Nederlands Dans Theatre 2 (NDT2) now seem to be regular performers on the circuit in the UK - every year they appear without too much of a fuss, perform excellently, get some nice reviews and slip away again. As the evening wore on I kept thinking why doesn't the RB have something like this. Probably some petty excuse about lack of money....
To recap, NDT2 are the young arm of Nederlands Dans Theatre (or NDT1 as they are often known), just as NDT3 are the older (heritage perhaps?) arm. The thing I always notice about them (NTD2) is how well trained they are and the general hight of the company. The works they perform tend to be recent and not story-based - though there is often drama to be seen on stage.
Four pieces were on display, including works by Jiri Kylian and Hans van Manen. The van Manen, Deja Vu, was probably the best piece of his that I've seen. That's not to say I've seen lots, and indeed what I have seen I have thought a bit dull and lifeless. Not so Deja Vu, which was a lively and human piece for two dancers who both constantly seem to challenge and love one another, slowly exhausting themselves in the process. Rani Luther and Gustavo Ramirez complemented each other perfectly and were spot on in the pas de deux.
Entirely different in character was Skew-whiff by Paul Lightfoot to Rossini's magnificent The Thieving Magpie. Four demented, chalk dusted, dancers, each obsessed with their own quirky needs, occasionally get it together to cooperate. In its off-beat approach it reminded me of the Jonathan Burrows piece that he did before leaving the Royal Ballet - the name of which escapes me. Not sure the Skew-Shiff style is particularly going anywhere though, but fun none-the-less.
The opener for the evening was Johan Inger's Round Corners. It came with an impenetrable programme note from the choreographer and the props included 8 standard lamps that really worked, despite the absence of mains power and cables - the cost of a performance in terms of Duracels must be astronomic! A minimalist score accompanied the lights which were switched on and off and generally moved about the stage to illustrate this or that. There was a lot of dramatic anguish, a lone boy and youngsters trying to forge relationships with varying degrees of effectiveness. The pleasure was that it kept reinventing itself and was utterly absorbing. Once again the dancers looked very sharp and well drilled.
The last piece, Indigo Rose was the Kylian. From 1993 and to a medley of pieces stretching from Cage, to Bach and even including Mary Ford's marvellous rendition of I'm a Fool to Care. It was a piece that might have slotted in to the Frankfurt programme at Sadler's recently: very European, with lots of lights, novel use of the set and big changes in pace. For part of the performance a triangular curtain unfolds itself across the stage - with the dancers performing both in front and behind, a powerful light projecting their shadows in various sizes. There were large dancers with small and even two dancers out front performing with shadows behind. I also loved the pdd to Fool to Care - silly sentimental fun, but that's love. But the end was very unexpected and strangely seemed to let everybody down.
The dancers all become statues while a black and white video is projected on to the backcloth behind for 3 or 4 minutes. The video features some interesting techniques but I don't really recall any dance and with nothing else going on there is mild embarrassment at seeing some of the dancers topless. What it means and why it's there I don't know. Indigo Rose would be far better without it and as a way of ending a superb night of dance it was most lacking. But don't let this stop you from going to see NDT2 and this programme: it's a good night of modern dance, as accessible as anything you could really wish and a million miles from the story stuff that you can enjoy another time.