Dance goes Dutch

Sadler's Wells Theatre, situated a little to the north of Central London, is a modern building, though a theatre has stood on the site since 1765. In the past it housed its own ballet company (which became the Royal Ballet) but now it provides a useful venue for visiting dance and other performing companies. This week the visitors are the Nederlands Dance Theatre 1 (the number is because there are two related companies, featuring younger and older dancers respectively). Its star choreographer, Jiří Kylián, was responsible for two of the evening's short ballets, with the middle one created by the combination of Paul Lightfoot and Sol León (credited simply as Lightfoot León).

The best was first: Kylián's Wings of Wax (the title refers to the legendary Icarus, who flew too close to the sun and melted the wax which held his wings together), to (recorded) music by Biber, Cage, Glass and Bach. A white floor with a black surround: a pool of light provided by a hanging spotlight which rotates round a suspended inverted dead tree. Eight dancers, the men in black, the women in dark purple, dance sinously, sometimes in slow motion, in various groupings. Danced with superb fluidity and control, expressive and quietly sad.

Lightfoot León's Signing Off, to two movements from Philip Glass's Violin Concerto, showed a certain family resemblence in the choreographic style but was on the whole less successful. Four men and two women, in a dark area initially bounded by suspended rectangular curtains and later by billowing curtains across the back of the stage, seemed to be trapped and despairing - perhaps the women felt trapped by the men, who sometimes seemed to control them and sometimes ignore them. Was that what the choreographers meant? But beautifully danced, and a fine choice of music. I'm beginning to be a Philip Glass fan.

The final piece, Tar and Feathers, was again by Kylián: this time to music by Dirk Haubrich, and including fragments of spoken poetry by Samuel Beckett (What Is the Word). A live pianist - both the pianist and piano raised precariously some twelve feet on stilts - played fragments of Mozart integrated into an electronic score which included some ferocious snarling noises. The dancers expressed angst at some length, one woman sitting on the edge of the stage - only a few feet from the front row - miming a harangue while (once again) slow motion movements took place behind her, as well as a familiar repertoire of movements. At one point, bizzarely, fragments of the Becket poem were read on the soundtrack while a group of dancers in white skirts (including the men) and heavy rouge and lipstick (including the men) mimed to it in a style more suggestive of Monty Python than anything else. I can't say I related to all this, though one could admire the skill and precision of the dancers. I would have put the first last and the last first, but an interesting evening.

Posted: Sat - April 5, 2008 at 10:19 AM by Roger Wilmut          



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Published On: Mar 11, 2016 05:00 PM