skip to main content

Safe as Houses, Woke up Blind, The Statement, Stop-Motion - Nederlands Dans Theater
29 June 2016, The Civic, Auckland

Reviewed by Francesca Horsley


The world-renowned Nederlands Dans Theater’s first appearance in Auckland was an occasion to celebrate. Previously those who wished to witness their extraordinary physicality and dramatic flair had to travel to Australia or beyond. The opening night audience at The Civic gave them a standing ovation.

Nederlands’ house choreographers Paul Lightfoot and Sol León’s 2001 work Safe as Houses introduced the company’s extraordinary dance prowess – fine technique, intense physicality and artistry. The opening work was full of style, space and restraint.The Bach sound-score at first gentile, gradually whipped up an insistent furore that escorted the gamesmanship and dexterity played out against a rotating inner wall. The impression of shadowy or reflected winter vines hung over the box set, whose fabric lining stirred as if absorbing the energy of those who passed by. Set on a circular trajectory, the wall revealed and concealed dancers, as they appeared before, behind or adjacent to its pathway. The dancers were juxtaposed into two points of reference - three in corporate dark suits appeared to orchestrate proceedings from one side of the wall. On the other side, in a more informal ensemble, was a community. Clad in white they responded to the tension set up by the insistent metronome, performing duets, solos and trios - all the while negotiating the contested space.The movement was contemporary - the dancers were in bare feet - but the aesthetic had a classical edge - upright bodies, a motif of near vertical leg extensions, lifts and balances.

In the fast paced Woke up Blind by Marco Goecke, dancers were overtaken by a powerful force – the temporal madness of love. Their arms and legs pulsated, as if detached from their bodies’ cohesion. There were tender moments, when lovers embraced, but these disappeared quickly, dissolved by the insistent force of extraordinary movement.  The work, premiered in February this year, was set to a virtuosic jazz/blues vocal display by the late Jeff Buckley – You and I, The Way Young Lovers Do struck deep and came close to overpowering our sensory attention.  

In Crystal Pite’s The Statement, the clever voice-over script by playwright Jonathon Young encapsulated the dark frame of corporate psychopathy, its blame sharing and despair, with short punchy verbal warfare. Pite was an equal partner to the script; her movement was dextrous and chiselled with Japanese-like anime and manga scenarios and personas. The work referenced the legendary anti-war work The Green Table by Kurt Jooss - this time instead of the possibility of war being bargained, four executives attempted to conceal or reveal corporate failure around a boardroom table. Paranoia, power, despair and futility set in. The dancers slid, slumped, stood over with legs apart denoting power, crouched to hide, shook their fists as the crisis played out. Pite’s work was both gritty and elegant and was rewarded by a standing ovation from a rapturous audience.

Lightfoot and León’s 2014 work Stop-Motion was an amalgam of elegiac longing, coming of age, swished flurries of powder and romantic artistry of the company.  A large screen showed a beautiful young woman in severe dark costume, revealing herself slowly as she turned towards the viewer – somehow there was something for which we must atone. Meanwhile, beneath her tearful face, a young man despaired. This sorrowful scenario was offset by another young lady, who at first manoeuvred a long gown but sensibly resorted to a scantily clad costume as she took on all-comers – and herself - at first awkwardly but later with aplomb. There were moments when the score by Max Richter and the dancers reached a sublime accord; exquisite soft rhythms and undulating movement as one.

It was a much welcomed occasion for Nederlands Dans Theater to make it across the ditch – both for New Zealand audiences to witness their wonderful artistry - and also for them to shed their mystic. May they return soon.

Read DANZ Web Article:The Nederlands Dans Theater Nuance

Nederlands Dans Theater Review

+ Text Size -