I’ve been a big fan of the Nederlands Dans Theater since I first saw them perform at the Theatre Du Caen in France in 2006. I saw them three times that year and have since had the opportunity to see them on a couple of occasions in Australia too, most recently at the Sydney opera House in 2013. So when I found out they would be performing in Maastricht on the same night that we’d be staying there, I jumped at the chance to be able to see the group perform in their home country.
The performance was taking place at the Vrijthof Theatre located in the ancient Vrijthof, Maastricht’s largest square. The theatre is housed in a beautiful building featuring a neoclassical façade, a perfect setting for the evening’s performance entitled ‘Symphyisis’. Composed of four separate pieces, the works showcased the range of the company’s junior dancers with works created by a new generation of choreographers.
‘I New Then’ was an engaging opening piece by Johan Inger. Set to music by Van Morrison, dancers combined subtle movements with sweeping gestures as they moved individually through a stage which was bare except for a forest of steel poles providing the dancers with temporary shelter. Next was ‘A Honeydew Hunt’ choreographed by Jiří Pokorný, a stark contrast to the previous piece, with a bleak, apocalyptic set providing the background for dark alien-like silhouettes crawling elegantly across the stage. This was followed by ‘Mutual Comfort’ by Edward Clug, a short but captivating piece with just four dancers accompanied by live music performed by a quartet comprising strings and keyboards. The closing piece was Alexander Ekman’s ‘Left Right Left Right’, a rhythmic group piece danced by 18 dancers on treadmills in a playful and impressive display of synchronised movement to the sounds of Strauss’ Pizzicato Polka.
The part I most look forward to at any performance is the finale, when the ensemble takes their bow. For me, this is when all the emotion from the evening’s performance culminates for the performers and audience alike. I was glad to see several audience members stand as they applauded in a show of well-earned appreciation of the efforts of the NDT dancers that evening. Despite each piece being so different in style and concept, together they offered an entertaining and energising work that left me in awe, once again, of the NDT’s originality, creativity and talent.
I found myself sitting five rows away from half-naked bodies dancing to Van Morrison songs and wondered how the dancers from the Nederlands Dans Theater were not breaking a sweat. It’s been a few years since I’ve seen this group perform so I was really keen to see what they had in store for us tonight.
The first act had everything I’ve come to expect from a contemporary dance piece: men wearing loose long-sleeved t-shirts, and women wearing tight short dresses… but not for long. In my experience, clothing tends to be optional in contemporary dance, so I wasn’t surprised when the dancers started to undress themselves behind strategically placed metal poles that made up the minimalist set. Shirts and dresses removed, the dancers seemed to relish in their new found-freedom and started running around in a large circle, chasing each other. The circle soon became the group’s “jam circle” with the dancers breaking from the group to take turns performing solos in the centre.
The next act was dark and moody with the main protagonist dressed head to toe in skin-tight black latex that resembled Spawn from the Spiderman movies. It came together perfectly when two dancers entered stage right looking like Neo and Trinity from the Matrix. They were merging the Marvel and Matrix universes on stage – brilliant!
The night was over far too quickly but not before I was reminded of how great this dance company really is, and how enjoyable contemporary dance can be to watch. I’m not a contemporary dance expert by any stretch of the imagination, but the humour and originality in this Netherlands Dance Theatre performance succeeded in bringing out my appreciation for contemporary dance and left me wanting more.
NDT Nederlands Dans Theater
Vrijthof 47, Maastricht