Nederlands Dans Theater 1, Théâtre de Chaillot, Paris — stirring
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Crystal Pite has had a remarkable season. She brought emotional insight and scale to creations for the Paris Opera Ballet and the Royal Ballet; Betroffenheit, her salient examination of grief, was filmed for TV. Now Nederlands Dans Theater, where she is associate choreographer, is in Paris with yet another stirring creation, In the Event.
Created in 2015, it feels in some ways like a companion piece to Betroffenheit. When the curtain opens, the dancers are watching over a lifeless body. While a man feels it frenetically, as if to find a pulse, emotion runs through the group like a frisson, in stop-start increments.
What follows feels like the unfolding, through dance, of a mental earthquake. The backdrop designed by Jay Gower Taylor has the texture of rocky terrain, with light snaking through it like lava. Shadowy silhouettes appear behind it; elsewhere, waves of movement wash over the eight dancers like spasms of pain. After a sinewy, soberly personal pas de deux, the man returns to the spot where the body is now missing, and, with his hands, maps its absent presence.
In the Event was sandwiched between two works by NDT director Paul Lightfoot and his choreographic partner Sol León. Safe as Houses and Stop-Motion are sleekly made and often sculptural, but their one-note atmosphere left the programme feeling repetitive.
Both rely on scores with a melancholy streak, by Bach and Max Richter, yet the choreography, with its insistent extensions and quirky afterthoughts, often looks more demonstrative than intimate. Stop-Motion, dedicated to Lightfoot and León’s daughter Saura, intermittently succeeds: some scenes, danced in a cloud of white dust, reach for a sense of longing and doubt.
The monochrome Safe as Houses and Stop-Motion inadvertently brought to mind Jiří Kylián, who shaped NDT’s identity as director and choreographer over decades and whose Black & White series remains a classic. His influence is obvious in Lightfoot and León’s style, but in 2014, NDT shelved Kylián’s repertoire for three years, ostensibly to encourage new work.
That embargo was due to expire in July, but no plans to reintroduce his works have been announced. As international companies celebrate the Czech master’s 70th birthday this year, NDT has been conspicuously absent. The Dutch company would do well to remember its greatest choreographer: his outstanding repertoire doesn’t belong in mothballs.
To June 30, theatre-chaillot.fr
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