Autumn delight with two contemporary dance shows

December 08, 2017 17:15
Scenes from Nederlands Dans Theater shows 'In the Event' (left) and 'Safe as Houses'. Photos: Rahi Rezvani

This autumn there were two tours to Hong Kong by overseas modern dance companies. In mid-November there was a welcome return visit by the renowned Nederlands Dans Theater after nearly a decade. Hong Kong was part of their China tour. The best of the four pieces shown in Kwai Tsing Theatre were the opening and closing works.

The opening piece was Crystal Pite's "In the Event". It is typical of this Canadian choreographer’s normal bleak style. Human suffering seems to fascinate this choreographer.

In the beginning of the piece, a community seems to be watching over a corpse, and their dancing is deliberately slowed down as if the steps are frozen in the air. And there seems to be a storm halfway through the work. The ensemble of dancers frequently arrays itself in different layers making some fascinating formations.

The final work "Safe as Houses" was by its current artistic advisor Sol León and artistic director Paul Lightfoot. It shows off the phenomenal technique of the company’s dancers. The cast is divided into two groups, attired in black and white. A wall partition in the middle is constantly rotating. The choreography is powerful and theatrical. The three duets at the end are engrossing, especially the final one.

Another work by León and Lightfoot was "Shutters Shut", a very short pas de deux set to a recited poem by Gertrude Stein. It is light-hearted and harmless enough.

Meanwhile, German choreographer Marco Goecke's "Woke up Blind", set to two songs by Jeff Buckley, was pleasant but not particularly outstanding.

Actually it would have more fitting for the Nederlands Dans Theater to have selected instead at least one major work by Jiří Kylián, the most famous choreographer in the company’s history. After all, Hong Kong Ballet had only just performed two works by Kylián last spring.

Performance by the peer from the US

A month earlier, the Alonzo King LINES Ballet from San Francisco, had also appeared in Kwai Tsing Theatre on the group's first-ever Hong Kong tour. Their program was "The Propelled Heart" featuring also the distinguished singer Lisa Fischer. The religious songs were blatantly emotional. The overall atmosphere of the two-act show was too heavy.

King's choreographic style reminded me of another past American visitor to Hong Kong, the renowned Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. The 11 dancers of this company were all remarkable performers, with lucidity and plasticity in their upper bodies.

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veteran dance critic