Friday, 9 March 2012

Bodies Electric: NDT2 at Sadler's Wells

Great expectations are a curse. 

I seem to somehow unthinkingly operate under the assumption that everything will be fantastic; that everyone is a genius; that this is going to be amazing. It hardly needs said that this isn't a unique quality - I'm sure everyone has their own peculiar set of assumptions - so I don't understand how it always feels like news to me when these assumptions are regularly shattered. Yet, instead of learning from shattered assumptions, I always manage to twist round like a falling cat to land back on my own status quo of high expectations. I'm pretty sure a GP would diagnose psychosis. 
Apart from the mental gymnastics of the roller-coaster of high hopes and disappointment, I suspect I find an enormous amount of pleasure in the surprise of something actually being incredible. It doesn't matter if my default state is to assume incredibleness; if the thing turns out to actually be incredible, the delight of the incredible translates into a wonderful surprise, usually accompanied by a deliciously physical response.

I went to see one of my most favourite dance companies last night at Sadler's Wells, the junior company of the Nederlands Dans Theatre. They're the kind of company that validates having high expectations. I know they are going to be amazing, and so they are. The only problem is that I simply don't have the vocabulary to describe what it is that they do. How to describe something beyond description? I'm definitely at risk of being hyperbolic, but I don't care. I see so much opera, theatre, ballet, art, stuff, stuff, stuff and it's probably only once a year that I see something or experience something that makes me feel electric. There's something about watching these dancers that makes you realise what it means to have a body, what it means to move. Not to move gracefully or in ways that push the body to its limits of endurance or flexibility, but to know what movement is to the body and to know how - in an almost primal way - to move in space. When you watch them move, it often happens that it stops looking like dancing and looks only like bodies releasing in space. It looks like making the body free.

It's also nice to see NDT move on a bit beyond Jiri Kylián, whose Gods and Dogs piece came out, surprisingly, as the weak link in a perfectly pitched programme. Young Swedish choreographer Alexander Ekman's Cacti piece was hilarious, poking fun at contemporary choreography's tendency to ooze significance and meaning through oblique staging and bizarre movements - in parts, it reminded me of the brilliant Bongo Bongo Nageela-section of William Forsythe's Impressing the Czar. Ekman's genius is that he's been able to do what do many artists try and fail to accomplish: a synthesis of all that's come before into something new and fresh yet still intelligible, no matter how strange. It's not often that you see a string quartet and cacti share the stage with 16 dancers, let alone that it works so wonderfully well.

Also, how amazing does Philip Glass' String Quartet No. 5 sound in this piece?



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