TRACES LEFT WITHIN by NDT at Amare in The Hague

This special evening at Amare, in the presence of royalty no less, marked the start of this year’s Holland Dance Festival. Surprisingly, it was the first time since 2009 that Nederlands Dans Theater has opened the Festival.

NDT stalwart Jiří Kylián’s 2005 piece Toss of a Dice, last performed by the company in 2006, was inspired by the work of sculptor Susumu Shingu and a poem by Mallarmé. The twelve dancers, all in black, arrived one by one along a corridor of light crossing the stage while projected swirling coloured lights, like birds, moved to and fro to a soundscape of clicks, pings and clangs. The source of the moving lights was a huge, mobile sculpture which slowly appeared and hovered above the stage like a menacing Alexander Calder or an intrusive spy satellite. It was this omnipresent sculpture that dominated the piece and finally subjugated the dancers as the lights dimmed on their prostrate bodies.

By comparison, the première of Marina Mascarell’s How to Cope With a Sunset When the Horizon Has Been Dismantled was a more joyous affair. As far as sunsets are concerned there is no better place to see them than just down the road at Scheveningen. The west-facing beach affords as good a sunset as you will find but Mascarell’s piece throws that concept into disarray. It is the horizon which links the earth to the sky and without one, borders are merged, defying separation.

How to Cope with a Sunset When the Horizon Has Been Dismantled is the first creation for NDT by this former company dancer and is a magnificent evocation of the passing of a day with all the colours, textures and forms that that involves. The stage was set with huge irregular objects, like rocks on the shore, but these were moveable forms which the dancers, like latter day hippy participants in an alternative beach party, were able to move around to fulfill their own desires and needs.

The evening’s final piece, I Love You, Ghosts, was a rather somber, macabre even, event with lots of black and chiaroscuro. The opening music, Try to Remember (I think the Harry Belafonte rendition) from the 1960 musical The Fantasticks, augured perhaps a sentimental journey, but this turned out not to be.

Marco Goecke’s I Love You, Ghosts, as the title might suggest, turned into an almost Hitchcockian thriller with a suitable orchestral score that created tension and anticipation. There were moments when it was quite scary with the dancers screaming and uttering other vocal contortions. The appearance of an almost robotic mysterious character, added another menacing dimension. The piece was resolved when sentimentality returned to the strains of Danny Boy.

In the interval between the first two pieces Marco Goecke was presented with the Jiří Kylián Ring, an award created in 2006 in honour of the Czech choreographer who has done so much to make The Netherlands in general, and NDT in particular, world leaders on the stage of contemporary dance.    Michael Hasted  4th February 2022

Photo by and ©  Joris-Jan Bos