Monday, April 16, 2018

Nederlands Dans Theater

A few weeks ago (sorry for the delayed post), I saw a performance by the Nederlands Dans Theater for the first time. From the photos I saw online, I knew the show would be modern dance as opposed to ballet, so I was prepared to not like it. But I was pleasantly surprised!

The performance was divided into three different parts:

1. Shoot the Moon


The description of this piece said we would see the many emotions that play a part in relationships. The set was divided into three rooms, and the people in the rooms represented different relationships. The first room seemed to hold a loving relationship; the second showed a couple in conflict; and in the third was a man alone (although he was later joined by one of the "wives" from the other rooms). Doors and a window connected the rooms (the dancers could move in between the rooms that way), and the set would spin so we could see into each room. There were clear story lines happening, which I appreciated; I knew what the piece was trying to say.

But the modern dance aspects that were incorporated into this piece were my least favorite part. There were a lot of "karate chops" or arm movements that mimicked storks' necks; my friend described modern dance as "bendy knees and flat feet," which totally fits what was happening here. Dancers would make weird faces (like in the photos above), and one guy even shouted! In dance normally no one speaks. These parts took me out of the moment of enjoying dance and instead made me think, "What am I watching?" I equate dance with grace, and those awkward movements are NOT graceful.

The music written by Philip Glass was fantastic. It is very romantic, and all I could wonder was how beautiful the dance would have been to this song had Christopher Wheeldon been the choreographer. I love Wheeldon's work (read more about that in this previous blog post), and I think he would have done the music more justice.

Here's a clip of the performance (the shirtless man, Jorge Nozal, is so muscular, and he's going to be 40 this year!):

And here's a video of the music on its own:

2. The Statement

This is probably the most unique piece of dance I have ever seen. Instead of music, the dancers were moving to a script that was read aloud (taped, of course). The scene looked like people in some sort of conference room discussing a war conflict. They danced mostly around the table, but sometimes on top or under it, and they could easily slide upon its smooth surface. Tying the speaking with the dancing told a story that was easy to understand. Dance on its own can sometimes be hard to interpret, but with the spoken words, you could follow along and know what was happening.

Here's a video clip to give you an idea of just how different this piece is from any other modern dance performance:

The movements were staccato, matching the abrupt, short sentences of the script; each movement changed in a jerky but controlled way as each character "spoke." Their movements were so in sync with the dialog: the dancers couldn't "half-ass" the movements, but had to be very precise to produce the right effect.

The characters and costumes were quite androgynous. Both the men and women wore slacks and button-down shirts, and the women wore their hair up. If it weren't for the female voices on the tape, you may have thought all of the dancers were men. 

The most distracting thing was not part of the dance, but rather the audience! Many members of the audience thought moments of the script and the matching movements from the dancers were funny, and they laughed out loud! The characters were "discussing" war; how is that funny? It was clear the viewers completely missed the point. I'm sure all of the dancers were thinking, "Only stupid Americans would think this was funny." I was almost embarrassed to be part of the audience, because it was clear how uneducated or uncultured so many of these people were.

3. Singulière Odyssée

The synopsis of this piece explained that the dancers represented people waiting at an art deco train station. I'm not sure if I would have figured this out on my own. With the explanation, it seems obvious, but without it, I don't think I would have said the setting fit the art deco look, and I may have seen just a costume, not a conductor's uniform (see the photo below).

This was the only piece of the three where I felt like the costumes were actually costumes as opposed to just clothes. Many of the men were wearing dresses, and my friend and I loved the different jacket dresses the women had on. We wanted to wear them ourselves!

Here's the trailer for this piece:

Again, the modern dance movements are not my favorite, and without the synopsis in the program, I would not have known what I was watching. (Let's be honest: even with the synopsis, I was still left thinking, "I'm confused. These people are waiting for a train...? Why are they so intense about it?") I can appreciate this as a piece of art, but it was not as beautiful as other dances I have seen.

None of the pictures above show this, but toward the end of this piece, autumn leaves started falling from the ceiling! The dancers were moving through, on, and among the leaves, which was really pretty. I was afraid someone might slip on the leaves, but everyone was fine.

Such an interesting night of dance! These pieces definitely gave me a lot to think about!

All of the photos are from this page on the Kennedy Center's website:

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