By Crystal Pite and Jonathan Young, film director Tommy Pascal
NDT is one of the dance companies making their work available online and The Statement was available for a week, but I caught it too late to pass on the link. Dance on screen is improving in leaps and bounds. Whilst the theatre experience remains my preferred option in general, some of the Royal Ballet screenings have impressed me with close-ups and high quality digital images combined with significantly lower attendance cost, almost compensating for the immediacy of the auditorium.
I saw The Statement when NDT1 were last in London and enjoyed it greatly; a few months later it won the National Dance Award for Best Modern Choreography 2018. So I looked forward to seeing it again on video and to my delight I found that for the first time in my experience, the filmed version by Tommy Pascal was even more impressive than the theatre presentation.
The Statement was the second of the three collaborations between Pite and Jonathan Young, writer and theatre director. Following a similar pattern to the other two works, Betroffenheit and The Revisor, Young wrote the script for the 20-minute work and his Vancouver based Electric Theatre Company recorded his lines.
The four dancers are executives in an undefined organisation. As it opens we see two people full of anxiety as their department’s plan has gone badly wrong. The woman, Aram Hasler, is traumatised as people are dying while the man, Jon Bond, is more concerned that they will shoulder the blame, but he has hope as Upstairs are sending someone down. A second couple arrive, both in dark suits: a confident man, Roger van der Poel, and a woman, Rena Narumi, staying in the background. The suit man takes charge: Upstairs wants a statement and although it is clear that the bosses knew what was happening, they want the department to say they were acting independently. The back and forth continues, but over time, Narumi becomes more prominent and we realise that she is the one in charge when she announces that the statement has changed everything – the original couple can go and the man in the suit is to take the blame, “There’s no going back Upstairs for you.”
In this first phase, the incredible dancers move in exaggerated everyday motion in short, sharp bursts rolling around, over and on a large, elliptical conference table. The combination of text and movement is compelling and disturbing with Owen Belton’s ominous soundscape in the background. And then in the second phase we see a re-run of the drama with excepts of the text repeated over and over and the dancers moving with greater freedom at high speed, including one scene where they frantically dance in unison around the table. Tom Visser’s brilliant lighting changes break the action into episodes and finally, to sombre lighting, a desolate van der Poel is left alone at the table with a voice telling him, “The situation will resolve.”
On film, Tommy Pascal’s fast cuts from close-ups to distance shots add to the tension and changes of camera position amplify Pite’s choreography. Pascal’s website shows an eclectic mix with dance to the fore and given his success here, I look forward to seeing more of his work with dance companies.