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Choreographers hop from one company to another these days. This is symptomatic of anaemia, but also leads to brilliant performances.

It is a bit strange to see dance companies ‘pinch’ each other’s choreographers in such a small dance country like the Netherlands. Marco Goecke has now created his second choreography for Nederlands Dans Theater (NDT) in connection with the Holland Dance Festival programme, while he is/was affiliated with Scapino Ballet Rotterdam. This ‘company hopping’ is a worldwide phenomenon: there are scarcely any choreographers left who stick with one specific company for a prolonged period. Freelancing is sexy.

The boundaries between companies are consequently fading and what is worse: it is symptomatic of anaemia within the dance world. This is particularly striking at this point in time when companies such as Scapino and NDT should be safeguarding their own signature and image.

On the other hand: A dance piece by Goecke, which is performed razor-sharply and effectively by NDT, is worlds apart from Scapino thanks to the mature approach of the great NDT dancers. The piece by Goecke, the nightbird of the ballet that unites the melancholic Werther and sardonic Faust into one, comes across much better in this performance.

Under an inclement sky, Goecke paints in Garbo Laughs his morose world in limbo, with windmill swirling dancers propelled on invisible strings by an insane puppet doctor. Goecke’s general allusions to pantomime, slapstick and show musicals are less prominent – that gimmick has passed, with this piece focussing more on ‘dance’. There is more breath in Goecke’s idiom and hence more imagination: the melancholy lurking behind all that nervous flapping and eternal itching – human mortality – comes across.

More melancholy, but then on the surface features in the piece of Crystal Pite (who is ‘hopping’ from NDT to Canada National Arts Center and the Kidd Pivot company in Frankfurt that she founded). A befitting ballet in the snow, charged with the melancholy that goes with winter. It is about meeting and saying goodbye and how losses resonate in one’s self. In terms of choreographic construction, Solo Echo is the best we have seen from her at NDT, with supple movement sculptures of solitary dancers that initiate movement that the ensemble then follows. As echoes of themselves.

But it is still once again Jiří Kylián that unravels the emotion in the solo Double You (1994). He lets dancer Mehdhi Walkerski go through all the stages of the motives for being an artist: a hypnotising journey along a path punctuated with inner bumps, with in the background two gigantic Foucault pendulums that illustrate his futility and underscore his unicity within this big and incomprehensible universe. Downright magical.
Sander Hiskemuller, Trouw, 13.2.2012

Holland Dance Festival – Traces by Nederlands Dans Theater 1. With choreographies by Marco Goecke (Garbo Laughs), Jiří Kylián (Double You) and Crystal Pite (Solo Echo).

It remains unclear why a Dutch company such as Nederlands Dans Theater, and soon also Conny Janssen Danst, is being presented at the leading international dance biennial the Holland Dance Festival, especially when a special choreography commission has not been given.

But this does not detract from the fact that Traces by NDT is an exceptionally attractive programme. It is also a characteristic example of 1 + 1 = 3; in particular the two world premieres by Marco Goecke and Chrystal Pite work to one another’s advantage thanks to their enormous contrast. Goecke, a popular guest at Scapino Ballet and NDT, is a brilliant creator of images. In Garbo Laughs he places his trademark super-fast, almost propellerised hand, underarm and shoulder rotations against a wall of dark overcast skies. It is as if the bodies are broken up into countless particles that form a kind of jagged silent movie.

Even though you see it happening, the transitions from an arm gone berserk to a repetitively kicking lower leg or a nodding head are still nearly too fast to be caught by the naked eye. It dehumanises the dancers. Wearing their black trousers, with the men bare-chested and the women in tops, they appear to be mechanical puppets in their choreographer’s game of chess.

While Goecke’s language also evokes annoyance – Can’t he express himself any other way? – the dance is nonetheless once again able to create different dimensions and is consequently fascinating. A key aspect of this is the excellent match between the music and the sound, which give the wordless dance an extra voice (hence Greta Garbo who performed in both silent films and sound films).

To the strumming strains of György Ligeti with sounds that brush the atonal, the movements seem above all compulsive and neurotic. In contrast, Ray Charles’ easy voice creates the sensation that we are witnessing slapstick, watching the clumsy and vulnerable human. Through the fluttering of paper wings or the dog-like panting we are carried back to Goecke’s beloved world of nature and mythology.

Goecke’s fragmented, sharp, control freak world stands in contrast to the organic, soft, let-it-be world of Crystal Pite, associate choreographer at NDT. Her piece, Solo Echo, is a playful, energetic flow of running, gliding, pulling and whirling to two sonatas for cello and piano by Johannes Brahms. The set is a steady snowfall of swirling paper snippets.

The solos from the beginning slowly grow until all the dancers form a fantastic organic heap, a moving sculpture that indeed reverberates the echoes of all these individuals.
Mirjam van der Linden, Volkskrant, 11.2.2012

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