A visit from Nederlands Dans Theater is always worth the wait.  They returned to the UK with a programme that was almost identical to the one featured at the Edinburgh International Festival, last summer, with the same award-winning pair of works by house choreographers, Sol León and Paul Lightfoot; but replacing Gabriela Carrizo’s The Missing Door with two brief works by the company’s associate choreographers, Marco Goecke and Crystal Pite.

NDT in Pite's The Statement
© Rahi Rezvani

The programme’s highlight was another five-star statement by Pite, again collaborating with actor/playwright, Jonathon Young, following on from their runaway success in Betroffenheit.  The Statement is a slice of brilliance in both senses of that noun; skilful mastery of the choreographic art with an exceptional sense of theatre; but also shining an intense light on the murky, PR-driven, Machiavellian state of current affairs, not explicitly, but certainly, somewhere on the North American continent. It is a thought-provoking – and, often, very funny – morality play.  And, The Statement does all this in just nineteen, remarkable and unforgettable, minutes.

Pite’s movement and Young’s words are cleverly stitched together giving the appearance of the dancers speaking the pre-recorded text. Young’s unmistakeable voice is prevalent amongst the quartet of vocal performers, playing characters in covert officialdom, bureaucrats engaged in a bunkered discussion about taking responsibility for implementing orders from “upstairs” that provoked a conflict in a faraway country to feed economic benefits for their own political masters. In unspoken shades of the Weapons of Mass Destruction dossier, our four protagonists become transfixed about whether statements were “on the record, or off”, each speaking in the quick-fire language of this social media age.  

Tom Visser’s lighting is an excellent aid, notably in one standout sequence of dancers above and below the large table that dominates the set, being lit consecutively so that only one can be seen at any time. The table’s presence in the context of the subject-matter brought to mind Kurt Jooss’ most famous work, The Green Table, and The Statement certainly follows that tradition of scathing anti-war dance polemics. Everything Pite choreographs turns to gold and when Young is also involved it’s an especially rich vein.

NDT in León and Lightfoot's Woke up Blind
© Rahi Rezvani

Where Pite’s movement was conditioned to enable characters to tell a story, Goecke’s movement – in Woke up Blind - was entirely motivated by music; specifically two contrasting songs by Jeff Buckley (who drowned while swimming in the Mississippi, aged just 30): Dreams of You and I is almost funereally-slow, while Buckley’s cover of Van Morrison’s The Way Young Lovers Do gallops along to the frenetic guitar accompaniment. Goecke matches these contrasts with intense and complex musicality.  It is pure dance and, whilst I’m not much admiring of the music, one has to applaud the excellence of these dancers.

The work of León and Lightfoot is always a pleasing aesthetic cocktail. Here, in the works that top and tail this quadruple bill, these aesthetics are skilfully interwoven to craft a visually stimulating experience that infuses the dance with rich imagery from film, theatre and art.  Their choreography is also a fusion of styles, full of taught leg extensions and rippling bodies that open, extend and contract. 

Shoot the Moon is dance theatre expressed as a play without words (although, as with much NDT1 work, there are isolated, shouted sounds and guttural grunts). A revolving set takes the audience on a tour through rooms that represent three relationships, although the similarity and interaction of these lives is represented by the same interior décor of striking black-and-white wallpaper. The close coordination of the dancers in relation to the revolving set is so cleverly contrived and performed that it seems almost as if an optical illusion. The familiar music of Philip Glass (the second movement from his Tirol Concerto) is a bonus but – for a work about relationships – the technical wizardry (including real-time film of the dancers projected high on the walls of their rooms) seems to leave little room for sentiment.  

Sentiment in the final work, Stop-Motion, is ever-present through the projected film of the choreographic pair’s daughter, Saura, to whom the work – made in 2014 – is dedicated.  There is something intensely personal echoing through the piece and the delayed slow-motion video projections of the enigmatically-beautiful young girl appears to be the heart of the work that is missing from Shoot the Moon. Several melancholic pieces by Max Richter provide a rich aural tapestry. The presence of dust, enveloping the small group of dancers in a chalky, ghostly mist that clings to their faces and skin, and the slow flight of a huge kestrel (apparently named Hector) across the stage gives Stop-Motion an anthropological/ecological aura. It is undoubtedly beautiful but the aesthetic pleasure starts to drift before the end.   

I have deliberately refrained from naming dancers since this company is an egalitarian society in which all are stars. Certainly, you would have to wait a long time to see such a range of expressive and multi-talented dancers on one stage: probably, until NDT 1 return to thrill us all over again.