IMPRESSIONS: Nederlands Dans Theater 2 with Choreography by Edward Clug , Marco Goecke, Sol León, and Paul Lightfoot at New York City Center
January 16, 2019
New York City Center
Choreography: Edward Clug (mutual comfort); Marco Goecke (Wir sagen uns Dunkles); Sol León and Paul Lightfoot (Sad Case and SH-BOOM!)
The Nederlands Dans Theater 2 (NDT 2) began their US tour by showing off its eclectic ensemble, groomed with technical precision. The company is composed of 18- to 21-year-old hopefuls who have aspirations of graduating to the main troupe — Nederlands Dans Theater 1. Choreographers chosen for this evening include Romanian Edward Clug (mutual comfort), German-born Marco Goecke (Wir sagen uns Dunkles), and longtime NDT house choreographers Sol León and Paul Lightfoot (Sad Case and SH-BOOM!).
mutual comfort isolates gestures that melt into silky undulations by negotiating four bodies between intertwined shapes and punctuated extensions. The piece commences with two men and one woman who dart into a series of combinations, manipulating one another in and out of frozen shapes. Later, a second woman joins, and the quartet takes turns as onlookers. Long-sleeved tops and pants accentuate the muscular detail of their movement where snaking torsos mimic gently disturbed water.
Sad Case starts with the classic, harassing wolf-whistle a man might use to signal an attractive lady. A woman appears upstage, coyly contorting her body. She moves from turned-in knees to stretching her legs with flexed feet. Four dancers, wearing pale costumes and white-painted skin smudged with black lines, join. In a hazy fog, these animated corpses dive into exaggerated hip juts and pelvic gyrations. Their mouths gape soundlessly. The contemporary dance movement never aligns with the Mambo rhythms played throughout, which forces us to pay attention to the intricate execution of musicality.
During Wir sagen uns Dunkles, the performers’ audible breathing becomes the score that initiates a vocabulary similar to the previous two pieces. Darkness ominously progresses around the stage to swallow the dancers up or spit them out. From partner work to group unison, the performers accumulate and dissipate through moody repetition, quick vibrations, and contorted isolations. Music by Placebo invokes tightly wound angst while the breathing suggests necessary release.
The final work, SH-BOOM!, begins with a man in a white suit. He slowly appears and disappears in profile for the length of The Mills Brothers’ “If I Didn’t Care.” With each repetition, he settles his weight on the back foot while a toothy grin slides across his face. The audience is eventually rewarded for their patience when he inches out one foot to instant applause.
The curtain rises to a series of solos featuring men in white underwear, socks, and t-shirts. A female quartet in long black dresses anchors the activity by circling pools of light or partnering with a male soloist. During one moment, the four hold flashlights that discreetly light a nude male. He soars through space, covering his genitals with a gold pan. He ultimately concedes by pulling out his flaccid penis and ending on one knee, his arms outstretched.
SH-BOOM! attempts to register as jovial, while ignoring its racist overtones. Stan Freberg's SH-BOOM song lyric proclaims, “It’s a rhythm and blues number . . . you’ve got to talk unintelligible like me (otherwise people are liable to understand what you’re saying).” The dancers exaggerate this dig by prancing around with rags in their mouths. The musical selections and minstrel vibe package ole’ fashioned American racism as nostalgic slapstick.
Spastic exactitude coupled with balletic lines is the major theme of the evening. Interestingly, each piece also emphasizes the genitals by gyrating or splaying the hands coyly over a protruding pelvis — sexual innuendo through juvenile irony is alive and well. While parts of the world remain charged with a thoughtful eye, NDT 2 choreographers have the luxury of cultural insensitivity packaged as stunning and lighthearted entertainment.
View clips of the pieces here.