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Brighton Festival 2016

Nederlands Dans Theater 2

Nederlands Dans Theater 2

Genre: Dance

Venue: Brighton Dome Concert Hall


Low Down

An established company from Holland of young dancers from across the globe bring five well-curated high-energy routines to a packed and buzzing Brighton Dome.


It wasn’t the dancers who danced first. It was the screens. These black rectangular edifices, there must have been at least ten of them, drifted ominously across the stage throughout the first of our three acts, very effectively carving out a range of playing spaces without ever drawing too much attention to themselves. The human dancers, once they’d emerged from between these sliding obstructions, were by turns tender and frenetic, at times silky-smooth, at times charged with spasmodic energy. Their choreography rife with everyday life – with where-did-I-put-my-keys fumblings and I-need-to-find-a-way-through-this-dense-forest dartings and come-closer-no-don’t-I-can’t-bear-it dramas – they narrated their abstruse tales with abundant panache.

I do love me an irregular time signature. The music was pretty decent throughout, but my absolute favourite was by Milko Lazar at the start of act two, in a four-hander called ‘Mutual Comfort’. I missed the first minute or so of the movement because I was too busy figuring out that it was probably in 17/8 time. The programme notes tell me that the choreographer Edward Clug’s distinguishing feature is “twitchiness”, and if there’s a time signature that embodies twitchiness, I’d say it’d have to be 17/8. Perhaps missing the beginning also put me at a disadvantage in untangling the topsy turvy love quadrangle being enacted with such grace, dedication and twitchiness before my eyes, but the great thing about dance is that you don’t have to worry too much about following the storyline.

The second half of the second act, a piece called ‘Solo’, had originally been choreographed eighteen years earlier, and there’s a possibility that something had been lost in the translation through time (we’re told in the after-show Q&A that they learnt it by watching a video). Stage time was shared between three male dancers who thrashed out a frenzied succession of lashings and flits. Once we realised it was supposed to be funny, we were able to relax a little and enjoy ourselves, but the rabid intensity of the choreography allowed but glimpses of the dancers’ personalities to shine through. I’d love to have seen the original.

The absolute best was saved for last. ‘Cacti’ is a glorious ensemble piece, in which the humour is abundant and the choreography crystal clear. The entire ensemble of sixteen dancers writhe, shimmy and articulate atop wooden blocks in immaculate synchronicity, the inspiration for their movements taken, of course, from cacti. And then, in case anyone hadn’t yet figured out the theme of the piece, the dancers each picked up an actual cactus (plastic, presumably), and started duetting with their spiky friends. At just the moment where the more pretentious of us in the audience were starting to wonder what it was all supposed to mean, what the plinths represent, what the metaphor behind the cactus itself signifies, our attempts at interpretation were blown out of the water by a hilarious satirical voice-over, reading aloud a spoof highfalutin review of the piece. This was not the only brilliant stroke of self-knowing parody in what was probably the best – and certainly the funniest – half-hour of dance I’ve seen in over a decade.

Overall, a joyous evening with plentiful stand-out moments, from an super-exciting company who will never again leave my radar.