by Merijn Schipper | 18 January 2012
Instrumental by Noord Nederlandse Dans consists of three convincing world premières. If you wish to see it, you will have to hurry as the tour has nearly reached its final date.
Instrumental, which premièred back on 21 October 2011, is like a sandwich and regarding this – an appetizing performance. The sandwich’s bread is made up of works by the company’s regular choreographer Stephen Shropshire, and the filling, by Israeli choreographer Emanuel Gat.
Building towards a duet
The program has been well constructed. It begins with great energy. In 'Now lay me down', against the background of abstract music by David Lang and with his dancers and cellist, Shropshire presents an energetic dance which takes place mostly at ground level. Above the dancers hangs a huge screen showing an alternating projection of moving clouds and/or volcanic ash clouds.
Closely after follows a female duet called ‘Time Touching Themes’ - clearly recognizable as work by Gat. Not only is the stage bare, the audience has to give the dance its meaning/composition. Within the creative process Gat took what happened in the rehearsal studio as a point of reference. On stage you see the implicit behavior which goes on in rehearsals played back and at times this makes the choreography really witty.
Dance between extremes
The piece seems to suggest the underlying theme of ‘extremes’. Throughout there are accelerations and decelerations. It appears to be about things reacting to each other. While the dancers are mostly focused on each other, this does not mean that the dance is one long undulating sequence. Rather, this makes sure that the dance is somehow temporary in contrast to the almost concrete stage image.
Still, each movement is a controlled and restrained one. The friction between extremes, as suggested here, is between ‘normal’ dance and Gat’s innovative dance movement. It comes out in other ways too, for example, in the fantastic casting of the dancers. One is slim, pale and has long black hair and the other is her opposite. This contrast is further accentuated by the piercing industrial light which falls out onto the stage from the left side, creating sharp shadows which join in the dance as silent echoes.
Nevertheless, the highpoint of the evening is 'Strange light', a piece modeled on a poem by Derrick C. Brown. The poem’s theme is the journey of life. More specifically, it is about Brown’s life although it also glances into the future.
“Here is the story of one man with a strange light
and tiny blisses.”
This is how the piece opens, and initially the poem’s narrator is optimistic about the end.
“I'll marry the dark.
When the dark comes
I will party in it.
I will make it silly. I will keep my light”
However, it ends bitterly as his big love has died and he is on death’s door
I must keep you alive in my head Margaret.
I loved your full resume.
I loved your throaty kiss.
I am gushing.
I am ready to fill this night with senseless acts of
ha cha cha, no retreat, no quarter.
I'm going bezerker.
I ain't goin' west
The choreography is inspired by the poem and they are in perfect balance. The tension build-ups are good, there is a lot of variation within the different sections and above all, while never monotonous or predictably brought to life, the poem’s story is clear. Sometimes Brown’s delivery is so strong that you forget to watch the dancers. However, this is no criticism of the actual dance. At times this is witty, for example when the self-convinced youth is shown his mirror image. Other moments are downright penetrating, such as when the protagonist has become old and ‘his Margaret’ is dead.
With only a couple more performances on the horizon, Noord Nederlandse Dans must revive this production as Instrumental is a performance to see more than once.
Instrumental can still be seen in the Netherlands on Thursday 19 en Friday 20 January. For more information: www.noordnederlandsedans.com