When the doors of the intimate Theater aan het Spui in The Hague open for Nederlands Dans Theater 2's Programme B, a group of silver threads hanging from the ceiling are visually overpowering upon entering the auditorium. They serve as a transparent curtain, separating the auditorium from the stage. It is in this setting that associate choreographer Johan Inger creates a lonely and absurd world, in which he explores the themes of awakening and change, driven by suppressed human desires. This stirring new work, B.R.I.S.A, effectively reflects the choreographer’s comic and theatrical yet earthy style.
The piece opens with a group of dancers shuffling around on a lawn. They walk with hanging heads, going nowhere and remaining ignorant to those around them. They seem lost and restrained, yet, every so often, one of the dancers frees himself from the group to burst out some highly energetic dance moves, in which the dancers completely let go of their emotions, whether that be frustration or deep inner enthusiasm. The dance involves wildly excited arm and upper body movements, whilst retaining a grounded quality. At some points their desire to express themselves is so strong that it almost seems as though they lose control, but after these short energetic outbursts, they crawl back into their shell and continue to tow the line.
In the second part of the piece, set to Nina Simone’s song Wild is the Wind, the choreography cleverly depicts the song lyrics in a humorous and creative manner. A female dancer draws strength from a breeze blowing from the wings. At first the other dancers are distrustful, staring at her while keeping a safe distance. But one-by-one they are captivated by this force, joining together in a cheerful group dance, until the generator producing their source of pleasure suddenly stops working. However, an irreversible change has taken place and the group of dancers is unstoppable. One of the dancers takes a red fan from the wings, and the others start behaving like addicts, chasing him and crawling over each other to catch a breath of the caressing breeze. Their facial expressions, full of amazement and pure pleasure, are priceless. It then turns into some kind of competition when another dancer pulls out a hair dryer and a third one even manages to acquire a leaf blower. The objects are symbolic for the technical gadgets we need to keep ourselves satisfied. But instead of criticizing, Johan Inger successfully manages to confront and carry us away in his appealing and intriguing choreography.
The concluding work, Postscript, created by artistic directors Paul Lightfoot and Sol León in 2005, is one of the most challenging pieces the duo ever created for NDT2, both in terms of choreography and emotion. It contains all the ingredients for a typical Lightfoot/León piece: great musicality, simple and efficient set designs, melancholy and a harmonious flow of movement. Violinist Cécile Huijnen and pianist Jan Schouten accompany the piece on stage, offering the excitement of live music while blending wonderfully with the scenery. At the beginning of the performance, after a few minutes of complete darkness, a bright spot in the front corner of the stage illuminates Huijnen. While playing, she slowly walks alongside a musical score written on the wall, as if she’s accompanying the dancers on their journey of love.
This visually attractive piece seems very abstract at first, but one can discover the different forms of love shown in a powerful trio and two intimate pas des deux. In the first trio the dancers playfully chase each other, and like young lovers, their bodies are full of unrestrained energy. The pas des deux are breathtakingly beautiful, involving highly complex positions and connecting movements. Arms and legs are connected to each other in the most innovative ways, and, with the dancers fluently moving from one position to the other, it is almost impossible to solve the puzzle created by their united bodies. This shows that the company’s dancers are not just strong individuals, but excellent partners too.
With Programme B concluding NDT2’s season in the Netherlands, this finale highlights the strong identity and diversity of the company’s young dancers and can be seen in The Netherlands until 17 April before the company moves on to tour in Germany.