Livestream from Zuiderstrandtheater, The Hague
March 18, 2021
During the interval of NDT2’s Souls made apparent livestreamed double bill, one of the dancers relates advice given by Jiří Kylián during a rehearsal of his 27’52”. “If you don’t take the risk, it will always be catastrophic. If you do take the risk, it could be catastrophic, but you could create something special.” The superb young cast obviously took it to heart. They did dance on the edge, producing remarkable performances in both Kylian’s work and Marco Goecke’s new The Big Crying, two pieces that emphasise humankind’s resilience despite the uncertainty and transient nature of life.
Kylián’s choreography plays with the space, making much use of horizontal lines. Right at the beginning, when Mikaela Kelly takes up position, a white cloth descends. Although held back by her arms, it cuts our view of her. Outstretched limbs constantly seem to be horizontal to the floor stretching to left and right. And there’s more, the dancer’s exploring and altering the space by lifting up strips of dance floor, even dragging them to the sides.
In this shifting space, three couples dance deeply expressive, fragile, often troubling duets that represent three relationships; or perhaps, three perspectives on the same relationship. Dirk Haubrich’s percussive, metallic soundtrack (based on Mahler’s troubling Tenth Symphony) adds to the aura of discomfort.
Immediately, the clarity of the movement and strong partnering seers itself into the mind. Kees Tjebbes’ shadowy lighting somehow seems to make the dancers’ lines extend way out into the surrounding darkness. Amidst this, Kelly’s striking red top provides a dramatic splash of colour as she and Charlie Skuy show us a tense, unhappy relationship. There’s a sense of her being trapped and trying to escape.
The second pairing, Jordan Pelliteri (in blue) and Jesse Callaert has a more overt sense of a fight as they kick and push at each other matching the percussion in the score. Sharpest and fastest partnering comes in the third with Kalyn Berg and Emmitt Cawley.
When Kelly and Skuy return, both are bare-chested (the lighting tastefully disguising the fact), her discarded top lying on the floor upstage. Looking the same, male-female differences are blurred to the point of almost being invisible. Blurred also in that she dances very much as an equal partner in the animated choreography that shows her now with more than a hint of self-confidence. Elsewhere, she moves gracefully, sometimes seeming to hang in the air. Eventually, they both seek sanctuary beneath the floor before three strips of lino crash dramatically (and horizontally, what else?) from the flies. Resolution? Peace? We never find out, but it was quite spellbinding.
I wouldn’t have had Marco Goecke down as a choreographer who could bring me close to tears, but he most certainly did just that with The Big Crying. Made soon after his father’s recent passing, it has been described as his most personal creation to date; one that touches on the inevitability of parting but also has moments that celebrate life. Having also lost a parent last year, I found the final moments especially deeply moving as the work touched a nerve and rekindled thoughts and memories.
It opens with a large torch burning in the upstage darkness from which dancers always emerge and retreat. One man stands alone, the other dancers, one at a time, run and jump into his arms.
What follows feels like a series of memories, wishes, things done, things not done. Indeed, the lyrics of ‘Blood Roses’, one of several Tori Amos songs used, includes the line, “Can’t forget the things you never said.”
The choreography is intense, has a dark beauty and is very appealing. Bursts of energy feel like bursts of thought. Between them are moments of stillness and reflection. Runs are with quick short steps, arms held tightly to the body. Goecke’s trademark staccato, accentuated movement suits perfectly the way dancers so often seem to be in conversation with each other.
Moments around the loss of a loved one are clearly shown. Dancers grimace, scream silently, use hands to show flowing tears, raise their arms heavenwards as if asking ‘Why?’. I am less sure about the need for vocalisation and mass screeching, however, even if it does add another layer.
The precision is superb throughout. The power, energy and togetherness of the ensemble of nineteen in unison is especially a sight to behold. Yet it never feels remotely robotic, so often also coming with a deep vulnerability.
The Big Crying concludes with a primal, hauntingly beautiful solo by Jesse Callaert. The rawness of his pain is there for all to see as his grief pours out to Amos’ slow and deeply felt version of REM’s ‘Losing My Religion’. It left me watery-eyed and quite stunned for several minutes.
It may not be the easiest subject matter but Souls made apparent is a quite outstanding double bill. The choreography is challenging, very challenging, but the young dancers of NDT2 carry if off brilliantly. What a shame we can’t see it live (for now, at least), when I suspect it would hit even harder.