It’s a “blink and you’ll miss it” two-night visit to the UK for Nederlands Dans Theater 2 (NDT2), but the dances on their quadruple bill will surely stay in the mind for far longer. Eclectic, fascinating choreography is danced with precision and passion by the fine-tuned company – NDT’s younger branch – and the strangeness they confront us with is always tempered by humour and beauty.
NDT house choreographers Sol León and Paul Lightfoot’s Postscript gets under your skin with its muted lights, tactile fabrics and dynamism. It’s minimalism but not as you know it – there’s nothing cold about the black, white and flesh tones or clean, sensual dance language that matches Philip Glass’s music. Dancers’ feet are made into pendulums, a woman is lifted and swung by her forearm alone, and we are deceived by the weightlessness of the cast, who sometimes move so softly they could be suspended in oil.
But its follow-up, Shutters Shut – also by León and Lightfoot – is the stand-out piece of the programme, a dance based around a poem by Gertrude Stein and, like a poem, a dance you want to immediately go back and see all over again to savour its nuances. The duet delight in the rhythms of Stein’s flicking, repeating language. In vaudevillian costumes, they curve an angular loop out of the word ‘all’ or enjoy the lovely arm ripple of ‘exactly.’ The shape of each word travels carefully through their bodies, every repetition bringing a tiny difference in tone.
Sharon Eyal and Gai Behar’s Sara has echoes of the 18 years Eyal spent dancing with Batsheva and practising Ohad Naharin’s Gaga form. Their dreamscape vision is a cluster of dancers – one separated from the tight pack of the rest – all rendered strange in flesh-toned body stockings. In a specially composed score, Ori Lichtik’s music bubbles up and down in soft electronic pips and breathes low-spoken words. It’s a mass of somnambulant contradictions, creepy but cute, baffling but magnetic, playful but startling, tasteful but weird. When the lights fade up, you’re not quite sure what you have seen, but like a dream, crave strangely to visit that unreal world once again.
Van Morrison’s songs form a louche backdrop for Johan Inger’s I New Then, a piece that feels like flatmates fooling about in summer heat, if your flatmates are supple and extraordinary dancers. Gesture and unusual (sometimes awkward) shapes are the hallmarks of Inger’s creation, dosing flashes of silliness into the loping gait of the music. But, as in Postscript, a twist of eroticism runs through it, rising to the surface when a dancer daintily kisses all the way up another’s leg, or taking a bathetic turn as a couple undress in the background while another cavorts and screams hysterically centre stage. Domestic, social and romantic, Inger reminds us that humans are a species not to be taken too seriously.