Dance review: Nederlands Dans Theater 2, Festival Theatre, Edinburgh

There was something for everyone in this inspired triple bill from NDT2, writes Kelly Apter

NDT2 in The Big Crying PIC: Tristram Kenton
NDT2 in The Big Crying PIC: Tristram Kenton

Nederlands Dans Theater 2, Festival Theatre, Edinburgh ****

If it were possible to sum up the entire ethos of Nederlands Dans Theater 2 in a single work, then Johan Inger’s Impasse might just be it.

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A piece for 13 dancers with a crowd-pleasing veneer, painted on by uplifting music and a loose-limbed, bouncy delivery, it’s an absolute joy to watch.

And yet it offers something more, something deeper and worthy of reflection. Underneath the smiles, synchronised Latin-esque swagger and vibrant costumes lies a commentary about manipulation, social engineering and misdirection.

While we’re swept up in the moment, distracted by fancy costumes and the illusion that we’re “all in it together", what’s really happening? That the message is served up by a group of passionate, uber-talented 17–24-year-olds at the top of their game, only makes it stronger. We’re left feeling thoroughly entertained, but with our curiosity piqued.

Elsewhere, the programme is more divisive. Marco Goecke’s The Big Crying is an edgy, uncompromising homage to bereavement but it won’t speak to everyone. For me, each jagged, branch-like arm that unfurled, each jerking torso and gargoyle mouth was a work of art.

Grief is a many-sided shape, and the hunched shoulders and floor scampering that gives way to almost hysterical laughter attempt to capture that. Emotion aside, Goecke’s choreography is also incredibly fast, which in itself is hugely impressive when executed with such precision.

After this powerful assault on the senses, Hans van Manen’s quartet Simple Things will either feel like a breath of fresh air or a little too vanilla. Once again, the delivery is silky smooth, with Haydn’s piano works a stark contrast to Goecke’s wall-to-wall use of Tori Amos songs.

Van Manen’s piece may be too straightforward for my dance palate, but any triple-bill that considers its audience’s manifold taste is still a beautiful thing.