Nederlands Dans Theater
National Arts Centre
Ottawa, Canada

March 27, 2024
The Point Being, One Flat Thing, reproduced, and Jakie

Sheenagh Pietrobruno

The evening begins with The Point Being, by the sensational sibling choreographic team of Imre van Opstal and Marne van Opstal in collaboration with designer Lonneke Gordjijn and DRIFT. The van Opstals are multifaceted creatives who have worked beyond dance in fashion and design.

A shimmering transparent curtain descends as its divisions of vertical translucent strings scintillate in the lighting by Tom Visser. The dancers, visible behind the glistening fabric, are perfectly still. Overtaken by a muted luminosity, this scene becomes dreamy.

Nederlands Dans Theater
in Imre and Marne van Opstal’s “The Point Being”
Photo by Rahi Rezvani

When the curtain lifts, the dancing starts with an exquisite duo. More resplendent duets ensue, which often veer away from the conventional partnering of a woman with a man.

The pace is deliberate and slow-moving, taking us further into reverie. Nine dancers continuously strive forward with far-reaching gestures. Yet these flowing movements are countered by angularity. Arms are slightly bent or raised upward. A tension is created between fluidity and rigidity.

Another glow seeps into the set, emanating an atmosphere of weightlessness. This ethereality is washed away when the dancers vigorously walk back and forth or when they run.

Near the end, they cluster in an elaborate sculpted pose. Their placidity transforms them into a tableau vivant. A soft saffron tint envelops them. The illumination within Rembrandt’s Baroque paintings or the neo-Baroque works of Norwegian painter Odd Nerdrum is evoked. The intermittent beams of strobe lights on the scene create an urgency that disturbs the mood.

Nederlands Dans Theater
in Imre and Marne van Opstal’s “The Point Being”
Photo by Rahi Rezvani

Do these sudden flashes symbolize the underlying theme of synchronicity, described on the company’s website as “the seemingly fleeting movement in which everything seems to make sense”? Perhaps. Yet the point of The Point Being is more its stand-alone splendour.

The dancers are magnificent, but they are not the only stars. Visser’s brilliance shines.

Nederlands Dans Theater
in William Forsythe’s “One Flat Thing, reproduced”
Photo by Rahi Rezvani

William Forsythe’s high-paced One Flat Thing, reproduced shatters the languid mood of the first piece. Immediately, fourteen dancers rush forward, dragging large tables behind them. An eclectic and amazingly complex vernacular pattern becomes a feast for the eyes as the cast, in sporadic solos and duos, engage with the tables. They leap over them and glide along them with outstanding speed and precision. Distinct movements are rarely repeated, rendering the work a never-ceasing process of innovation and intricacy.

Nederlands Dans Theater
in William Forsythe’s
“One Flat Thing, reproduced”
Photo by Rahi Rezvani

The inspiration is the second Antarctic expedition (1910–13) of the British naval commander Robert Falcon Scott, which turned tragic for Scott, who died on the journey. For Forsythe, who designed the set, the piece’s key prop is the treacherous Polar Plateau. The hollow acoustic beats of Thom Willems’s score exude the noise of cracking ice.

The significance of the furniture needs to be explicitly told. Nothing in the ballet itself, with the exception of the music, really relates the connection between the tables and the disaster of this historical expedition. The whirlwind of gestures – boldly hued by the potpourri of Stephen Galloway’s colourful costumes, which resemble rehearsal attire – conjures another tale for me. A variegated hodgepodge of wild moves becomes a collection of jigsaw pieces in an animated massive puzzle that is trying in vain to fit itself together. In this sense, the calamity that Forsythe wants to recount remains apparent.

The work’s intensity comes to life with the formidable talent of all the performers. But Scott Fowler’s combined expressiveness, power and ease do stand out.

Nederlands Dans Theater in Sharon Eyal and Gai Behar’s “Jakie”
Photo by Rahi Rezvani

The final piece is Jakie, by another choreographic pair, Sharon Eyal and Gai Behar. On the darkened stage, we first see a group of thirteen dancers, who are on high demi-pointe. This vertical stance, maintained throughout, seems absurd and even almost silly. But it demands incredible control and endurance. This technical challenge is accented by revealing costumes, designed by Sharon Eyal in collaboration with Nederlands Dans Theater’s costume department, that accentuate the artists’ physiques and hence their strength. In fact, their bodies are almost nude.

Nederlands Dans Theater in Sharon Eyal and Gai Behar’s “Jakie”
Photo by Rahi Rezvani

Then a dancer, Aram Hassler, separates from the crowd, stands with her back to the audience and executes insect-like movements with quirky elegance. More sensual yet erratic solos and duets follow as others step apart only to be seemingly forced back. When Anna Bekirova temporarily breaks free, her distorted gestures make her an alien.

Nederlands Dans Theater in Sharon Eyal and Gai Behar’s “Jakie”
Photo by Rahi Rezvani

With their fingers sticking in their ears, the cast prance to the club dance rhythms of Ori Lichtik’s mesmerizing score. Awkward and ugly corporealities creep into lustrous moments, intimating how beauty is to be constantly eroded. Jakie’s perplexing vision of the body in dance is intriguing and new. The dancers’ interpretation of this strange and sublime work is flawless.

The Nederlands Dans Theater has electrified the audience, who rise in a standing ovation.