BWW Reviews: The Nederlands Dans Theater Brings Two Exciting Pieces to Lincoln Center
Throughout the history of dance as a performing art, romantic relationships have evolved between dancers and choreographers. These unions have inspired some magnificent works, proving that an intimate dynamic can greatly affect the creative process. While these kinds of relationships are all too common, they are a rarity between two choreographers: Sol Leon and Paul Lightfoot, who spent years together choreographing outstanding and complex works for the Nederlands Dans Theater (NDT.) Though no longer a couple, the two continue to produce quality work that is captivating and perfectly suited for NDT's strengths.
NDT's brief stint at Lincoln Center showcased two of the couple's recent works, Sehnsucht and Schmetterling.The pieces are seemingly autobiographical and demonstrate what the NDT does best: they augment the classical form and blend contemporary motifs with humor and extremely athletic movement in order to convey deeply human topics.
Sehnsucht has no literal English translation; its closest definition is a feeling of intense yearning. The piece, set to Beethoven, is made up of three parts. The first and last parts use a revolving room to cleverly symbolize the passing of time in the memories of a tormented man who is reliving the most joyous and painful moments of a failed relationship. The middle section is more abstract and delves into the erotic intensity of romantic unions.
Set in a cabaret, Schmetterling, which translates to Butterfly, explores the passing of time in a different way. Images projected onto the back wall of the stage give one an understanding of time lapsing. The accompaniment is primarily by indie rock band, The Magnetic Fields. The music dictates a lighter, and often times, more humorous interpretation of some rather dark subject matter.
Both pieces were danced beautifully. With the NDT, that goes without saying. The company is amazingly strong and versatile; it is full of classically trained technicians who are equally strong contemporary artists. The issues with this program did not lie with the dancers, but in the selection of these specific pieces and with a general trend that many contemporary dance companies--NDT in particular--have fallen prey to.
Firstly, the pieces were too similar. I would have much preferred seeing a broader range in style. The pieces, without a doubt, show off the strengths of the company. The movements were off kilter, undulating, and extreme. I think we all know that NDT does this well, so I'd like to see something different.
My next problem lies with the reliance of many contemporary works on technology and props. I'm all for innovation; I don't expect modern artists to work in outdated mediums, but, at the same time, I feel like NDT often relies too much on the "wow factor" of huge rotating sets and giant projections. I often wish their works were more pure and stripped down, which brings me to the next problem I had with the program.
Personally, I'm not a huge fan of concert dance performed to music with lyrics. I find that the lyrics impose upon the power of the movement to convey a message that strips the subtlety from a work, making it more about the music than the movement. I found this to be the case in Schmetterling,where the words of The Magnetic Fields took the foreground to the choreographic intent of the piece.
I'm not against showy technology or dance with choral accompaniment, but not for one of the most technically astounding dance companies in the world. They don't need to be relying on cheesy gimmicks. Don't get me wrong; I love a good light show and song and dance routine as much as the next guy, but let's save that for MTV and Broadway.