Fears and fragilities in a Nederlands Dans Theater 1 triple bill

City Center, New York
March 7, 2020

Veronica Posth

This was a wonderful evening at New York City Center as Nederlands Dans Theater returned in their 60th anniversary year with an absorbing program of The missing door by Gabriela Carrizo, Walk the Demon by Marco Goecke and Shut Eye by Sol León and Paul Lightfoot.

In the physical theatre piece The missing door by Carrizo we visit a room and the peculiar characters who inhabit it. A man and a woman seem to be a lost couple. It’s both a physical and mental space as we seem to be almost able to grasp and read their thoughts and emotions. The couple are absorbed by their thoughts: physically connected yet disconnected. The butler, who opens the piece, is an engrossing stage presence but when the main pair start to dance, their duet is even more magnetic.

Objects on the set (also by Carrizo as are the costumes) become integral to the action: a table, a standing light and a few spotlights attached to the walls, an armchair and doors that seem to have a life of their own, ghostly opening and closing through the whole performance.

Nederlands Dans Theater 1 in The missing door by Gabriela CarrizoPhoto Rahi Rezvani
Nederlands Dans Theater 1 in The missing door
by Gabriela Carrizo
Photo Rahi Rezvani

The missing door is a sort of a thriller, an engaging story that runs around a couple, an assassin, a waitress, a butler and two other figures, a woman and a man, probably ghosts or alter egos of the discontent couple. The human condition is at the centre of the work, which takes the viewer on an introspective voyage. It’s a superlative piece, exceptionally executed.

Walk the Demon by Goecke is based on the conception of dance as art making a voice audible behind the movements and to reinforce the internal voice of the piece through further voices. He again turns to Anthony and the Johnsons for the part of the soundtrack. As he explains in the programme, it is dramatic and big, but equally contemplative and intimate. “In their voice lies a torment that points inwards. For me, the dance says absolutely nothing if it doesn’t constantly refer to the inside.”

Nederlands Dans Theater in Walk the Demon by Marco GoeckePhoto Rahi Rezvani
Nederlands Dans Theater in Walk the Demon by Marco Goecke
Photo Rahi Rezvani

In addition to that, repeated screeching, roaring and cursing make the dancers appear less abstract and more human. Sometimes whispered words repeat themselves. “All life and love is a thank you, hello and goodbye”, which neatly sums up life for Goecke what life entails.

A sense of struggle and resistance shines through the athletic bodies that move superbly alongside the other musical voices of orchestral works by Czech composer Pavel Haas and Finn Pehr Hendrik Nordgren. Movingly and strongly, the dancers issue the spectators with the strength of their internal demons, both the owners and victims of their insights.

Fears and fragilities constantly contrast as they are determined to face their own insidious obsessions. As if in a process of a catharsis, bodies and voices scream and explode as if their very souls have taken possession of and control over them, determining the dramatic movements.

Shut Eye by house choreographers Sol León and Paul Lightfoot is a poetic description of transiency. A door divides two dimensions that appear as the tangible and intangible worlds.

Full of fantasy, the piece carries symbolic meanings behind the dynamic use of black and white, light and shadow. Dark but dreamy, it enchants with classical nuances merged into a contemporary composition. The dancers once again are outstanding in a piece that seems to be a celebration of the mystery of the two realms we are all forced to experience. It was captivating with an almost surreal beauty; a perfect vehicle for the sublime NDT dancers.

Again, NDT stretch the limits of what contemporary dance can be. We all look forward to see what is next on their agenda.