Thursday, October 24, 2013

Nederlands Dans Theater in Berkeley

DSCN6989 _ Before Sehnsucht & Schmetterling,Zellerbach Hall, Berkeley

Nederlands Dans Theater's world-renown choreographers Paul Lightfoot and Sol León brought two collaborative pieces to Berkeley's Zellerbach Hall last night and tonight, sponsored by Cal Performances of University of California, Berkeley.  The two pieces together formed an evening-long program - Sehnsucht [Longing] (music: Beethoven) and Schmetterling [Butterfly] (music: Stephin Merritt).

On Cal Performances' website, they state that "The highly influential and stylistically innovative Nederlands Dans Theater (NDT) has boasted some of the most daring choreography, conceptually compelling drama, and technically dazzling movement in modern dance history. NDT's 2011 groundbreaking Berkeley visit featured unforgettable work by the company's resident choreographer team of Paul Lightfoot and Sol León. Now, the company returns with more of Lightfoot and León's signature magic with two West Coast premieres. Sehnsucht takes place in a surreal revolving cube, set to the music of Beethoven. Clever and hilarious, Schmetterling finds dancers revealing their personalities against a score by the Magnetic Fields. "They are the world's most magnificent dancers, a retina-shredding spectacle of passion and power" (Sunday Herald, Glasgow)."

The first piece was energetic, probing and somewhat disturbing while the second was witty, more softer-edged and perhaps slightly campy and sentimental but was prevented from veering into silliness or sentimentality by its reoccurring pathos and sadness.  The stage craft in Sehnsucht was riveting and the interplay of circular and cubical visual elements was as eloquent as those dancers' elastic and powerful bodies.  Beethoven's piano concertos and symphony served the dance well, though the music through loudspeaker was simply too loud and constantly competed with dancers for audience's attention.  The soft and magnetically sung chansons in the second piece were more caressing though in the end the whole piece felt a bit repetitive and less penetrating. 

I do wonder if reversing the performance order of these two pieces might have made the evening more satisfying.  Personally I prefer to have a witty piece first then a shattering moment as the last chords though it might be too much for others.

Sehnsucht trailer

The performances were outstanding and all the dancers demonstrated their amazing flexibility and stamina, particularly the three principals from the first pieces, and Silas Henriksen was given more opportunity to shine more than others and he truly justified such trust.  Perhaps, the piece was simply inspired by him as I could not imagine anyone else in his shoes.   

He remained on stage in fixed postures for a long time during intermission before two other principals returned in turn took over the stage to carry out the mime shows.  Henriksen also returned after the intermission and once again made strong impression in the second piece.  His graceful, noble, serene and tortured performance was of the highest order and anchored and defined the evening.

DSCN6997 _ Sehnsucht & Schmetterling, Intermission, Silas Henriksen , Zellerbach Hall, Berkeley

DSCN6998 _ Sehnsucht & Schmetterling, Intermission, Silas Henriksen , Zellerbach Hall, Berkeley

DSCN7001 _ Sehnsucht & Schmetterling, Intermission, Silas Henriksen , Zellerbach Hall, Berkeley

Dancer Silas Henriksen at intermission

It was also wonderful to see the pliant and elegant dancer Garen Scribner, former soloist at San Francisco Ballet before he joined Nederlands Dans Theater this year, after his metamorphosis.

The evening also invoked my memory of a wonderful night at Vienna's Volksoper, when I attended the Wiener Staatsballett (Vienna Ballet)'s performances of Claude Debussy's Nachmittag eines Fauns, Maurice Ravel's Bolero and Carl Orff's Carmina Burana, in September 2012.  The styles of music and dance steps were quiet different yet in a certain way they were also quite similar.  Perhaps both nights aptly captured the zeitgeist.

DSCN7006 _ Sehnsucht & Schmetterling,Curtain, Zellerbach Hall, Berkeley

DSCN7014 _ Sehnsucht & Schmetterling,Dancers and Paul Lightfoot & Sol León, Zellerbach Hall, Berkeley

DSCN7013 _ Sehnsucht & Schmetterling, Curtain, Zellerbach Hall, Berkeley

Dancers and choreographers at curtain call

Tonight is the last night of Nederlands Dans Theater's performance in Berkeley.  I truly recommend this performance, particularly intensely engaging Sehnsucht for its elegance, eloquence, stark beauty and its innovative stagecraft. 

DSCN6993 _ Before Sehnsucht & Schmetterling,Zellerbach Hall, Berkeley

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