Not only the Girl with a Pearl Earring, the International Court of Justice, the Royal Family, and the best herring sandwich in the world, but most important to dance lovers, The Hague is home to one of the world's most celebrated dance companies, Nederlands Dans Theater. New York audiences will get a chance to witness firsthand the much-storied and spectacular 30-member contemporary dance troupe-in New York for the first time in nearly a decade-when it performs at The David H. Koch Theater, April 11 and 12, and as part of the The Joyce Theater Gala on April 10. In all, the company will present three New York premieres, each a collaboration between NDT's new Artistic Director Paul Lightfoot and its Resident Choreographer Sol León.
The April 11 and 12 programs feature León and Lightfoot's twinned works, "Sehnsucht," created in 2009, and "Schmetterling," created in 2010, whose themes are spiritually connected.
"Sehnsucht," which defies a literal English translation, refers to longing or a sense of profound yearning. While "Sehnsucht" is suffused with a sense of nostalgia in the original sense of the word, "Schmetterling" suggests the transitional nature of existence, an unfolding of the future. Ideas of space and the transforming effects of time play a major role in both dances.
"Sehnsucht" uses a cast of 14 dancers. Parts one and three express a couple's changing relationship through time, suggested in both the choreography and the rotating room in which the dance takes place, while part two of the work pulses with romantic passion and spirit. Memory is a driving force that unites the sections of the work. Beethoven is the musical force that empowers the dancing.
"Schmetterling" is an homage to the transformative nature of being alive, symbolized by the fleeting beauty of a butterfly. It takes place in a "dark cabaret" set atop the orchestra pit designed to shorten the gap between dancers and audience to create an aura of intimacy. Using a selection of emotionally complex love songs from the indie art rock band the Magnetic Fields and music by contemporary composer Max Richter, the piece suggests change and transformation on multiple levels. The results of the passage of time are also expressed through the gradual photographic exposure of a panoramic view of Death Valley. Death is not something to fear, but rather to befriend, believe the choreographers, whose thinking was influenced in part by the great German poet Matthias Claudius.
The Joyce's Gala evening, April 10, features the American premiere of León and Lightfoot's "SH-BOOM!" With its good-humored wit dashed with irony, the work is set to an international collection of post-war songs. Created to showcase the internationalism of the company, the spirited work was originally inspired by a 45 rpm that Lightfoot's mother gave him when he left his native England for The Hague as a young dancer. The record had been hanging on his The Hague attic apartment wall for a long while before he finally put it on his record player. On the B-side was "SH-Boom." He listened, and the idea for the dance was born. The 1994 work was realized in a choreographic workshop at NDT while León and Lightfoot were still dancing. As the years progressed, León and Lightfoot added more songs, which extended its length and added to its complexity.
The curtain for the April 11 and 12 performances at the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center is at 8pm. The tickets range between $50 and $125, and can be purchased at the David H. Koch box office, by calling 212-496-0600 or online at www.davidhkochtheater.com. The curtain for the April 10 Joyce Gala is at 7pm. Tickets for the performance range from $50 to $125 and can be purchased through www.davidhkochtheater.com or by calling 212-496-0600.
Nederlands Dans Theater was founded in 1959 by 22 dancers who broke away from the Nederlands Ballet, determined to establish a contemporary company with a distinctive style of its own. They decided to base the company in The Hague, the beautiful canal-lined city and home of the Royal Family. This new troupe, directed by Benjamin Harkarvy (1959-1969) and Hans van Manen (1960-1971), recruited many experimental international and Dutch choreographers to create works for them. Influenced by the new ideas that were happening in American modern dance, the company was the first in Europe to give classes in modern dance. Choreographer Ji?í Kylián was appointed NDT's artistic director in 1975. Under his leadership and because of his extraordinary choreographic gifts, the company reached a new level of artistic excellence and developed world-renown as a first-rate international company. In all, Kylián created 75 works for the company during his tenure, which ended in 1999. While at the helm, he created two offspring companies: NDT2, comprised of dancers between 17 and 22 years old, a kind of talent incubator for NDT, and the now- disbanded NDT3, which had been comprised of older dancers. Both companies marked radical new possibilities for traditional dance troupes.