This quadruple bill proves to be a storm of dance, taking over the Esplanade main theatre with a diverse spectrum of performances, exploring abstract movement, using ballet technique as a jumping point for romanticism and text with a heavy characterisation in the absorbing and witty The Statement from Crystal Pite.
Shoot the Moon is jam-packed with nostalgia and romanticism: critical components in this piece of extraordinarily detailed movement and poetic dancing. Everyone can relate to a person seating on a window ledge, we have seen it in films, and more importantly, for me, it reminds me of several books I read throughout my life, this opening scene lets me dive deep in my memories.
Philip Glass’ music embeds this choreography in a place where NDT1 dancers seem able to challenge gravity by slowing time as they move from the floor up with distinct linear dance material in rotating rooms covered in grey and black wall-paper. Sometimes they also push the set clockwise introducing the next room and consequently the next chapter. In it, they hold hand-stands, sometimes they merely stand still. This twenty-three minutes piece unfolds pretty quickly, and what strikes me the most is the live feed of two cameras projecting the behind the scenes – bringing a focused objective to the emotional states of love and lust display in the dancers’ face. Choreographers Sol León and Paul Lightfoot let the audience into their work to witness dance up-close, its sentiment is a beautiful and generous gesture into their personal world of dance.
Woke up Blind by Marco Goecke follows, with a tribute to the late Jeff Buckley. Highly complex movement material sometimes juxtaposed with the hypnotic guitar sounds of Buckley, other times the dancing follows the frenetic and fast rhythms of You and I and The Way Young Lovers Do. Seven dancers take the stage beautifully for this piece which alternates between solo and ensemble work with the odd duet. Again, in this quadruple bill, I am drawn to my memories, this time listening to Buckley in my bedroom in Camden Town – London. What is of particular interest in this piece is how Goecke allows space for the music to exist in its own right. The dance is never there to support the music but to complement its score with erratic solos and powerful ensemble moments where the company marches upstage in slow motion – throwing up the arms in the air.
In the first two minutes of The Statement by award-winning choreographer Crystal Pite, the audience lets out a loud and collective laugh. The atmosphere has changed again in this evening of incredible dancing and excellent craft. The set is a typical conference table, in office attire dancers move around, on top and underneath this table to mimic meticulously and to the second the sound of the play The Statement from Jonathon Young. ‘Are we on the record here?’, a voice-over announces with audible panic. This inquiry leaves everyone moving with a hint of stress in a staccato-like movement. Other times, the dancers slide off the table with a plasticine quality that borderlines a comical acrobat in a new circus performance. But Pite is as much invested in the theatre and dramaturgical aspects of the piece as she is committed to creating original dance material never seen before. ‘For the record, you are free to go’, another voice announces. This follows a confrontation full of uncertainties as to where the responsibility lies in this meeting. What I find crucial in The Statement are simplicity and timing. A challenging conversation where everyone is looking to shift guilt to someone else, set with an everyday movement that has been crafted to a higher speed which makes it at the end look incredible and out of reach to the regular human being. Every word is spoken precisely at the same time as the dancers articulate their intelligent bodies in multiple sequences of movement throughout this epic nineteen-minute piece. Judging by the long curtain call, The Statment is a favourite and a special piece of dance I wish I could see again.
Closing the evening, León and Lightfoot present a poetic and mesmerising piece of dance in Stop-Motion.
Bringing together video-projection and live dance, this contemporary ballet is incredibly sentimental and plays to my emotions in a soundscape of Max Richter’s epic sounds. Down-stage right there is a projection of the choreographers’ daughter, beneath it the dance takes places as seven dancers take turns in representing the emotions of sorrow, loss, and transformation with their incredible bodies.
Underneath the projection, a dancer stops in the fourth position with the arms still pulling upwards suspending this ongoing investigation on transformation, perhaps aging, perhaps a discovery of the self. The piece continues with sentiments of struggle and destruction in a solo where white powder is in thrown out in the air reminiscing rubble after a storm – landing on the dancer’s sweaty body, imprinting a new real-time mark of struggle. The composition in Stop-Motion is well thought through and provoking as the side and back curtains go up and we are left staring at the immensity of a bare theatre.
NDT1 dancers are quite remarkable, even phenomenal because at times we can just look at the incredibly complex movement they articulate, making choreography take a step-back so one can engage directly with pure dance.
NDT1 is a testament to the overwhelming importance of a repertoire contemporary dance company in 2018. A company that houses excellent dancers; paired with extraordinary choreographers that make the audience imagine further and cherish the gift of movement in dance.