Nederlands Dans Theater – Symphony of Psalms; Click-Pause-Silence; Speak for Yourself

Written by:
Joelle Kane
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The Nederlands Dans Theater is no stranger to Paris’ sublime Opera Garnier, performing for the fifth time with works by main choreographer, Jir� Kyli�n, and resident choreographer, Paul Lightfoot.

Prague-born Kyli�n started dancing at the age of nine and entered the Czech Conservatory at fifteen, where he studied a mix of ballet, Martha Graham technique and folkloric dance. This combination is clearly showcased in his Symphony of Psalms. The title comes from Igor Stravinsky’s music and evokes a long Sunday at church and the prayers of the congregation. The curtain rises to reveal eight somberly dressed dancers and a peaceful mosaic of rich-red Oriental hangings in the background. The piece respects rectangular form by containing the dancers in a closely knit group but is most effective in its use of asymmetry as dancers are set back, shifted forward and wedged out from the moving group.

With all its mortal beauty and sad charm, Symphony of Psalms gives no indication of what is to come in Click-Pause-Silence. Having created sixty or so dances, Kyli�n is best known for his ability to convey emotion through the use of jarring humor and bizarre images of reverie, reality and solemnity. While Symphony of Psalms reflected the latter, Click-Pause-Silence is a study of estrangement. A self-proclaimed ‘moralist,’ Kyli�n also likes to share the reality of everyday mood swings by throwing scenes into chaos. Click-Pause-Silence begins on what is quite literally a down-to-earth note, with four pairs of dancing feet seen below a screen lifted a foot off the stage. The piece then twists into a bizarre choreography, cold and technically taut, but exciting nonetheless. Three men and one woman, all brightly dressed, perform a series of individual and group pieces on the dark stage, lit only by overhead fluorescent lights and a rotating mirror and TV screen, which projects images of the dancers. Musical notes hang in the air throughout the piece, creating a strangely lifeless, drawn-out atmosphere. Click-Pause-Silence examines people’s mysterious comings and goings–the meeting process, the time spent together and the silence that remains after parting. The dancers work off one other, at times dancing together, leaning on and bouncing off one other and other times dancing separately, maintaining individual identities.

The final work, the award-winning Speak for Yourself, by classically trained Paul Lightfoot, also combines contemporary and classical, choreographed to Bach’s L’Art de la Fugue, Contrepoint #19 and #1. The piece begins with a single dancer on stage, leaping, turning and whirling to the strains of a repetitive House music loop. As he does so, puffs of smoke billow from a tiny contraption attached to the dancer’s back. The scene is comical, yet the audience is torn between laughter and wondering when the repetitive music will stop. The dancer is meant to be purifying the air with "incense" from his "burner," but when he coughs on stage, it’s not clear if he’s joking or choking from the smoke. Eight more dancers emerge for the downpour denouement, when rain falls from above, drenching them as they turn, leap, jump and glide across the soaking stage. As the nine perform a series of duos and solos, pushing their strength to the limit on the slippery stage, the audience begins to feel the chill of the swelling mist, which finally swallows the performers.. What lingers is a feeling of having witnessed something special, a performance that takes the spectrum of emotion and squeezes it tight till colorful feelings fall as raindrops on stage.

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