Nederlands Dans Theater 2 Tour 2007

A Dance Consortium Tour
Theatre Royal, Newcastle, and touring

What is so utterly amazing about NDT2 is the fact that its dancers, all of whom are classically trained, are between the ages of 17 and 23. You would never believe it: their confidence, their skill and their talent are phenomenal. In my review of the 2004 tour, the first time I had seen the company, I wrote, " I sat next to a real fan and she described the company as contemporary dance at its best. On this showing, I'm inclined to agree." And tonight's performance just served to confirm that.

The evening was made up of three pieces, two choreographed by Jirí Kylián and one by Paul Lightfoot and Sol León.

First up was Kylián's Sleepless, a playful and yet serious piece in which the six dancers interact not only with each other but with the actual setting, a grey backcloth split into sections set at an angle across the stage. Not only do the dancers come and go between these sections but in the joins various body parts - limbs and heads - appear, also interacting with the dancers on stage. Clever use is made of the people who are behind the cloth: twice the shadow of a dancer cast upon the cloth seems to open it so that she can pass through.

This playfulness drew many a chuckle - and a few loud laughs - from the audience, which is right and proper for it was very amusing, but there is an underlying seriousness, in particular in the male/female duets, which hints at the ambiguous nature of relationships where even the act of moving away from someone involves a counter-balancing pulling together.

Sleight of Hand, choreographed by Lightfoot and León to the second movement of Philip Glass's Symphony no. 2, is a remarkable gothic fantasy. Characterised by very slow movement, mainly black costumes, angular gesture and exaggerated facial expressions, visually it has overtones of Goya, Mervyn Peake's illustrations for the Gormenghast Trilogy and even just a touch of Grant Wood's American Gothic.

The stage is dominated by two immensely tall figures, one male and one female, on either side towards the back. Their movement, jerky and angular, is restricted to the upper body and head and at times that of the male figure stage left was a grotesque parody of the old laughing policeman in his glass case that used to be found in fifties' fairgrounds.

An air of menace and fear pervades the piece, which was commissioned by the Dance Consortium, the group of eighteen theatres throughout the country which organises tours by the major dance companies of the world.

The final piece, Chapeau, could not be more different. Jane Austen's description of Pride and Prejudice fits it exactly - "light and bright and sparkling". It's a fun piece, again choreographed by Kylián, which had the audience laughing right from the off. Using hats based on Queen Beatrix' collection (it was created to celebrate her 25th jubilee) and gold foil-like skirts for both men and women (a friend described them as looking like something from a box of Quality Street!), the thirteen dancers mime to song words (including music by Prince) and tease each other and the audience to great effect.

Yet again NDT2 have produced an incredibly varied evening which perfectly showcases the choreographers' and, in particular, the dancers' prodigious talents.

The tour continues to Edinburgh, Bradford, High Wycombe and Cardiff. The programme may vary from this one.

Lucy Ribchester reviewed NDT2 at the Edinburgh Festival Theatre

Reviewer: Peter Lathan

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