The Savoir Faire triple bill is a great programme for showing off the talents of the dancers of Nederlands Dans Theater. Paul Lightfoot and Sol León, Marco Goecke and Crystal Pite are demanding choreographers whose dances demand versatility: smooth, and effortless-looking movement for Pite and Lightfoot & Leon’s movements and high-intensity dancing and personality for Goecke. At no point during the performance does the thought ‘with a bit of practice I could do this myself’ cross my mind.

<i>Shut Eye</i> © Rahi Rezvani
Shut Eye
© Rahi Rezvani

 Lightfoot and Leon’s Shut Eye is a piece I reviewed for Bachtrack when it premiered back in 2016. The stage set is simple but mesmerising, and the dance is strong throughout. In Shut Eye, the choreographic duo and house choreographers of NDT ask whether our physical senses limit what we perceive or whether what and how we see is primarily conditioned by our emotions. Twenty percent of our brain is specifically dedicated to our vision – with a higher percentage partially involved in our vision. Neurologists have undertook research that concluded that how we feel and how we condition ourselves heavily influences how we look at things and our perception of what we see. What comes to mind is the famous test where people count how many times a basketball is passed around whilst entirely missing a passer-by in a gorilla suit. The experiment demonstrates how our brain filters out what is non-essential to us. Psychotropics remove filters, and are therefore so overwhelming. It is difficult to relate that idea in the piece directly, except for each part of the piece where emotions switch regularly. Shut Eye has an alternating current.

Goecke’s piece Woke Up Blind succeeds in transferring to the audience the energy and nervous yearning of young people for each other in a relationship. It is set to the music of Jeff Buckley (You and I and The Way Young Lovers Do). Goecke’s style is recognisable, frantic, but here it also shows a certain vulnerability. The piece draws you onto the stage and makes you laugh and care for the young lovers portrayed. It is not conventionally pretty. It's unsettled but retains a softness despite or maybe because of the occasional choreographed fluttering and shaking.

<i>Woke Up Blind</i> © Rahi Rezvani
Woke Up Blind
© Rahi Rezvani
Crystal Pite’s offering tonight is an excellent one as far as dancing is concerned. What Pite’s style has in common with very few other choreographers (and which is a quality I also admire in British choreographer David Dawson’s choreographies), is that I often want to top the piece, freeze-frame the dancers, take a snapshot and nail the photograph to my wall. The movement is simply that beautiful, and rthese moments occur frequently throughout the piece. Pite’s signature sequential group movement often has an unpretentious beauty and a flowing water-like viscosity to it. The a capella music Partita for 8 Voices by Caroline Shaw is not to my liking, but the interaction on it is varied, playful and rhythmic. The variations of the male and female voices are so well transferred visually that even someone with hearing difficulties would ‘hear’ them. In that sense, the music works beautifully.

 Are these the very best works I have seen by these choreographers tonight? Goecke’s might well be. I have seen better works from Lightfoot & Leon and Pite , but the overall quality of the programme makes it – for sure –  one of the best dance performances you will see this year, and it brings together some of the best choreographers of the moment. I recommend you go see it.

****1