair enough. So, it was a bit surprising when we were allowed back in for the final piece, Dimo Milev’s Arpeggios, Flowers and some Manoeuvres, to see that two technicians were still on the totally bare stage sweeping and sorting out their cables while a guitarist sat at a table behind his laptop and an array of gizmos, fiddling with his knobs. It soon became clear that this, in fact, was all part of the show and the two men in black gradually faded into the background as the main act appeared. We were to be treated to a puppet show.
The boy and the girl “puppets”, manipulated by two more shadowy figures in black, were obviously acting out some sort of forbidden romance but were, as time progressed, being forced apart by the puppeteers. It became clear that these were in fact more than just puppets, that they had feelings, emotions and wills that were being subjugated by their sadistic string-pullers. The boy puppet partially breaks free, but too late as he and the girl are finally discarded by their handlers and are cruelly thrown to the floor.
The idea of puppets coming to life, especially in dance, is certainly not new (think Nutcracker or Pinocchio) but here’s the twist. In Arpeggios, Flowers and some Manoeuvres the two puppeteers became the puppets casting off their black garb to reveal that underneath they are dressed identically to the two “real” puppets. The former puppeteers proceed to mock and mimic their former charges as they lie helpless amid their tangled strings on the floor to the melodic strains of a nice bit of guitar work, a cross between Carlos Santana and Hank Marvin, by the piece’s composer Miguelangel Clerc Parada. I think this was my favourite performance of the evening, having imagination, virtuoso dancing and humour.
These were three outstanding works all of which were brilliantly conceived and executed. The three choreographers deserve the highest praise as do the young dancers of NDT2. Totally fab, loved every minute of it. Michael Hasted 21st June 2019
While you are at the Korzo for this event you will have plenty of time during the two long(ish) intervals to have a look at the exhibition of photographs by Linda Zhengová, a student of the Koninklijke Academie van Beeldende Kunsten (the Royal Academy of Visual Arts), showing dancers at work. The exhibition runs until 6th July.