I must appear to have certain bias in favour of the Nederlands Dans Theater. In the many years that I have been following the company I have rarely, if ever, seen them put a foot wrong, if you’ll pardon the pun. Their new work is always exciting and original and they have a remarkable repertoire going back sixty years on which to draw. None of those pieces show the slightest sign of age and shine as bright today as they did when first performed.
This is demonstrated by their current show, Sometimes, I Wonder, which celebrates the work of company doyen Jiří Kylián who was Artistic Director for two decades, starting in the mid-seventies.
Vanishing Twin, from 2008, explores a strange medical phenomenon whereby one of the twins in the womb of a pregnant woman oppresses the other until the weaker is vanquished and completely disappears. Hmmm. It makes an interesting premise for a choreographer to explore the darker side of human nature.
Cleverly labelled as “a work in progress” the piece is set a giant womb, dominated, on the back wall, by a giant floor to ceiling gaping slit. On the wall is projected a kaleidoscope of pulsating dots just like blood seen under a microscope. The three pairs of dancers vie for superiority to an incessant table-based percussive soundscape into which slips the occasional passage of JS Bach to sweeten things up. The back wall is soft but each time one of the dancers dashes into it there is a loud crashing sound. Dancers are occasionally sucked in to this soft wall, struggling to free themselves. Powerful stuff.
The 2002 piece Claude Pascal was all about time and could easily have been called A la Recherche du Temps Perdu. The set, placed diagonally across the stage, was made up of a line of panels/doors, plain on one side, mirrored on the other. It was through these that the two lots of dancers came and went. The first was an odd Victorian family group – two men in frock coats, one with a top hat, a woman in a black bustled dress and a bespectacled child in a sailor suit who carried a white tennis racket while the woman sported a white fan. The men carried a white football and a white walking stick. Their contribution was all text based, augmented with some hilarious sound effects. Their comings and goings alternated with pairs of dancers, the men bare chested, the girls in black corsets. It was nice to hear Puccini’s rarely performed Chrysanthemum Quartet to offset the acoustic melange of the soundscape. Beautifully done and the family group was really funny.
Last up was one of Kylián’s signature pieces from 1995. Performed on the Zuiderstrand’s vast empty stage, the Bella Figura had a very classical feel to it. Not only the music, which included Pergolesi’s beautiful Stabat Mater and Vivaldi’s Concerto for Two Mandolins, but in the calm and dignified choreography. The piece was divided into short segments defined and separated by the clever movement of black curtains. As a whole, it explored the differences and demarcation between performance and day to day life – or reality as it is sometimes known. What is real and what is performance, which is which? Exquiste. Sublime. Michael Hasted 7th February 2020