Theatre review: Nederlands Dans

The talented dancers of Nederlands Dans Theater 2 could have been given more to do. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
The talented dancers of Nederlands Dans Theater 2 could have been given more to do. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
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A MULTITUDE of adjectives fly around my head each time I see Nederlands Dans Theater 2 perform. Never before has “disappointed” been one of them.

Nederlands Dans - Theater 2, Edinburgh Festival Theatre

***

This endlessly enjoyable company has so much to recommend itself: the youth and enthusiasm of its dancers (none of whom are allowed to remain in the company past their early 20s); the slightly off-kilter European vision of the works they perform; the diverse musical choices.

All of the above was there in this performance – the company’s only UK date on their current tour – but half the programme was devoid of choreographic soul.

Sara, by Israeli duo Sharon Eyal and Gai Behar held much promise. Eyal’s long career as a dancer with Batsheva, one of the world’s most watchable companies, inspired her to become a dance-maker herself. But the work felt flat, constrained and a waste of talented young bodies. It’s not imperative to use the space afforded you on a large stage, but if you’re going to remain in the same few square inches for ten minutes, you’d better make the moves interesting. Sadly, they weren’t.

Johan Inger’s I New Then closed the show, but felt more like a first attempt in rehearsal, than the finished article. A potentially captivating set design – dozens of metal rods standing like trees in a forest – was woefully underused; attempts at humour failed to connect, and again the enormous capacity for beautiful, dynamic movement these dancers possess was used on aimless running and shuffling. The Van Morrison soundtrack rescued, rather than embellished, the piece.

And so, on to the highlight – which was worth the ticket price on its own. Sol León and Paul Lightfoot’s Postscript is a 25-minute reminder of the power of great art. Everything works – the live music, the choreography, the design and the flawless execution of technically-demanding material.

Seven dancers, split into a threesome and two couples, are joined on stage by violinist Aisling O’Dea (reading sheet music cleverly incorporated into the set) and pianist Jan Schouten, both playing gorgeously evocative Philip Glass. Each lift, each sweeping high leg extension, each moment of absolutely precise unison takes you further into a world you never want to leave.

León and Lightfoot’s Shutters Shut, a witty four-minute enactment of a Gertrude Stein poem, also proved the company’s worth. Thank goodness for both pieces, because they saved the night.

Seen on 29.05.14

• Run ended