For obvious reasons dance, especially contemporary dance, is performed on large empty stages with only lighting and costumes providing the visual effects. These factors, along with the chosen music or soundscape, create the mood. And mood is very important. Without any text or other vocalisation, and often with no discernible lateral story line, emotion plays an important part in our reaction to modern dance.
The three pieces that make up NDT2’s Climb the Sky each had a very different visual presentations and each had its own mood. The opening of Ten Duets on a Theme of Rescue by NDT stalwart Crystal Pite started quite aggressively with the audience caught in the beam of a pair of car-like headlights pointed straight at them. Slowly we made out a pair of back-lit dancers and as the piece progresses we saw that the action was taking place within a semi-circle of spotlights on stands, hence the lights themselves providing the décor.
Originally created in 2008 for New York’s Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet, the piece was performed by five dancers in a series of overlapping duets which explored and developed Ms Pite’s love of the word “rescue”. To the music of Cliff Martinez there was a lot of separation and coming together as new partners emerged from the darkness as the old ones left.
Five overhead wide-beamed spotlights created the mood for the premiere of Noé Soulier’s About Now. This was a much more formal affair, danced to Bach fugues. At times, I guess, largely due to the music, the piece had a very classical, even baroque, feel to it with the five dancers, again often dancing in pairs, executing a lot classical ballet moves and sequences. There was an elegant simplicity to About Now that demonstrated that less is often more.
The evening’s final piece, Johan Inger’s 2002 Out of Breath was a very different kettle of fish. To start with, unusually (see above) it had a set. The décor consisted of a three meter high curved triangle, a cross between a giant sea-shell and a pyramid. This construction provided the focal point to the often playful and very aptly named piece which involved a lot of running around the stage, climbing and silly walks. The three girls were dressed in black lacy party dresses and two of the men were also in skirts. This was a very complete piece with Mylla Ek’s wonderful décor and costumes and music provided by two string quartets, one by Jacob ter Veldhuis, the other by Lajkó Fólix Es Zenekara.
Despite its humourous moments, Out of Breath was created as a consequence of a particularly traumatic personal event with Mr Inger aiming to demonstrate that “lust for life and fear of death almost go hand in hand.” Michael Hasted 17th March 2023