Nederlands Dans Theater's versatile identity is often described in one of two ways: either as pure dance (in aesthetic terms) or, depending on the works performed, as expressive theatrical dance. In their two-part season opener, the company offers both, focussing strongly on pure dance in Side A; Split into One (reviewed here), and highlighting expression and theatrical performance in Side B; Adrift (presented next). The musicality and aesthetics of the dances were very beautiful, yet I missed a bit of quirkiness, a quality which usually features in the balance of NDT's programmes.

I am always highly impressed by the dancers' control of their bodies when I watch a performance by NDT. Side A; Split into One was no exception, and perhaps the emphasis placed on pure dance made this even stronger. This was especially so in Proof  by Edward Clug. Rather than feeling the urge to find an interpretation for the work, I allowed myself to get carried away by the dance as each of the dancers seemed to unravel another layer in Radiohead’s music. The choreography ranges from a sole repetitive head movement or horizontal steps to the most energetic and complex sequences with often an interesting twist added to the movements. Adding to the estranged atmosphere is a white zeppelin which lowers down from the ceiling; one that some dancers could enter but that formed a mysterious obstacle for others.

In Medhi Walerski’s Soon music also plays an important role . The work is set to Benjamin Clementine’s songs and has a melancholic atmosphere. It’s main theme is time which is depicted by a big turning instrument. Four duets to four different songs take us to different times related to different emotions. The first duet seems to be about here and now, about focussing on one movement at a time, a sense of awareness and of being in the present moment. Certain movements in the sequence are slowed down to create this effect. In the other duet the choreography seems to be more nervous and anxious, with faster and more forceful movements. The four dancers alternate partners and even come all together at one stage, at times playing the role of instigator and at other times reacting to others' movement. The music, staging, dynamics and overall melancholy make for an interesting travel through time and through different phases in life.

The evening closes with Sisters, a new work by Sol León and Paul Lightfoot. The relationship between people is a very important theme of the piece. In this work the dancers are very aware of each other's presence and they all seem to be connected to one another. Of course, a Leon and Lightfoot choreography is not complete without a bit of drama, and Sisters is an expressive work. As much as I watching pure dance, I also can not wait to see more of NDT’s theatrical performance in Side B: Adrift, the second half of the programme, which will be performed soon. After all, the balance between the two is what makes this company so interesting to watch.