Following the great success of Nederlands Dans Theater 1’s visit at the Haus der Berliner Festspiele some months ago, the junior company, NDT2, is now in Berlin, with a mixed bill of four works created for these young talents. The pressure was on to match the hit of the main company, and the dancers, between the ages of 18 and 21, did not disappoint, showing great skills and presence amid some not so helpful music choices and a heavily loaded movement vocabulary filled with unnecessarily frantic movements.

NDT2 in Clug's Mutual Comfort
© Joris Jan Bos Photography

The evening opened with Clug’s Mutual Comfort. Premiered in 2015, the work by the Romanian choreographer has the same minimalist crystalline linearity as his Radio and Juliet, the piece that brought him international attention and which was shown in Berlin earlier this year. On music by Milko Lazar, two couples alternate in giving and receiving support. Sometimes, they are in love, sometimes they fight. Curved and undulating spines, and razor sharp precise movement characterize Clug’s vocabulary for this work. The tight transparent tops in light colours on dark trousers magnify the waving contorted backs. The palette of qualities is varied with hectic movements juxtaposed to natural ones planned to the microsecond. The duets are choreographed on the millimetre as if magnets were moving the dancers. Worthy of mention is Tess Voelker’s wonderful interpretation. The movement's sharpness did not diminish her expressiveness, clearly articulating her case to us.

The second work, also the older, Sad Case (1998), was choreographed by Spaniard choreographer Sol León and British choreographer Paul Lightfoot. In their almost 30 years-long collaboration, they produced over 50 works becoming NDT’s House Choreographers in 2002. In 2011, Lightfoot took NDT’s Artistic Direction. Despite the title, the work plays on comedy with its choice of well-known light music and its ironic and sometimes erotic twists. At the start of the first mambo, you want to join in the singing and dancing yourself. In ragged grey unitards with dirt on their face and limbs and too much white makeup, the dancers move hectically forming instantaneous absurd tableaux. I am puzzled and without a red thread. The dancers – sad cases – act unmotivated, sometimes producing slapstick. Then there is a relatable fleeting moment of chicken noises and Spanish sentences. I might have missed some references but not the final one, a nod to Jiří Kylián’s Petite Mort.

NDT2 in Leon and Lightfoot's Sad Case
© Rahi Rezvani

With NDT’s associate choreographer Marco Goecke's Wir sagen uns Dunkles (2017) the puzzlement becomes more intense. The work alternates music by the rock band Placebo, Franz Schubert and Alfred Schnittke. Goecke’s distinctive movement language works splendidly with the classical pieces but clashes with, or rather ignores the rest, which does not make justice to the music or the movement. The piece starts with a short solo by a topless man, one of Goecke’s signature and always poetic images, who is then joined by dancers in blue trousers with glittery fringes in the back. There are some interesting impromptu moments such as the unexpected blackout after yet another splendid solo by Voelker – as a screaming doll – or the man licking himself at the end and a few extremely poetic couple’s moments at the beginning. However, Goecke’s hectic and twitching movements remain hypnotically cryptic.

Closing the evening are León & Lightfoot again with Subtle Dust (2018). The duo creates strong atmospheres through theatrical devices: this time a low wall at the back is at once a projection surface and allows the dancers to appear unnoticed. Behind it, traps allow the dancers to gradually disappear. On music by J.S.B. Bach, the work starts with the choreographers’ trademark intense lighting: a couple in a cone of light and a circle projected in the back. The dancers, in black and white costumes by Joke Visser and Hermien Hollander, alternate between fluid and staccato movements. Peculiar to this work are ‘freeze’ moments when the movement simply stops happening somewhere on the stage and the piece also features sequences of unison: a couple at the front and one at the back in synchrony, three men laying on the wall, and the ending trio. Astonishingly, this 2018 work feels less fresh than the earlier one.

NDT2 in Leon and Lightfoot's Subtle Dust
© Rahi Rezvani

The directors’ intent of coming to Berlin was to show the “astounding microcosm” of the junior company and these NDT2 dancers are ones to watched. They were fantastic, showing great prowess while executing perfectly the very complex and demanding works,both technically and artistically. The order of the programme was not the best though. I have found the works hectic, with a twitching quality in most of them. A stream of images floods the audience: the pieces are so full of movement that some wonderful details to which we could cling are lost, thrown away in the mass. Much ado about nothing.