NDT2 last toured the UK in 2016, and after two years in which the pandemic has scuppered so many plans, the company’s triumphant return to Sadler’s Wells this week felt like the greatest gift we could wish for. Under the umbrella of Dance Consortium and the artistic direction of Emily Molnar (since 2020/21), they are arguably some of the best young dancers in the world and whilst youth may be in their favour – they are remarkably mature artists, displaying a range of richly diverse skills.
Marco Goecke’s choreography is widely familiar across Europe but still relatively unknown in the UK. I hope The Big Crying, to the songs of Tori Amos, will redress this situation. His creative voice is so distinctive, so completely his own that whilst having previously seen his work in America and Europe allowed me to partially predict the vocabulary – this made it no less memorable. I would imagine that the dancers love working with him – so intense does the experience seem. Goecke began choreographing the piece late in 2020 shortly after the death of his father. There is grief within it but also anger, frustration and raw emotion, strangely devoid of sentimentality. The dancers move at extreme speed with his signature fast hand and arm movements. They appear transformed into superhuman creatures, moving like soldier ants or worker bees, at high velocity. It’s as if someone’s pressed fast forward. Sometimes the stage appears filled with near-hysteria as crying progresses to screaming. How they managed to maintain the energy levels and frenetic execution for 33 minutes is an astonishing feat of stamina and concentration. Whilst each company member is highly individual, when they come together, they move miraculously in unison. It makes for compelling viewing. At the close of the piece, it is almost with relief that the extraordinary dancer, Emmitt Cawley, delivers a final solo, more melancholic, slower paced but no less impactful.
Hans van Manen’s Simple Things (from 2001) made a wonderful contrast. More balletic, to Alan Bern’s Scarlatti Fever and Haydn’s piano trio Nr 28 in E-major, this was pure pleasure to witness. Cawley, Auguste Palayer, Cassandra Martin and Kenedy Kallas (who possesses such beautiful feet that it has to be reported) give superlative performances. Each makes the delivery of classical steps which change direction or impetus, look effortless. Palayer spins on a straight axis then suddenly spots to the ceiling without so much as a hint of lost balance. An absolute joy from start to finish.
Johan Inger’s Impasse concludes the evening with music by Ibrahim Maalouf. Premiered last year in Den Haag and a good foil for the other two parts of this triple bill, it eagerly displays the strength of the personalities within the group. Loosely based on peer pressure and the inevitable perceived need to fit in, the three main protagonists, Annika Verplancke, Austin Meiteen and Cawley once again, begin as innocents and are swept along with the ensuing trends. There’s some Latin thrown in as well as a very lively party with exaggerated and outrageous costumes and characters. As the number of performers grows, so the performance space diminishes. It’s wittily, quirkily danced yet gives pause for thought. The serious message being: can we develop as individuals if we are consistently bombarded by the media to follow trends? In this case, the three main characters narrowly escape becoming just another number.
With three such diverse works, it is easy to see why NDT2 continue to impress UK and worldwide audiences. Each of the dancers has so much to offer the art form – they are simply awe-inspiring and unmissable.