Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Holland Dance Festival

Professor of Dance Sally Radell had the opportunity to attend the Holland Dance Festival, which took place October 28-November 15 in The Hague, Netherlands. She shares some of her thoughts below.

I just returned from ten days in Holland where I attended several events at the Holland Dance Festival. This festival is the largest biennial dance festival in the Netherlands and included over 60 performances, one hundred workshops, and a dance parade with over 1200 dancers. The focus of this festival was a 50-year celebration of the Netherlands Dance Theater.

Of the several events I attended, by far the most powerful was the opening performance of the Netherlands Dance Theater performance on October 29. It was held in the Lucent Dance Theater, a stunning larger theater that was built and equipped for large dance events. As I approached the theater, I knew I was in for something special, as I viewed several dancers attached with ropes to the top of the building performing outside. They were dramatically illuminated and some were perched on stilt type walking devices that distorted their movement in a very compelling way. Their movements were somewhat agitated, yet smooth, slow and focused. It was mesmerizing.

The program consisted of three new premieres by Jiri Kylian, the English/Spanish duo of Paul Lightfoot and Sol Leon, and Swedish born Johan Inger. All three works had interactive sets and some degree of audiovisual effects which were seamlessly woven into the works. The dancers in all the pieces were of course superb technicians and all the choreography was some of the strongest I have seen. (Note: The Netherlands Dance Theater website currently has a video clip of Jyri Kylian's piece playing on the home page.)

Jiri Kylian has been a major artistic force in the Netherlands Dance Theater for years. His work “Memoires D’Oubliettes” was set to an original score by Dirk Haubrich, used impressionistic black and white film projections, and involved a forest- like elastic banded border around the stage. The dancers hurled, slithered and catapulted themselves in and out of this fabric with focused and sinuous energy. What was most striking about this work was the intuitive, kinetic logic that evolved seamlessly in the choreography as the piece transitioned into new sections that flowed with grace and ease. It was easy to get totally involved with this work; in fact, the choreographic intelligence totally drew me in.

The second piece by Lightfoot/Leo, “Studio 2,” was set to a score by Arvo Part. It involved a ramp where dancers seemed to rise while appearing like they were floating and a large mirror that was raised, lowered, and tilted with different relationships to the floor as the dancers moved around it. There were some particularly striking moments where the reflections in the mirror created apparitions of multiple dancers moving at odd angles. It was an in-depth look at the use of the mirror and levels of movement in dance class, but of course it took it all so much farther in abstraction than one could logically imagine.

The last work, “Dissolve in This,” by Inger involved circular lights on the stage that moved throughout the performance and a floor entirely covered in layers of torn up rubber that looked like grey snow. The bounciness and erratic qualities of the floor covering were reflected in the random and quick qualities of the movement gestures as the dancers darted around the stage with full abandon. The piece gradually accumulated throughout with larger and larger groups of dancers performing bigger phrases that covered an increasingly larger amount of space. The choreographically evolved masterfully and captured my total attention and fascination throughout the entirety of the forty minute work.

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