Last night's première of the short-running programme Let's Dance is an anthology of recent works and a preview of things to come for Scapino Ballet's big 70th anniversary in the autumn. Increasingly, Scapino is experimenting with site specific contexts. This evening was no exception. The first four pieces were danced in the lobby amongst the guests. It started with a good-cause activity - Dance for Health - where people with limited motorical health collaborate with the dancers. It's a piece based on Tchekov's Three Sisters, an emotionally charged piece where dancers move between the roles and show themselves as normal people (Bittersweet); and it also features a solo piece on abandonment. The difficulty in following the pieces was easily compensated by the energy of seeing the dancers up close and personal. The physical confrontation replaces the need for longer stories. It made for an engaging introduction and cut the need for an interval in the actual stage performance. Here too Scapino chose to let the audience surround the dancers.

<i>Rizonanza</i> © Joris Jan Bos
Rizonanza
© Joris Jan Bos

Ed Wubbe's Pas de Deux is set to the improvised meditative live jazz piano of Michiel Borstlap. Groups fluidly move across the stage and sometimes seem to swim. The pas de deux are more touching, technical and very varied. The seated, still, grounded positions are the prettiest and fit the music best.

Raven's Home is the work of young choreographer Joeri Dubbe. Sounds of ravens and music by The Knife help us engage with this groovy piece from beginning to end. Scavengers that they are, the ravens rip off the pants of one of the fallen birds with their beaks and move by instinct. A tightly composed piece, it is well timed with accelerations and slow motions. The movement of a flock of birds across the sky is an apt comparison.

Itamar Serussi's That's the Worst Thing I Could Do is set to pumping music and starts with the buzzing of bluebottles (flies) and dancers in different golden attires. It's a fast circular piece that doesn't rest until a balladey end. It is full of surprising ideas; twists and twerks where each dancer succesfully tries to get the attention of the audience in a radically different manner. It reminded me of a TV talent-competition: striking poses, group photo stagings, exhibitionistic and often sexually provocative elements. The simulated gay masturbation of one of the dancers I found distasteful. Haven't we been doing this in pop culture since the 70's already? In-your-face sex is ubiquitous, especially in Dutch art. Preferences to the contrary are deemed a form of oppression. Must we tolerate, and also applaud everything? Absence of limits kills true eroticism. It is without tenderness and, ultimately, flat. If the message was that the current attention-seeking culture is empty self-gratification, then bravo, the message was delivered. I could have done without the visual clarity but at least it explained the title and the flies at the beginning.

<i>That's the worst thing I could do</i> © Hans Gerritsen
That's the worst thing I could do
© Hans Gerritsen

The showstopper was Ting; a work in progress for the 70th anniversary. Scapino resident choreographer Ed Wubbe has always used multigenre acts in his dances to great effect, adding entertainment. The Dutch band The Nits performed the music. Their singing brought a hint of cinematographer David Lynch's style to the stage. A man removes a black hood to reveal a clown, shortly joined by a girl with pierrot outfit and hat. She slides in short bursts across the stage wagging her finger at us. Mischa van Leeuwen and Bonnie Doets bring maturity to the stage and with it, great acting skills. Then enters a parade of fantastically dressed circus actors in black and white with teddy bears. But of course... moments later a man in shining red writhes across the floor, a woman runs around the stage like a very distraught Nina Hagen and there is a very smart six or seven dancers strong bowler hat exchange dance. Think Madonna's Vogue, but with hats. One of the women even seems to ask the audience for tips. The dancers are visibly enjoying themselves. Meanwhile the band plays on in French and English. It seems apt to quote lyrics from their biggest hit “I jumped off a bridge, swimming for hours...I don't know this paradise”. The audience has no idea where it is floating. But if this is a taste of things to come and Ting's circus-inspired precursor The Great Bean, are anything to go by, it should be hugely entertaining. It feels a lot more 8 ½ Fellini than David Lynch, but we'll have to wait and see in September.

****1