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Vulnerable surrender for NDT2 in Significant Moments

Moving. Before Significant Moments begins, the brisk Fernando Hernando Magadan presents himself as the new artistic director of NDT2. Applause in the hall. But the reason he stands behind a lectern with a huge flower arrangement is to pay tribute to the retiring artistic director, Gerald Tibbs.

Gerald Tibbs. The peerless dancer everyone could swoon away at. Where Jiří Kylián built his Nederlands Dans Theater on. With arms and legs that stretched to infinity. That Gerald Tibbs.

Only a choreographer who was tall himself could lay out such lines on such a dancer. That, of course, is why Kylián is in the room himself. The only ones who came close to Tibbs as a dancer were Glen Eddy, Nils Christe, Nacho Duato, Philip Taylor and Paul Lightfoot. All were slim long-legged dancers with a manageable structure. Think one turned-in leg high to the side in second position, the other in plié, the upper body slightly bent forward and arms like eagle wings.

Fitting tribute

Perhaps that is also why Significant Moments precisely with the familiar Signing off begins. A fitting tribute by choreographer Lightfoot to Tibbs; a man silently leaving the stage with his back (a telling body part) to the audience. Long lines again, everywhere. And why did Signing off more drama and depth, why does it form more of a whole than tonight's two premieres? The answer to that: Sol Léon.

A female co-choreographer.

She and Paul Lightfoot bridge the gap between Kylián's fluid poetry and the rigid pragmatism of new ballets. That new matter-of-factness is pragmatic. American choreographer Phillip Chbeeb, for example, has a background as a dancer and choreographer of short, concentrated performances for TV dance programmes, videos and concerts. He switches in The Reunion of I short dance pieces together within the theme of an elderly man looking back on his life. With humour and ingenious inventions, Chbeeb offers a brief glimpse into philosophical worlds ('surrender is everything').

Where a David Middendorp used modern technology to win high honours in America's Got Talent, Chbeeb achieves just as much effect with simple torches, tracking spots and silhouettes. But it is mainly the intertwining bodies and the short exciting dance scenes with hip-hop influences that make you want to see more of them. That's where new language emerges where you sit.

No anecdote

Now I would have liked to tell a funny anecdote about who came up with the surprising idea of asking Phillip Chbeeb, but NDT2's response was short: 'It's been a collective decision so there's not really one person to point to.' That sounds a lot less cosy, this new business acumen. The creative child who grew up in a semi-circular barracks is now a 40-year-old manager with corporate governance ambitions. Even Chbeeb doesn't know whose idea it was to invite him. Hopefully, he will return to further build his language on NDT's unique dancers.

Young audience

NDT2 stands not only for young dancers but also for young audiences. And that is what companies want to achieve. See the new second company of Scapino Ballet Rotterdam. That has already sold its 2018/19 tour. The Dutch National Ballet also has a Junior Company. In particular, it is a Conny Janssen Danst, Ed Wubbe, Isabelle Beernaert and ISH that manage to draw young people from their screens into the theatre. Coincidentally, like Chbeeb, they all have a background in So You Think You Can Dance.

Delightful self-mockery

Less accessible, but also suitable for a young audience, is Fit by Alexander Ekman. As a child, this Swedish choreographer dreamt of having his own amusement park. He is not far from it. His new Fit is grand, amusing, super-tight and energetic. Delightful self-mockery too: 'This piece is about...', only to mumble on with a hand over his mouth. Fit is composed mainly of input from the dancers. With a vibe as in the modern ballets from Israel ('it's tough, but we know why we are here'). Repeating, screaming mega-group dance with a symbolically soft - almost religious - ending. And as a dancing full stop, the dancer Boston Gallacher (pictured above). Like a snappy, seeing young William Forsythe at work.

Preserving soul

With that, we come back to Gerald Tibbs after all. Dancers you exercise of says. Dancers he mentored himself. 'To keep them healthy and happy' was his motto in doing so. Now his health is the lesser partner. Fortunately, there are plenty of new talents like Toon Lobach, Surimu Fukushi and Donnie Duncan Jr. taking over. If NDT2 keeps up the inspiration apart from a new business acumen, all will be well.

Significant Moments travels around the country until 20 December.

Ruben Brugman

writing ex-dancerView Author posts

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