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Netherlands Dans Theater - 'One of a Kind'

by Maggie Foyer

June 14, 2005 -- Sadler's Wells, London

"One of a Kind" says it all, not just this masterwork by Jirí Kylián, but the phenomenon of his other creation, Nederlands Dans Theater. Created in Holland, a country with a dance tradition even younger than England’s, his vision of genius coupled with an inclusive policy where the only criteria is excellence has created this company of companies. Now under the direction of Anders Hellström they make a welcome return to Sadler’s Wells. Kylián is both an arch humanist and a man of searing intelligence who can graft cutting-edge technique onto state of the art design technology.

"One of a Kind" is full of surprises – the opening as a lone dancer makes her way over the pit and onto the stage, the geometry of the spheres that move and evolve and the switches in dynamic that unerringly set the pace – but all within a classically moulded form. Kylián’s creativity builds on tradition, enhancing rather than distorting. The exquisitely extended foot of a dancer almost touches the floor to become a pure arabesque but then her partner tilts her body to swoop into the horizontal plane, volatile turns finish wrapped round partner’s bodies while movements as light and delicate as anything in the insect kingdom skim the surface of the stage.

The detail of the craftsmanship is breathtaking -- each movement, each picture and each sound is lovingly and brilliantly shaped. The three acts each have their design persona: the opening act of huge origami folds becomes a hanging diamond, a cone or a cascade of strings. The tone is predominantly intense, even spiritual, and it has one of the most profound and moving final moments in the dance repertoire.

The dramatic chiaroscuro lighting in the second act signals a change of pace. The rhythms take on a Latin flavour and the men’s dance becomes thrillingly dangerous. Kylián’s wicked sense of comedy comes to the fore in a diagonal of funny walks that surpasses even John Cleese. The lighting by Michael Simon is astounding, giving form to the choreography as well as moments of pure wonderment. It also makes you wonder why we so seldom see lighting of this quality in English companies, particularly at the Opera House.

The music, solo cello composed by Brett Dean and played in situ by Matthew Barley, is layered over a host of other innovative and traditional music. And the dancers are intelligent and beautiful, strong and supple -- there must be one with an imperfection, but I failed to see it! The women are coolly sophisticated, as sleek and perfectly groomed as top ballerinas yet capable of fabulously coordinated contemporary movement. The men too can produce both the clarity of classical form or the rhythm and daring of street dancers when required. And a special cheer for Nataša Novotná who never left the stage the entire evening, even at interval when the crew simply worked round her. I trust she is getting overtime?

For those of us unlikely to experience heaven on earth - take advantage of this offer, it may be the nearest you’ll get.

 

Edited by Staff.

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