CriticalDance Forum

NDT I at Sadler's Wells 2002
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Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Fri Jun 21, 2002 4:05 am ]
Post subject:  Re: NDT I at Sadler's Wells 2002

Reading through the extensive documentation that came with the press pack for NDT, I find that W&S Transition Management sponsored the event to the tune of £50,000. Hats off to W&S for their whole-hearted support of this fine Company and Sadler's Wells. <p>[This message has been edited by Stuart Sweeney (edited June 21, 2002).]

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Fri Jun 21, 2002 7:24 am ]
Post subject:  Re: NDT I at Sadler's Wells 2002

Thinking about the London critics' negative view on NDT, I remembered that Nacho duato and Ohad Naharin have also had a mauling at their hands over the past year. There does seem to be an antagonism to the NDT school of choreographers, which is a view of course, but surprises me as the NDT works usually have something innovative to my eyes. <P>Emma, we are not entirely alone. Emma Manning of Dance Europe tells me that she also had a fine evening at the NDT performance and most of the dancers and ex-dancers she knows also enjoy the Company, both for its choreographers as well as the wonderful dancers.<P>And of course, Rambert Dance Company and Paris Opera Ballet remain keen to have works by Kylian. <p>[This message has been edited by Stuart Sweeney (edited June 21, 2002).]

Author:  Emma Pegler [ Sat Jun 22, 2002 12:11 am ]
Post subject:  Re: NDT I at Sadler's Wells 2002

I like the word, Stuart - they really have received a mauling at NDT. I'll be there tonight - taking a friend who knows little about dance but wants to learn more having seen the DVD I have of Kylian's Black and White ballets danced by NDT. If seeing that performance gives him a thirst to know more about dance and go see, I worry that the critics may deprive the uninitiated from getting initiated. Certainly I was rung by the partner of a US law firm who asked me whether it was worth going to see the company - the slamming review in the FT by Clement Crisp had concerned him - so damning was it. Said partner knows Kylian's work but was concerned about the guests he was taking.

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Sat Jun 22, 2002 11:39 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: NDT I at Sadler's Wells 2002

Oh heck! Two more thumbs down for NDT. The dancers have been disappointed by the reaction of the London critics, but say that the very enthusiastic audience response is more important. I do know of two critics who will be writing positive reviews. <P>I went again last night and at the second interval talked about the programme with Melanie Nix, a dance writer who has performed with AMP and is dance Captain for at least one London show. She found it all very beautiful, which reflects my own thoughts. At the end, the nearly full house gave NDT a huge send-off.


Watch out or you'll slip on the gloss. Jiri Kylián presents a clear case of style over content. Which is where the trouble starts.
Jann Parry in The Observer

Jiri Kyliá's flagship ensemble, NDT1, has been held up as a model for dance companies seeking to project a sleek, modern image. It has a distinctive 'look', a cast of fine, classically trained dancers (only two of them Dutch, as it happens) and no works by dead choreographers.

But its Sadler's Wells programme should serve as a warning to Rambert Dance Company and Scottish Ballet, both in search of new identities, of a route not to follow. The Royal Ballet shouldn't even be considering a detour. Although Kylián renounced his role as director in 1999, his stamp still marks the company and the work of two of his protégés, Paul Lightfoot and Johan Inger. All three choreographers favour style over content, enigma over meaning. They reach for easy-listening music to illustrate their dramatic stage pictures, disguising the fact that they are simply keeping dancers busy. ... 10,00.html


Swinging in the rain

NDT’s dancing is always striking, but what does it all mean, asks Paul Driver in The Sunday Times

The handsome Nederlands Dans Theater company returned to Sadler’s Wells last week, and at the same time the popular NDT2 youth troop was completing its latest British regional tour, also presented by Sadler’s Wells. In a curtain speech, the Wells’s soon-to-retire chief executive, Ian Albery, who masterminded the marvellous rebuilding of his theatre, told us that his inspirational model for the redevelopment had been NDT’s own purpose-built, state-of-the-art dance house at the Hague; so that united all of us, dancers and public, in a warm glow of satisfaction.

I must point out, though, that the publicity for the Wells programme perpetrated an untruth in claiming that none of the three works on the bill had been seen in the UK before. In fact, two of them were shown in recent years at the Edinburgh Festival. Perhaps someone at the Hague is under the impression that Scotland has seceded from Her Majesty’s realm. Tut, tut, and in golden jubilee year, too., ... 79,00.html

Author:  Emma Pegler [ Mon Jun 24, 2002 8:02 am ]
Post subject:  Re: NDT I at Sadler's Wells 2002

Dancers, dance teachers, choreographers and artistic directors love it. Critics hate it. My guest is now a committed dance enthusiast. I’m speaking of the reception for NDT’s mixed bill at Sadler’s Wells last week. Except that the critics do admit that the dancers that comprise the company are good. They just object to what the poor souls have to dance every night. Perhaps the fact that I have had dance training, and still occasionally perform, puts me in the first camp with the dance practitioners. I truly can imagine how satisfying it must be to dance Kylian’s work and that of his disciples, Lightfoot and Inger. The choreography lends itself to you looking good – long lines and stretches, punctuated by moments of poetry. At the same time, everything you do has a contemporary feel. That is “contemporary” with a small “c”. But the choreography thankfully doesn’t feature the gratuitous dragging of one’s partner along the floor as so much poor modern/contemporary dance often does.

Kylian’s “Bella Figura” comprises a series of theatrical vignettes set to various Italian composers and framed by different parts of a segmented curtain. The title, which alludes to ‘putting on a brave face,’ breaks down into a series of duets where the eye is drawn to one couple and then, as this couple winds down their movements, the focus shifts smoothly to another couple. Girl is twirled around boy as if she is no longer human but rather a pliant length of ribbon, like the red ribbon flicked by a Chinese gymnast at the Olympics. Then bare-chested men and bare-breasted women, all wearing full, red satin skirts, collect the curtain as it is gently lowered from the ceiling, their separate identities lost as they disappear into a line of skirts. Two of the women kneel, framed by parts of the fragmented curtain, and run their hands over each other’s bare torsos as if to touch but actually hovering in the air two inches above the flesh. How you wold imagine that two women might love each other. If the choreography lacks a story-line, it proves a good foil for the dancers to demonstrate their strong classical training and superb athleticism. There is a hidden momentum in the individual movements: something small suddenly releases energy to grow into something grand. And the piece is moving. It is very sad. Maybe that’s why the critics panned it – perceived over-indulgence in the blacker side of life by the Czech choreographer? Just like Kafka, I guess?

A lone waif walks away from her partner at the end of Paul Lightfoot’s “Speak for Yourself”, through the wall of torrential rain, subdued and tranquil. It is a profoundly sad moment. Perhaps she is walking out of a cave through a waterfall to her emotional freedom. Does that sound cheesy? The point is, any dramatic or sad moment can be classed as cheesy. Many choreographers could be accused of the same because people choreograph sadness and pain. Such feelings lend themselves to artistic expression. (Mind you, the programme explanations don’t help to dispel this view! The alleged motivations for the choreography reek of navel-gazing.)

Paul Lightfoot, who came up through the company when Kylian was Artistic Director, has adopted his master’s technique for “Speak for yourself.” An ensemble work breaks down into circular duets which create a corkscrew effect as the woman is rotated around her partner. The theatrical motif is the man with smoke pouring out of his head. The piece is highly watchable and I confess to thinking that it’s at times like this that you remember why you learned to dance, to attain the ability to express that little bit more than you can, or dare, express with mere words.

Inger’s “Walking Mad” is an original use of Ravel’s hackneyed “Bolero”. Granted, it is hard to describe or explain – you had to be there. Party revellers dash around a wall wearing funny hats. Doesn’t sound good, does it? But, apart from the last minutes, which feature a pointless duet set to Arvo Part’s “Fur Alina for piano” , the attention is firmly held. We see outsiders, group dynamics, bizarre reactions and mad dashing. We see the wall move and collapse. But we also see superb dancing. And that was the lasting impression left by the evening – superb dancing.

Critics may criticise and we agree or we do not. However, there is the risk that unbridled negativity can make a potential dance-goer think better of buying a ticket. Fortunately the auditorium remained well packed and vocally enthusiastic throughout the week from Tuesday’s “everyone who’s anyone in the dance world” first-night audience, to Saturday’s “out for a good time so not looking at the fine print” crowd. (Admittedly, my knowledge of the days in between is based on hearsay.) I had to persuade two colleagues who had purchased tickets to turn up on the night, so convinced were they that they would have to sit through tosh. Not so. And a lot of dance-going virgins and novices bubbled away with enthusiasm as they spilled out in to the balmy summer’s night in Islington. Which means, presumably, that their “bums” will be back on a seat very soon . And a wider audience for dance would not be a bad thing (even if there is the occasional lone, loud laugh at something that is misconstrued as comedy rather than humour or pathos ). Most of the critics acknowledged English National Ballet’s “Swan Lake” in the round at the Royal Albert Hall to be a crowd-pleaser - not completely to their tastes, but nonetheless acceptable. Yet NDT didn’t get through the net.

Author:  Joanne [ Tue Jun 25, 2002 12:11 am ]
Post subject:  Re: NDT I at Sadler's Wells 2002

Well Jenny Gilbert in The Independent seems more positive about their visit:

When people say they don't "get" contemporary dance, perhaps they should try NDT. The full house that greeted Nederlands Dans Theater's long-awaited Sadler's Wells debut seemed to wise up pretty fast. Faced with knitting their brows over Jiri Kylian's cryptic programme notes, or simply lapping up the sensations offered by the opening piece – luscious bare breasts, lit by naked flame – there was no contest.

Could this be what Susan Sontag was thinking of when she called for a "theatre of the senses"? You could spend a whole day discussing what Kylian's Bella Figura might be saying, but "meaning" is only part of the story. Take the motif of a woman sitting gazing at her own face, her hands as the mirror. It's an image of self-absorption, and a nod to the title, but it turns to virtuoso spectacle as the woman is whirled by her partner inches above the floor, as if in some invisible office chair. ... ory=308544

Author:  Emma Pegler [ Tue Jun 25, 2002 3:58 am ]
Post subject:  Re: NDT I at Sadler's Wells 2002

A sigh of relief that I was not the only person who enjoyed myself.

Author:  Joanne [ Tue Jun 25, 2002 10:49 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: NDT I at Sadler's Wells 2002

And Nadine Meisner of The Independent also gives it the thumbs up:

On a world scale of pulchritude, Nederlands Dans Theater 1 (the core of a three-pronged institution) must rank near the top of the dance division. Contrary to the many modern companies that extol individuality and enlist untidily real, differently shaped people, NDT represents the body as ideal, gleaming with a uniform, creamy perfection. ... ory=308854

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Fri Jul 05, 2002 7:21 am ]
Post subject:  NDT I at Sadler's Wells 2002

Someone else, apart from CriticalDance and the audiences, who enjoyed NDT.

By AC Grayling for Online Review London

From this excellent dance company and the choreographers who make art from its talent, only the best is ever expected; and it always comes. It certainly comes at Sadler's Wells in this exhilarating programme of three wonderful dances.

Kylian's Bella Figura has been in the NDT's repertoire for seven years, but is new to this reviewer, who can say that it ranks among the best things he has ever seen from Kylian's imagination. A delightful selection of mainly baroque music provides the scaffolding for the fluent sculpture of movement which is Kylian's trademark, annexed closely to the music's rhythm. It is full of wit, clever observation, a ceaseless and fertile unfolding of ideas, and throughout all great beauty in the line, gesture, and sentiment.

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Wed Jun 15, 2005 4:34 pm ]
Post subject: 

NDT1, "One of a Kind", Sadler's Wells, 14th June, 2005

By Maggie Foyer

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 become 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, 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.

Maggie Foyer

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Fri Jun 17, 2005 12:45 am ]
Post subject: 

I fully agree, Maggie. "One of a Kind" is a remarkable performance for its scale, the beautiful geometric sets and, above all, the extraordinary dancers. There were plenty of empty seats on Wednesday, perhaps a legacy of the largely hostile press NDT and Kylian receive in the UK. So, go and make up your own mind - if I had time, I'd go back for a second helping.

Author:  kurinuku [ Fri Jun 17, 2005 4:25 am ]
Post subject: 

Nederlands Dans Theater 1
by JUDITH MACKRELL for the Guardian

Telford starts the work teetering along a narrow, jutting platform, her body buckling as if assailed by unseen forces. As other dancers track warily on to the stage to join her, their movements converge into an aggressive, almost tribal assault.

published: June 16, 2005

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Fri Jun 17, 2005 4:47 am ]
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Sleepless/Simple Things/Shutters Shut/Skew-Whiff
By John highfield for The Stage

A welcome return for Nederlands Dans Theater 2, that excellent company which demonstrates with this lively and hugely entertaining programme that contemporary dance can be both accessible and fun.

The evening begins with Jiri Kylian’s Sleepless, a piece for six dancers, a remarkable blend of body parts, merging in and out of a wall - a clever piece of business - in an intriguing celebration of the human form.

click for more

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Sun Jun 19, 2005 5:10 am ]
Post subject: 

It’s all double
Dutch Nederlands Dans Theater make little sense. Oh dear, says David Dougill in The Sunday Times.

Nederlands Dans Theater is renowned for its sleek, finely trained dancers (of many nationalities) and for the contemporary ballet style of the prolific choreo-grapher Jiri Kylian, who directed the company for 20-odd years. The youth branch of the tripartite organisation, NDT2, is now on its eighth UK tour; the main company, NDT1, returned to Sadler’s Wells last week and heads for the Lowry, Salford, tomorrow.

I was less than enthused by the Wells offering, a three-part work titled One of a Kind, which Kylian made in 1998 to mark the 150th anniversary of the Dutch constitution.

click for more


One of a Kind
By Jann Parry for The Observer

Though the 17 members of Nederlands Dans Theater are sleekly beautiful, Jiri Kylián's choreography in One of a Kind won't let them simply be classic.

click for more

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Sun Jun 19, 2005 5:14 am ]
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I'm so glad that Maggie Foyer reviewed "One of a Kind" for us, which is in sharp contrast to the majority of the national critics. I'm confident that her experience is certainly the view of most of the full houses that saw the Friday and Saturday performances of this beautiful work.

It would be interesting to explore this further, but the rules of the Critics' Circle preclude me from doing this.

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