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Nederlands Dans Theater 2, Mixed Programme, Salford, 19 April 2016
Last Sunday I saw the Hungarian National Ballet perform The Sleeping Beauty in Budapest (see Sir Peter Wright's The Sleeping Beauty in Budapest 23 April 2016). The next day I saw the Royal Ballet dance The Winter's Tale at Covent Garden (see The Winter's Tale Revisited - Some Ballets are better Second Time Round 20 April 2016). The day after that, I saw The Nederalmds Dans Theater 2's mixed programme at The Lowry. Three excellent but very different performances by three great companies in three great cities on three consecutive nights, I enjoyed them all equally.
The Nederlands Dans Theater ("NDT") describes itself over modestly as "one of the most productive dance companies in the Netherlands, if not in the world." It is certainly one of the most celebrated. It was founded in 1959 by Benjamin Harkarvy, Aart Verstegen, Carel Birnie and some 18 dancers from the Dutch National Ballet to focus on experimentation with new forms and techniques of dance. It has taken its direction from some of the world's biggest names in dance including:
- Hans van Manen who has been associated with the company almost from its formation first as a dancer, then as a choreographer and finally as its artistic director between 1961 and 1971 which was when I first became aware of van Manen's works and started to follow them;
- Jiří Kylián who was the company's artistic director between 1975 and 2004; and
- Paul Lightfoot who has directed the company since 2011.
The NDT is based not in Amsterdam, the Netherlands's cultural and commercial centre but in the smaller and much more sedate political capital of The Hague.
NDT2 is the NDT's junior company consisting of some of the world's best classically trained young contemporary dancers. Those dancers, who are in their late teens and early twenties and recruited from all parts of the world, spend three years in the junior company before graduating into the main company NDT1. For a number of years there was also a third division of the company known as NDT3 for dancers over 40 but that was discontinued in 2005 (see Harris Green Dance: Where Age 40 Doesn't Mean the End of Everything 20 Aug 2000 NY Times). I had not noticed that the elder company had been discontinued and asked about in a question and answer session with two of the English speaking dancers after the show.
We were treated to six works at the Lowry last Tuesday:
- Schubert choreographed by Sol León and Paul Lightfoot to Schubert's String quintet in C - Adagio;
- Sad Case by the same choreographers to the music of Perez Prado Mambo no. 8, Perez Prado Muchachita, Alberto Domínguez Frenesí, Ernesto Lecuona Always in my heart, Perez Prado Caballo Negro, Ray Barretto Watusi, Trio Los Panchos Perfidia and Perez Prado Maria Bonita;
- Some Other Time also by those choreographers to Max Richter's Thermodynamics; I was just thinking; Broken Symmetries for Y; When the northern lights / Jasper and Louise; A sudden Manhattan of the mind; This Picture of us. P.; Found song for P.; H thinks a journey; Lullaby from the Westcoast sleepers ans So long Orpheus;
- Edward Clug's mutual comfort to Milko Lazar's PErpeTuumOVIA;
- van Manen's Solo to Johann Sebastian Bach's Violin suite no. 1 in D minor Correnta and Double; and
- Alexander Ekman's Cacti to music by Haydn, Beethoven, Schubert and Mahler.
I enjoyed all those works but my favourite by a country mile was van Manen's Solo. I have said many times that van Manen is my favourite living choreographer and it was his work that I had come to see. It did not disappoint. A powerful work by three magnificent young dancers, Gregory Lau, Helias Tur-Dorvault and Paxton Ricketts.
Lau opened the show and was part of the closing piece. For me he stood out even among his exceptionally talented colleagues. In praising him in this way I do not infer that he towers above the others in any regard but the programme allowed him an opportunity to shine and he was dazzling. None of the women eclipsed the others. Each had a different style and contribution to the choreography and I admired them all equally.
The company has just performed in Scotland and is moving on to Newcastle, Bradford, Birmingham, Plymouth, Brighton, Nottingham and London. If you live anywhere near those cities you should try to see them. Of a great three day feast of dance van Manen's Solo was the pièce de résistance.