Dance is a symbolic form of emotional expression in many ways; its aim is not explicit emotion per se, but magnified emotion using kinesthetic, visual and audial modes. It enlarges experience. Although Nederlands Dans Theater 2 does not present narrative works, it draws its sources of inspiration from our emotional journeys. NDT 2 is the junior company of the Nederlands Dance Theater and was founded in 1978 to develop gifted young dancers between the ages of 18-23. The evening produced the hot rush that accompanies exploding young talent. This is the company of Jiri Kylian, so much is expected of the choreography, as well as the dancers.

Cacti © Johan Persson
Cacti
© Johan Persson

Sol León and Paul Lightfoot brought three works to the beginning of the evening. Schubert, performed by Katarina van den Wouwer and Alexander Anderson, was a pas de deux exploring a love story through the intricacy of lifts. The two dancers gave a lyric performance. Although a short piece, the composition might have benefited from showing greater awareness of visual design, especially through its lifts.

Leon and Lightfoot's, Sad Case, to a Mexican mambo rhythm, has been re-lit, re- staged and lengthened since they first produced it in 1998. It uses contorted body movement to follow the rhythmic beat of the music, but was too long and, in my opinion, repetitive. I did not like the look of the contortions. Sad Case seemed not quite to know if it was meant to be comic. 

The third work, Some Other Time, was performed to a score by Max Richter. The dancers, dressed in black against a blackened movable stage set, appeared as spectres in a haunting sound environment. The outstanding technical abilities of Gregory Lau and Paxton Ricketts were displayed against the expressive language of Madoka Kariya and Xanthe van Opstal.

Edward Clug, who grew up Ceausescu's  Romania, sought solace in his ballet studies to escape the oppressive regime. His Mutual Comfort to music by Milko Lazar explores short sharp movement in which bodies can twitch or flick or react to one another. As in his own life, he must provide the viewer with at least a hope of escape.

The evening ended in a crescendo with two stunning creations by choreographers Hans van Manen and Alexander Ekman. Manen's Solo to Bach's 'Partita no.1 for solo violin in d-minor' (Corrente and Double, presto), in other words, at a very rapid pace, executed by Gregory Lau, Benjamin Behrends and Miguel Duarte was vigorous, technically difficult, even astounding. Each dancer in turn set the stage alight.

Cacti by Alexander Ekman, the finale, was performed to music by Franz Schubert, Joseph Haydn and recordings of human speech (which Elizabethan playwright Ben Jonson would have described as vomiting words) delivering a theory of art. Ekman calls himself a 'rhythm freak' and a soundscape artist. He is a visualscape artist, too. This choreography was a quick and zany intersection of metaphors: bodies as musical instruments; history as the present. And what about the cacti? They come in many unpredictable shapes and certainly add texture. Are they works of art? Cacti is demanding of the dancers who perform it, so much so that it needs to include respite. The company produced a 'tour de force' here. 

****1