Gods and Dogs ★★★★★
Figures in Extinction [1.0] ★★★★★
A visit from Nederlands Dans Theater (NDT1), one of the premier contemporary dance companies in continental Europe, is normally something to look forward to. Its multinational troupe are superbly technical and versatile, and its programmes are often challenging but ultimately satisfying.
The latter is why its latest triple bill feels so disappointing. It’s made up of three very different works: La Ruta, billed as ‘directed’ by the Argentinian-born Gabriela Carrizo; Gods and Dogs, an unfinished work by NDT1’s former veteran director Jiří Kylián, and a collaboration between choreographer du jour Crystal Pite and Complicité director Simon McBurney, Figures in Extinction [1.0].
By no stretch of the imagination could you describe La Ruta (The Road) as dance. In fact, I’m hard put to find a description that goes beyond Pina Bausch on acid.
There’s a road marked by two yellow parallel lines. By its side a dilapidated bus shelter and an electrical junction box. It’s a rainy misty night. Disparate characters walk on. A woman falls on the ground and does really unpleasant dislocations to her limbs.
NDT1 La Ruta. Photo: © Ravi Rezvani
There's surely a lot more you can do with the notions of 'road' and 'nightmare.' My single star rating goes to Tom Visser’s skilful and atmospheric lighting.
After that Kylián’s Gods and Dogs, an unfinished work feels a little like balm from heaven. Kylián has a very distinctive choreographic language, one that over the years has informed and shaped NDT1’s style.
It’s an earthbound, though expansive, language, very physical, bodies appearing to stretch beyond their possibilities, with grappling lifts and an energetic flow. Gods and Dogs, danced to Beethoven music, is centred on one man, the admirable Surimu Fukushi.
Beneath, the man, his anguish never mitigated, interacts with seven other dancers, who emerge from behind a shimmering silver curtain. Unfinished it may be, but it offers a lot to enjoy.
Figures in Extinction [1.0] is intended as a cry of alarm at the increasing pace of species loss caused by human action. An episodic piece highlighting some of the now-extinct species, it relies on Pite’s tried and tested combination of dance and spoken text.
Particularly effective and imbued with heart-wrenching beauty is the opening number, where a single dancer recalls the Pyrenean ibex, his arms encased in outsized curved horns that subtly mutate into wings. Elsewhere, though, the connection is looser and less engaging.
With Tom Visser’s lighting, Jay Gower Taylor’s scenic design and Benjamin Grant’s sound design, the overall atmosphere is never less than arresting; yet, with the plentiful use of voiceover the piece comes across as preaching to the converted.
Sometimes showing, as Pite did so effectively with her Flight Pattern and McBurney with The Encounter, is a better option than literal narrative. Figures in Extinction [1.0] is topical, no doubt, but the dance element feels a little jejune beside the ponderous spoken words.
|What||Nederlands Dans Theater triple bill review|
|Where||Sadler's Wells, Rosebery Avenue, London, EC1R 4TN | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Angel (underground)|
19 Apr 23 – 22 Apr 23, 19:30 Dur.: 2 hours 10 mins approx inc two intervals
|Price||£15-£65 (+ booking fee)|
|Website||Click here to book|