NDT1’s DO NOT RUN FLY at Amare in The Hague and on tour

Crystal Pite’s Solo Echo

Nederlands Dans Theater never ceases to amaze. Their new production, Do Not Run Fly, is certainly up among the best shows I have seen from them recently. It consisted of the usual three short pieces – two world premieres and a reprise from 2012.

Without Walls is the third piece created by Yoann Bourgeois with his partner Marie Bourgeois and is a tour de force of imagination and presentation. This, like his previous offering for NDT, Little Song, was much more than dance and included circus skills, theatrical special effect and lots more besides.

The curtain rises on a dark stage with smoke swirling around. Centre stage is a bed with nice white sheets and an incumbent sleeper. As our eyes become accustomed to the dark we see the bed and the other bits of furniture are slowly moving in a circle.

This was like an old horror film, Edgar Allan Poe or similar, a feeling confirmed by the appearance of a mysterious group of black cloaked and hooded figures, almost like monks. But this impression was contradicted by the music by Georgs Pelēcis, Arnold Schönberg and of course, Philip Glass, which was very laid back, soothing almost – and it was nice to have live musicians in the pit for a change.

One wasn’t sure if the sleeper, progressively joined by others  in long white cotton nightdresses were threatened or conducting some sort of strange ritual and when they started flying around, à la Peter Pan, another dimension was added. But fundamental to the production was the revolve which turned constantly, at different speeds, in the centre of the stage. It provided an ever changing perspective of events and at times was like a fairground ride with the dancers having to lean back to avoid being flung off. Without Walls is a feast of visual effects and imagination. It demonstrated that contemporary dance can be the portal to powerful and exciting theatre.

Crystal Pite is one of the stalwarts of NDT and although her Solo Echo was first produced twelve years ago, I had not seen it before. This was an altogether different kettle of fish, more laid back and more sophisticated. Ms Pite was inspired by a sentence from Line for Winter by the American poet Mark Strand: “Tell yourself, in that final flowing of cold through your limbs, that you love what you are.”

We were back inside the ubiquitous black box but at the back of the stage was a horizontal shaft of light through which snow was steadily falling. The two beautiful cello and piano sonatas by Brahms provided the sound track to a piece for three girls and two boys. Much of the piece was made up of duets exquisitely executed. By the end the swirling snow was falling the entire height of the stage and provided a dramatic background for the final dénouement.

The evening ended with the amazing Horses by Marcos Morau. For this we were back in the realms of weirdness, surrealism almost. The curtain slowly and surreptitiously rose during the interval, revealing an empty stage devoid of any décor. On the back wall and in the wings were odd pieces of stage equipment – lights, cables etc and flight cases stacked on the bare back wall. The action started while the audience was still taking their seats after the interval when a young man with long blond hair wandered onto the stage. He rolled around, looked at the people in the front rows making themselves comfortable until another guy appeared with a torch, ran across the stage grabbing the first guy’s wig as he disappeared stage right. This was Morau’s second work for NDT, the first being Folkå in 2021. With Horses he has created a bizarre environment inhabited by people in grey suits and white shirts. The action revolved around three giant lights on the end of curved poles. I guess they were street lamps but they were more like alien beings striving to take control in a world of turmoil and uncertainty. Tom Visser’s atmospheric lighting for this was, as all ways, brilliant and added immeasurably to the piece as did the music by, among others, Andrzej Panufnik.  Powerful stuff. Michael Hasted   17th May 2024