“Mutual Comfort” was choreographed by Edward Clug to Milko Lazar’s “PErpeTuumOVIA,” a modern chamber work that had a quiet, moody verve. The score was the underpinning of Clug’s choreography which filled the stage with continuous, intimate confrontations: bodies wrapped about each other, sat upon each other, rolled about in tight coils and indulged in lifts that ended in snug poses.
The four lithe dancers—Tess Voelker, Thalia Crymble, Adam Russell-Jones and Kyle Clarke—wearing chic dancewear designed by Clug himself, quite literally manipulated each other, moving partners’ arms and legs into explicitly romantic and sexual positions.
A dominating theme was the continual bobbing of heads independent of the rest of the body, as if each dancer were thinking of a song only they could hear. This gave the intense intertwinings—including same sex couplings—a bittersweet irony considering the ballet’s title, “Mutual Comfort.”
Tom Visser’s lighting was purposely dim with streaks of light illuminating the backdrop giving the ballet and its four comfort seekers an almost tactile sense of space.
“Sad Case,” another ironically titled ballet, was choreographed by Sol León and NDT’s artistic director Paul Lightfoot to an even more ironic score of bright, Latin-tinged music. The five jittery dancers—Fay van Baar, Amanda Mortimore, Toon Lobach, Boston Gallacher and Surimu Fukushi (more of him later)—wearing form revealing costumed designed by the choreographer, jiggled and wiggled and twisted, often bent over as if imitating some light-footed beast. They appeared to be on some sort of performance enhancing drug. They barely looked at each other even though they seemed to be performing these energetic routines for each other, the silly, musak-like score only emphasizing the lack of communication. Tom Brevoort’s lighting provided pools of dark and light that emphasized the mixed up emotions expressed by the choreography.
“Wir sagen uns Dunkles,” by Marco Goecke to a combination of classical music by Schubert and modern songs by Placebo, continued the oddball, unfeeling mood of the first two ballets where antic activity never amounted to much more than alienation, albeit beautifully performed alienation In “Wir sagen,” the cast wore Goecke’s fringed pants, the men bare-chested. The cast of eleven moved spasmodically, anxiously, darkly, arms jutting out only to spring back to smack or rub bodies. The mood was dark—the Dunkles of the title is a dark beer—and bizarrely sexual with dancers licking their shoulders and rubbing hands all over each other. What kept this half-hour ballet interesting was the intense performances of the cast who performed as if under a spell.
The final work “Sh-Boom!” by Lightfoot and León (artistic advisor/co-house choreographer) cleared the air with some fun and a chance to see the male dancers in their underwear, the women in dark dresses (costumes by the two choreographers).
“Sh-Boom!” began with a white-suited Surimu Fukushi standing on the edge of the stage in front of the curtain. After standing still for a short while, he leaned seductively backward, extending one leg forward and allowed a delightful smile to spread across his face, completely enchanting the audience. That he repeated this a few times, separated by a few simple turns, didn’t lessen his charm.
Choreographed to popular songs from the twenties to the fifties, including the title song, the work proceeded from that giddy opening to the spectacle of the men of the company in their underwear playing sexy games with the women and each other. The movements were loose with lots of hip pushing and soft kicks and lifts that shook and twisted. In the middle of the work a gentlemen in a suit that was half white and half black did a dance making the most of his two sides. The men had their dance; the women in their black dresses danced in individual spotlights; it all came to a feverish finale mixing all the characters.
Brevoort’s lighting was particularly expert in “Sh-Boom!” dealing smoothly with all its transitions of moods.
All four works—particularly the first three—had a certain offhanded similarity, a lack of formal movement ideas and construction, but all four choreographers are clearly students of the school of Jiři Kylián, the most famous director of the NDT whose incredibly musical, minutely detailed choreography has influenced many both in Europe and here in the United States. Kylián’s works have a touching humanity to them, while these four works tended more to movement for its own sake and arbitrary expression of emotions.
Nevertheless, the NDT2 dancers are all terrific, lithe, responsive and charismatic, giving the senior company a run for its money. An annual visit would be a terrific idea.
Nederlands Dans Theater 2 (January 16-19, 2019)
New York City Center, 131 West 55th Street, in Manhattan
For tickets, call 212-581-1212 or visit http://www.nycitycenter.org
Running time: one hour and 45 minutes including two intermissions