Capturing the NDT spirit

By Dionne Christian

Acclaimed performers' enthusiasm charms Dionne Christian
NDT uses multiple art forms alongside choreography, including visual art, music composition and innovative light and set designs.
NDT uses multiple art forms alongside choreography, including visual art, music composition and innovative light and set designs.

Just days from deadline and interviews with key Nederlands Dans Theater (NDT) creatives are yet to happen; there's been weeks of negotiation about interview times and locations so I'm starting to feel more anxious than usual.

But as soon as NDT resident choreographer Paul Lightfoot takes my phone call - he's in Melbourne with the company - and starts to talk (and talk and talk), there's almost instant calm and good cheer.

"You're a little bit early," he says, "but never mind! I will do the interview now and then go to yoga to cleanse my body after such a long flight. I just love yoga ... "

Lightfoot, who's been with NDT since 1985, is funny, self-deprecating and so completely dedicated that he sweeps you along on a wave of charm and enthusiasm. When I talk that evening to fellow NDT resident choreographer Sol Leon, who's remained in Holland, she, too, is warm, beguiling and devoted to her art.

NDT uses multiple art forms alongside choreography, including visual art, music composition and innovative light and set designs.
NDT uses multiple art forms alongside choreography, including visual art, music composition and innovative light and set designs.


Their sort of energy is appealing because it makes those around them believe anything may just be possible and with NDT, it almost is.

Based in The Hague, NDT is regarded as one of the world's greatest contemporary dance companies and performs for more than 115,000 annually in Europe, Asia and the United States. It uses multiple art forms alongside choreography, including visual art, music composition and innovative light and set designs.

Now it's visiting New Zealand for the first time, performing five shows and holding a masterclass for professional dancers, a workshop for students and a public pre-concert talk before its Thursday appearance.

The programme features four acclaimed works, chosen to show New Zealanders the range of what NDT does - and what range there is. The company is not only highly regarded by critics and dance fans alike, it's also prolific. Since it started in 1959, the emphasis has been on making new works so it now has a repertoire of more than 600 ballets.

"Most companies may make two - three ballets a year, we do eight or nine but that's not to say we are like a sausage factory," says Lightfoot. "It is never just about the numbers; it is about creating something which is beautiful and unique and says something about the world.

"Yes, some of the work is a commentary on the political and social events of our times -highly relevant - but it's not all like that; we are not a newspaper on stage. Sometimes it is just about capturing the spirit, a moment in time."

Leon puts it more concisely: "It's about creativity, not repertoire."

The commitment to developing new work extends to ensuring there are dancers to make it; NDT runs a youth company - aptly named NDT 2 - where its dancers, renowned for their versatility, technique and expression, begin to understand what it means to belong here.

Those dancers come from all over the world. Leon says NDT's multinational make-up - 27 dancers from all over the world varying in age from 24 to 41 - also brings a dynamism that further inspires originality and ingenuity.

NDT uses multiple art forms alongside choreography, including visual art, music composition and innovative light and set designs.
NDT uses multiple art forms alongside choreography, including visual art, music composition and innovative light and set designs.


But they must demonstrate total dedication and professionalism. Lightfoot says the pace at which NDT works, with an international touring schedule as well as performances in Holland, requires high energy levels.

"NDT can be like a vampire - taking all from you - so you have to love it totally otherwise don't do it."

Performance

What: Nederlands Dans Theater
Where & when: The Civic, Wednesday - Friday, 7.30pm and Saturday, 2.30 and 7.30pm.

- Weekend magazine

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