Nederlands Dans Theater
This month sees the return of the Dutch contemporary dance company, Nederlands Dans Theater, to Melbourne. It has been fifteen years since their last visit and their performances at the Arts Centre State Theatre this month are highly anticipated. The legendary group was founded in 1959 by dancers who broke free from the Nederlands Ballet. They wanted to show their passion for dance and to create a unique style which broke away from the traditional focus of the Nederlands Ballet.
Now in their 52nd season, the company is performing three works at the Arts Centre. Double You is an intimate solo which offers a window into a man's soul as he grapples with life's experiences. It was created by Jirí Kylián, the former artistic director and choreographer who, more than any others, has been associated with the worldwide success of Nederlands Dans Theater.
In The Second Person, Canadian choreographer Crystal Pite creates a powerful atmosphere which draws the audience into a different world. Featuring 24 dancers on stage, they represent the exchange between the collective and the individual, searching for their own identities.
And finally, the current resident choreographers, Paul Lightfoot and Sol León, explore the beauty of expression without words in Silent Screen. Inspired by the art of silent movies, this highly acclaimed performance features large screens projecting rich and fluid scenery for dancers to move through and beyond.
The breadth of the works that Nederlands Dans Theater is performing truly shows their place as a world leader in dance companies, representing their history as well as their current choreographers. Rob Gebert, the acting Director of Programming for the Arts Centre reveals that the show has been a long time in planning.
"We've been working on this for nearly two years since we first started talking to the company about their touring plans. That involved aligning the availability of the state theatre with what their performance schedule was. So it has been a long time in the making and we're very excited to see it coming to fruition."
The Arts Centre were particularly keen to see one of Jiří Kilián works included and they worked with Nederlands Dans Theater to decide on what pieces would be performed: "That's one of the things we desired because it has been such a long time since the company performed in Melbourne."
"Jiří is really the great choreographer of the company," explains Gebert. "He was the artistic director and main choreographer for close to thirty years and he's one of the greatest choreographers in the world. We thought it was important that one of his works that the company still has in their repertoire form part of this program."
The qualities that make a great choreographer have lead Nederlands Dans Theater to a great accessibility; emotional connection with the audience and between the dancers. "I think that a distinctive dance and visual language that connects with audiences is one of those elements that make a great choreographer," agrees Gebert.
"I think the other element that you also see with Australian choreographers which is great, like Graham Murphy, is a connection between the individual dancers and that choreographer that allows them to create very special work."
For Nederlands Dans Theater in particular these elements blend together. "I think it's that synthesis of great choreography, a great group of dancers, and the emotional power of the works. In the selection of the program we've been trying to select works that will appeal to audiences."
"As an example, the final piece, Silent Screen, which is by the company's current resident choreographers, Paul Lightfoot and Sol León, incorporates a great deal of multimedia and projection, working through the dancers in the work. So I think that's work that will appeal to a younger audience who have grown up in the world of video clips and multimedia. So they're going to relate to this sort of a piece."
Which is something we're used to with the great popularity of groups like Chunky Move in Melbourne: "Yes, there is a great contemporary dance scene in Melbourne with groups like Chunky Move and the Arts Centre thinks that it's really important that we add to that mix here by bringing absolutely outstanding international companies to Melbourne that help extend the horizons of our audiences and the experiences that they achieve when they come to the theatre."
Nederlands Dans Theater is proof that dance has spread worldwide: "They have had a history of working with dancers across the world. I think there is something like twenty nationalities represented in the current company. Australian dancers like Graham Murphy, Gideon Obarzanek and Kirsty Martin have all danced with Nederlands Dans Theatre in the past. So, in one sense it has been a bit of an international company in that it has been seeking out really terrific dancers."
"We are always wanting to attract new audiences to the Arts Centre, to experience new things and we're seeing a more varied range of dance companies coming through the Arts Centre."
It's a wonderful time to experience dance in Melbourne and to witness one of the legendary companies of our time.
The Nederlands Dans Theater will inspire and thrill audiences at The State Theatre from Wednesday July 13 until Sunday July 17. For more information, visit theartscentre.com.au