BWW Review: Nederlands Dans Theater at New York City Center
The performers of Nederlands Dans Theater fuse exacting execution and creative ambition to create grotesque, haunting, and sublime images. Under the artistic direction of choreographer Paul Lightfoot, the company is presenting three US premieres at NY City Center. Gabriela Carrizo's The Missing Door, Marco Goecke's Walk the Demon, and Sol León and Paul Lightfoot's Shut Eye form a triptych, presenting those parts of the body and mind that resist cultivation.
The Missing Door is set in what appears to be a rust green horror set: several doors, a plush chair, a small desk, and polite atmospheric lighting, all calling to mind anonymous motel lobbies. The tone is both film noir and haunted house, and it stands out from the rest of the evening's program, thank in part to its tone and its apparent character motivation. In the movement of the dancers there is fear, pain, ambivalence, and mania. The uncanny capacity for the performers to shape-shift is bolstered by quick changes and deadpan executions. While the atmosphere is Hitchcock, the movement is pure Charlie Chaplin, if he had the craft capacity of a prima ballerina. Humor dots most works by Nederland Dans Theater like a drop of water in a glass of scotch; it does nothing to dilute the taste; it merely relaxes the edges. What edges there would be without this humor-- a man arriving in blood, a woman being contorted like a rag doll and flung about the air, and a maid, screaming, being captured by a bloodied figure. They make for gripping, riveting, visions.
Macro Goecke's Walk the Demon was more a composition of pure abstraction. Gecko believes that dance, "says absolutely nothing if it doesn't constantly refer to the inside." The mechanics of the human body are the point, not just the conduit in his compositions. While the accompanying music can often loft to the serene, with the both a string quartet by Pavel Haas and the sultry singing of Antony and the Johnson's accompanying the movement, the dancers move in an unrelenting, perfectly calculated pulse. There is something of both the demon rich imagery to his vocabulary, in particular with the strained faces of the dancers, and of vogueing/ball culture with the relentless machine-gun firing of gestural poses that dot the composition. Surrealism enters the piece with words "Hello, thank you, and goodbye," which are rasped from the dancers, and with a giant gorilla suit-wearing dancer that lumbers slowly across the stage.
Choreographed by León and Lightfoot, who are the Artistic Advisor and Director respectively, Shut Eye is a graceful and melancholic finale to the evening. The set, designed by the choreographers, is bordered on three sides by high, white walls, and features one door directly center stage. On the walls, large looming silhouettes move, at times as indistinct Rorschach tests, at times reflecting the action and others as mystic specters. Here, as has been consistently the case, the performances on the stage are unrivaled in execution. Differences in choreographic style, from the ultramodern to ballet, do not quite culminate into a harmonious vision, although the final haunting image of a looming white spirit above the doorway disappearing and being replaced by a bright full moon left the work with an undoubted lift.
Photo Credit: Rahi Rezvani