I vividly remember the première of Gabriela Carizo’s The Missing Door in December of 2013. It blew me out of my seat with its unique dream/nightmare-like atmosphere and its seemingly easy, but freakishly difficult timing. It was like someone was editing a movie in real time. When the music gets ‘stuck’ like a broken record, so do the dancers, like a glitch in the movie Matrix. I like when dance works deliver exactly what they promise yet still leave you wondering; what was that?! Tonight there were three such pieces:

In Missing Door we travel through the mind of a man about to die, and whose last thoughts are filled with regrets from poor choices, missed opportunities and misspent love. But instead of simply making your heart sink, it feels like a call to action. It's also very funny. Roger van der Poel and Lydia Bustinduy play the central couple wonderfully, and are both vulnerable and emotionally dynamic. He lacks a way back to his love, solutionless. But it’s his own fault and it's too late. A deep feeling of regret prevails. When a giant spotlight shines the light on him, he turns away in shame. He knows damn well he could have done better. Spencer Dickhaus danced the role of the cleaner, originally performed by Fernando Hermando Madagan. Where Madagan’s interpretation was one of possession, Dickhaus’ version is more slapstick. His floor antics get the loudest laughs. 

Franck Chartier’s The Lost Room (2016) takes places in the luxury suite of a ship with its rafters heavily cracking. The same characters, a plague of mosquitos and bees, closets and lamps are added in with the help of snake people – Rena Nurumi and Chloé Albaret – (yes, snake people seems the best way to describe these characters). One moment they are passive ragdolls, the next they oscillate across a floor that sometimes tilts dangerously (it is a ship remember). In Missing Door it was Marne van Opstal who expertly threw around Nurumi. In the Lost Room it’s assassin-turned-lover César Faria Fernandes, who does most of the passionate acrobatics with both female dancers.

In The Hidden Floor (Frank Chartier, 2017) the ship has wrecked on some inhospitable coast and its passengers slowly devolve into debauchery. A nice twist is that the woman (Lydia Bustinduy) of the central couple in the first two pieces no longer is the victim that is protected or played with. She is the caretaker of the man who was in charge before. That is until she sets the ship on fire with everyone on it, which invites the flood. Floods always represent punishment as well as a much-needed fresh start (think of Noah after the Cain and Abel fratricide). Indecent splashing about with pyromaniacs is no bad metaphor for our current political state, making the piece feel even more resonant.

It’s impossible to render into words the feeling of the ‘dance-scape’ that is Side B Adrift. Memories of relationships happen both in parallel and as a connected storyline. We move from regret, to melancholy and the fall, as consequitive themes. One could easily write four different reviews. Hope, solutions or a clear way forward are unfortunately missing and the theme of personal responsibility is only implied. 

The evening is full of theatrical expressions and gestures that can only be pulled off by the virtuosi dancers of the Nederlands Dans Theater. The set (Anders Hellström/Ander Zabala and Justine Bougerol respectively) and music (Raphaëlle Latini, Ismaël Colombani, Annalena Fröhlich and Louis-Clément) fuse into a tasteful dark Gesamtkunstwerk worthy of that term. It can feel too gimmicky at times, but this is where the audience's interpretation – our responsibility for 'reading' the many portrayed relationships – comes in.

NDT is on a successful hunt for personally or societally confronting choreographies. Tonight was another direct hit; Short Time Together (Lightfoot Leon on loss), Clowns (Hofesh Schechter’s on violence) and The Statement (Crystal Pite on war and corporate culture) are others. I hope they continue to be so relevant. With its impossibly high standard of individual dancing and choreography, this company of dancers has set a standard for other companies to emulate. This triptych is a must-see for modern dance and theatrelovers alike.

*****