The splendid dancers of Nederlands Dans Theater's company NDT1 received a standing ovation on the opening night of their Auckland season, an acknowledgement of their stellar performance. Their New Zealand debut, this almost three hour show presents four extraordinarily complex contemporary ballets created in the past 15 years, providing much to think about.
Audience favourites seemed to be two brand new short works which premiered in March this year at The Hague, distinctly post-classical and strongly contrasting.
Crystal Pite's richly scripted looping drama The Statement (19 minutes) is a Machiavellian tale of two pairs of functionaries who seek to transfer accountability for some disastrous recent event. A pre-recorded script by Jonathan Young is intermixed with a rumbling soundscape by Owen Belton and paralleled by the dancers moving fluidly around, under, over and across a large boardroom table beneath a suspended zone of silence. Their intricate and wily manoeuvres provide exhilarating viewing.
Marco Goecke's Woke up Blind (15 minutes) for seven dancers vividly imagines the bodily effects of intense longing for another person. Strongly influenced by the distinctive vocal style of Jeff Buckley whose recordings of You and I and The Way Young Lovers Do provide the setting for the dance. Flurries of densely detailed complex movement are intensely delivered by the dancers, embodying both the passion of Buckley's voice and the extraordinary guitar riffs which accompany it. It's as if their blood is itching in their veins.
Longer works by company choreographers Sol León and Paul Lightfoot open and close the programme. Safe as Houses (2001; 30 minutes) is an absorbingly abstract yet disturbingly rococo series of solos, duets and trios set to samples from six Bach scores. It features a moving wall which constantly reconfigures the space into variously sized rooms, giving a sense of time passing and the world changing around us.
Stop-Motion (2014; 36 minutes), set to a suite of melancholic music by Max Richter, has a large hanging screen in the foreground, with slowly changing images of a pensive and, at times, tearful young woman dressed in formal black clothing. Her face haunts proceedings, and an extended duet which is danced right under the screen feels as if it must be connected to her life.
What: Nederlands Dans Theater
Where & when: The Civic, until Saturday; shows at 7.30pm with a 2.30pm Saturday matinee