The Netherlands, pro capita, is almost certainly the leading country in the world for contemporary dance and a lot of the focus for that is concentrated on The Hague. Not only is it home to the world class Nederlands Dans Theater (NDT) but it also, in the form of the Korzo Theater, a place where, alongside established performers, new talent can be discovered, encouraged and allowed to develop.
Each year in Here we live and now Korzo and NDT give three makers complete freedom to create a short piece. This year the three choreographers were Faizah Grootens, Spencer Dickhaus and Paxton Ricketts and a rich and varied programme they provided.
Contemporary dance is very much dependent on creating an atmosphere, a vibe as we used to call it. Apart from the movement itself it depends on lighting, costume and music or soundscape to establish a mood in order to create contact, empathise even, with its audience.
From the moment we entered the auditorium Spencer Dickhaus’s Recess had us hooked. On the cold, grey, misty stage, a naked man leaned motionless against the back wall, pushing into it, as the second man arrived, arranging the lights and a small pile of bricks. With many references to Canadian poet Anne Cason’s Autobiography in Red, the relationship of the two characters, Guido Dulith and Mr Dickhaus himself, developed, one often subservient to the other, almost, at times like a shadow. There were long periods of silence punctuated by some excellent music – I thought the early sequence to Wagner’s Parsifal was particularly effective.
Silence was not one of the elements in Live! Not to be Missed, Touring Regionally. Unlike dramatic theatre, opera or even classical ballet, contemporary dance often lacks storyline, text or scenery with which to put the audience at ease, able to understand what is going on. NDT1 dancer Paxton Ricketts’ piece was the exception that proved the rule, depending very much on text, spoken or sung. Its unlikely inspiration was the Dolly Parton with performer Keren Leiman often talking, sometimes singing and occasionally miming – and dancing of course. It was almost like a pastiche of concert with Ms Leiman welcoming the audience in schmaltzy, American showbizzy style. Her partner on stage was a live microphone hanging, central stage, from its cable. Her relationship with the microphone was central to the piece as was Ms Parton. The programme notes stated that, “Dolly is nobody and represents nothing. Yet she is everything” but we were also informed that the piece was not about Dolly. Live! Not to be Missed, Touring Regionally was almost the antithesis of Dolly Parton with its understated, but spellbinding presentation.
The final piece of the evening was an exercise in simple, stylish elegance. In While you’re here – Tanten bo t’aki by Curaçaon Faizah Grootens, two dancers – Justin Brown and Evelien Jansen – dressed identically in loose fitting orange costumes, explored the relationship between synchronicity and individuality to a nice soundtrack by Michael Lampe,
This year’s Here we live and now establishes beyond doubt that, post pandemic, contemporary dance is alive and well in The Netherlands and in very good hands to insure that it continues to be so. Michael Hasted 22nd December 2022