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Nederlands Dans Theater 2 (Tour - Salford)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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The latest production by the Nederlands Dans Theatre 2 company comprises two new pieces and an old favourite; all of  which, demonstrate the imagination and vitality of the company.

Offspring, inspired by the birth of choreographer Lukáš Timulak's child, features a number of surprises. Opening in silence with a couple who maintain eye contact throughout their dance until growing piano and violin music pushes them to greater urgency.

Although the company are dressed in uniform white against a black background there is a distinction between the sexes. Alone, a woman contemplates the imposition upon her body as her limbs seem to take-on a life of their own. In the background a dancer's twisted movements becomes a child taking form.The men seem to have a better time with a tumbling dance yet, if its stop-start motion does suggest confusion at times, there is no hesitancy. The piece ends, appropriately, with both sexes moving in harmony.

Writers from Churchill to Nick Drake have used a black dog as a symbol of depression. Gods and Dogs, the 100th dance by choreographer Jiří Kylián, gives us an exploration of mental illness. It is a disquieting piece as a figure stands immobile whilst the dance by the other company members represent his disturbed inner feelings. A startling moment gives us a previously-hidden dancer stepping from behind the motionless figure. The dancing is almost aggressive as the company grasp each other by the  neck and head  and their facial expressions register the mental pain they are experiencing.

The music - string quartets by Beethoven and Bartok - add to the apprehensive atmosphere. The violins come close to sounding like fingernails running down a blackboard while an ominous base booms like a tell-tale heartbeat.

NDT 2 is a very young company, in terms of dancers -none of the members are older than 23. This is shown in the final piece Minus 16, choreographed by Ohad Naharin. As if unable to contain themselves the company start the dance while the lights are up and the audience taking their seats. A single dancer is joined by the rest of the company in a dance which, after a blast of music, moves at lightning speed and shows no sign of stopping until the curtain falls.

This piece includes the company performing a Mexican wave that comes close to a political rally and dancing to illustrate an autobiographical voice-over. The whole dance is tremendous fun - for some audience members more than others. The music ranges from "'Hava Nagila" to "Sway." For the latter, a dozen or so of the audience are invited onstage to join the company in a dance. I was one of them and as I ended up flat on my back, I can confirm that it is not as effortless as the company make it look.

The evening concludes with a breath-taking display of speed and co-ordination which, as well as being very exciting, confirms the wonderful reputation of the NTD 2 is richly deserved.

-Dave Cunningham


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