Now in its 38th year, Netherlands Dans Theatre 2 has built a reputation for itself as one of the strongest dance companies in the world. Drawing upon classical and contemporary dance – NDT 2, founded to prepare young talent for the main company NDT and under artistic direction of Paul Lightfoot, present a celebration and reminder of the intense physical capacity of the dancer. The performance begins with a triple bill from Sol León and Paul Lightfoot of Schubert, Sad Case and Some Other Time.
The dance is framed by movable black boards which the dancers use to create an angular depth which feels unpredictable, as it reveals and conceals the dancers. There is an effortless beauty in the way the dancers move throughout, whilst often intensely emotional, they offer a very heightened and animalistic quality which felt soulful.
The highlight of the three pieces for me was the second – set to Mexican mambo music, Sad Case has an infectious raw energy from the young dancers which is primitive and lustful; highlighting the versatility of the performers.
The performance by Gregory Lau, in the opening duet and later as a soloist, stood out to me particularly both in his unquestionable technical skill and his ability to fill the Lyric stage at the Lowry. The next piece, Edward Clug’s Mutual Comfort, which is underscored with the constant drive of Milko Lazar’s energetic score is a very linear work – which feels much more intricate.
The frequent changes in partnering and moments of solo create a constantly shifting focus for the observer which feels exciting. Following this is Solo, performed by three male soloists. Each dancing to outdo the other, the men begin what feels like a boisterous competition. Full of complex balletic movement, the men perform elegantly suspended jumps and detailed travelling footwork with a subtle arrogance creating a relaxed, comical atmosphere. “But what does it mean? What do you see?” The final piece, Alexander Ekman’s Cacti, opens with an ominous voiceover proposing the dancers as a human orchestra – indeed they begin their own slick rhythmic exploration of the already immense score from Schubert. As the initial voice asks, the meaning of the final work is ambiguous and seems mostly metaphorical – later the company walk on each holding a potted cacti.
However for me the piece offered a beautiful variety in perspective, in the use of lighting to illuminate different individuals within the 18 strong company, later flickering from side to side on two dancers creating an intriguing unspoken dialogue between the figures. The movement is initially peaceful and almost spiritual but later intense and urgent – the evident dedication and full embodiment of the dancers becomes just mesmerising. Overall, the incredible work and talent which was displayed in just over an hour and half of movement, which whilst leaving you feeling somewhat inadequate, was simply awe-inspiring. The NDT2 are a company I could watch for hours upon hours – a definite must see!