Never missing a beat with hands and feet

Nederlands Dans Theater performed Marco Goecke's Woke Up Blind in a quadruple bill at the da:ns festival.
Nederlands Dans Theater performed Marco Goecke's Woke Up Blind in a quadruple bill at the da:ns festival.PHOTO: COURTESY OF ESPLANADE



da:ns festival

Esplanade Theatre

Last Saturday

Synonymous with magnificent dancing and stunning visuals, Nederlands Dans Theater (NDT) is regarded as one of the world's leading dance companies.

It sits between the poised symmetry of ballet and the exhilarating risk of contemporary dance; its superlative dancers never miss a beat.

Bookending its quadruple bill at da:ns festival this year are works by current NDT artistic director Paul Lightfoot and his choreographic partner Sol Leon.

Shoot The Moon is a peek behind closed doors at the fractured relationships of five dancers. Their arms reach out of windows, their feet scurry up the walls as they seek an impossible escape.

The revolving stage conceals and reveals the melodrama as the dancers are by turns united and separated. Their faces are contorted by anguish, but their bodies retain the elegance of ballet's extended lines and upright posture.

This disharmony, coupled with the occasional oddity - a lift tipped on its side, a menacing tut at the audience - conjures moments of unsettling beauty.

However, the same cannot be said for Stop-Motion, which closes the evening, even though it employs much of the same devices.

The work is an embarrassment of riches with a slow-motion video, an enigmatic dancer in a corset running with her skirt billowing and clouds of white chalk dissipating as soon as they emerge. While the stage is swarmed with all these elements, Stop-Motion feels overwhelmingly empty.

Marco Goecke's Woke Up Blind is inspired by the music of late singer-songwriter Jeff Buckley. The dancers' hands seem to have a life of their own as they gesticulate wildly despite the langour of the rest of their bodies.

They thwart an arabesque line and wriggle out of symmetry. The scatting and strumming builds to a feverish pitch, but the choreography's polish begins to lose its battle against the music's raw edge.

The undoubted highlight of the programme is Crystal Pite's The Statement, set to the recording of Jonathon Young's one-act play of the same name. Tensions run high from the get-go in this acute tussle for power and security.

Under the bright lights of blame, truth is not an absolute. Eyes dart and spines undulate with thrilling rhythmic precision. Fingers pointed in accusation are deftly slid under and assertive postures belie legs that meander under the table.

A modern update of Kurt Jooss' masterpiece The Green Table, it hints at the dubious state of current political affairs.

Pite sets thought in motion as the dancers vibrate in hesitation and retract when they realise the gravity of their implication.

Her brilliance lies in her sly depiction of the gap between speech and intention, where body language has the upper hand.

The psychodrama ends where it begins, except the tables have been turned. A fist of authority is now an open palm of despair, as in the opening words of Young: "Oh God, oh God, oh God."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 15, 2018, with the headline 'Never missing a beat with hands and feet'. Print Edition | Subscribe