Nederlands Dans Theater

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As part of the Herald Young Critics programme, participants reviewed a triple bill of dance work by Nederlands Dans Theater at the 2017 International Festival.

Nederlands Dans Theater - The missing door

Issy Butt

The performance begins in the dark, hauntingly beautiful music by Phillip Glass wells around the auditorium, the curtain begins to rise. The set of “Shoot The Moon” is simple, yet conveys parts of the story before the dance has even begun - three turning walls, their faces covered in loud wallpaper. Windows emit a glow onto the first dancers, illuminating their figures, casting a light on the relationship and letting us peer into their private lives. They intertwine, yet never touch - conveying a strained relationship. The choreography is ingenious, telling the story of a cheating woman which along with the set and costume choices tells a tale of innocence, naivety, love and anger.

“The Missing Door” has a somewhat similar set but with a totally different atmosphere. The use of props and costume combined with contrasting gentle and frantic choreography somehow  effectively creates a visual representation of a dying man’s mind. The dancers fly across the “room” like frantic thoughts, mimicking his anxiety and fear. It is dark, but injected with moments of humour and reminiscence, provoking thoughts of sentimentality.

“Stop Motion” is entirely different, combining the ideas of nostalgia and embracing change, morphing lulling and captivating dance with stunning cinematography. The choreographers portray  acceptance of changes in their daughter and the company’s old dance theatre. With use of a stripped down set and soaring, uplifting music, Sol and Paul have created a captivating and enrapturing visual performance with stunning choreography.

Ciara Meechan

As of now my only real experience with professional dancing was an ill fated ballet class I attended when I was barely four, and to say I hated it would be an understatement. In spite of this the three dances performed at the playhouse by the Nederlands Dans Theatre grabbed my attention from the get go and held on to it until the very last second. 

Each performance had its own unique story and each had its own way of telling that story. The first and last, shoot the moon and stop motion respectively, seemed to focus more on the emotion that they were trying to spur in the audience, while the second one, the missing door, relied heavily on visuals and unsettling music. 

The costumes were also integral to the quality of the set, as they helped the audience distinguish between dancers or by letting the dancers create more impact using the set, especially in the final set via the flour.

The dancers in all three can only be described as awe inspiring, the way they moved their bodies in one conjoined unit as the music swelled in the final act gave me goosebumps that stayed for hours. Olivier Coëffard who appeared in all three sequences was particularly memorable as he seemed to move so fluidly. 

These performances made me feel confused at some points but strangely moved in others, which is why I would highly recommend this show.

Ella Johnstone

As you walk to your seat and sit down the smell of the the theatre greets you – years and years of spilt ice cream and wriggling children being replayed before your eyes. When the lights dimmed and the music started I felt a sense of child like wonderment myself as Philip Glass’ incredible Tirol Concerto began.

 And then the dancing started and I was transported into a world of betrayal, anger and feverish love. Three revolving rooms show the five dancers weave and intricate tale of longing, broken promises and an affair. The simplicity of the costumes allows for the story to be explored by the dancers movements and the emotions by them. ‘Shoot the Moon’ is a thought provoking, truly beautiful performance. The

‘The Missing Door’ creates a contrasting piece of dance. The music is simply a compilation of everyday sounds that judders along like a broken machine. This dance portrays a dying mans last moments as his scrambled mind makes its was through his memories of people he loved and hurt. This unusual performance portrays a heart wrenching, explosive and haunting story of the journey to death that leaves you awestruck and wanting more.

‘Stop-Motion’ is the final movement. It is a melancholy portrayal of the process of farewell and transformation. Video projections show Saura, Sol Léon and Paul Lightfoot’s daughter which reinforces these themes. This is a beautiful and graceful performance.

Overall this was an absolutely incredible performance.

Evan Keir

If you were ever in need of proof that the Edinburgh Festival brings the very best international talent to the city, then this is indeed it. Considered to be one of the finest dance company's in the world, the Nederlands Dans Theater was a fantastic spectacle to take in.

The trio of performances are often set in a conceptual world in which the stage is stripped back to allow the athleticism of the dancers to take centre stage. The subtlety of rhythm and the bold imagery contrast perfectly in NDT's performance.

The gyrations of catharsis are transformed into flowing beauty by the soundscapes of everyday sounds intertwined together as the dancers limbs navigate us through the story. Shoot the Moon, the first dance of the night, becomes a storytelling epic divided like chapters at every turn of the set, each section embodying a different emotion and a new chapter in the relationship of the dancers.

The final performance is perhaps the best, this is where we see every dancer on stage at once, each telling a chapter in the life of the choreographer's adult daughter Saura. Her face gazes down on the dancers from a projection, a sense of vulnerability on her face that contrasts with the sharp bold actions of the dancers. The dance stops, leaving Saura alone on stage, upright, strong and as an adult. It is is a fitting end to an excellent performance. Encore!

Catriona Fraser

The Nederlands Dans Theater (NDT) is undoubtably one of the finest dance companies in the world. Their blend of movement, light and sound has been balanced to magnificent quality. One can only praise the innovative choreography from NDTs main choreographers, Sol León and Paul Lightfoot, and new comer choreographer Gabriella Carrizo.

In Shoot The Moon, a dance of brutal emotion and passion, we see two couples and a single man. A rotating set allows the dancers to exchange in beautiful movement through the doors and windows of their lives.

Carrizo's choreographing style vastly contrast the smoothness of León and Lightfoot's style. Carrizo focuses on the glitching memory of a dying man. This piece, however abstract, is cleverly accompanied by an ensemble of everyday sounds, that leave the theatre in haunting silence.

Unlike the first two pieces, Stop Motion makes you feel the story, rather than witness it. León and Lightfoot engrain their own emotions within you as they watch their daughter 'fly the nest'. An idea symbolised by the projection of a flying crow behind the exposed backstage, the life setting of this choreographing couple.

The NDT has created a standard of dance all to its own, in a realm of perfect impossibility. Their use of sound, staging, lighting and props has only enhanced the talent of their dancers. This company is capable of extraordinary dance, and they show this each and every time they step onstage.

Eva Donnelly

Time stopped whilst watching this breathtaking performance by the Nederlands Dans Theater.

Watching 'Shoot the Moon' gave a different outlook to the term - 'love story' using clever lighting and emotional violin music, making this dance come alive. The drama in the movements of each dancer described a vivid story and entranced the whole audience. This story of affairs in relationships made an impression and showed emotions to the extent where you felt for the characters. The revolving walls made this dance exciting and I felt intrigued, wondering what was going to happen next.

Next was 'The Missing Door'. I thoroughly enjoyed this haunting performance of the moments before death. The dancers used their bodies to show anger and confusion in an effective way. It showed a  vision of regret from the dying man of things he should have done but never did making him mad from having to face his battle by himself. The music used sound effects to go with the dance. This came together to create a fantastic performance.

'Stop Motion'  created a tense atmosphere throughout the theatre. This dance represented the choreographers daughter growing up and going into the real world. The white costumes and the chalk dust added a bold statement and perfected the dance. The ending of this performance was incredible and finished the performance by lifting the walls of the set to reveal the backstage. 

Overall this experience was memorable and I recommend it.

Photo credit
The missing door © Rahi Rezvani