Standby: A new film-exclusive performance celebrates the 60th anniversary of Nederlands Dans Theatre - Michigan Opera Theatre

Standby: A new film-exclusive performance celebrates the 60th anniversary of Nederlands Dans Theatre

By Jon Teeuwissen, MOT Artistic Advisor for Dance

In celebration of the 60th Anniversary of Nederlands Dans Theatre (NDT)house choreographer Paul Lightfoot created a new work, captured and released exclusively on film to accommodate socially-distanced guidelinesThe project, Standby, includedancers from NDT1 (the first company) and NDT2 (originally formed as a training company for young talent, now an independent company that tours internationally). Created in tandem with Sol León’s She Remembersboth works were choreographed and filmed over the course of three weeks at the studios of Lucent Danstheater.

The new work premiered digitally July 15 on the NDT YouTube channel, and can be viewed (for free) until August 10. The link to the full production is included at the end of this blog.

Based in The Hague, NDT is one of the world’s leading contemporary dance companies. The original company, which dates back to 1959, was created in collaboration with 18 dancers from the Dutch National Ballet. Choreographers Glen Tetley (American-born and one of the original dancers of the Joffrey Ballet) and Hans van Manen (a Dutch ballet dancer, choreographer, and photographer), with their progressive productions, prominently positioned NDT with an avant-garde profile that put the company on the map not only in Holland, but internationally. NDT now consists of 28 phenomenal dancers from all over the world. 

It was under the artistic leadership of JiřI Kyliánone of today’s most sought - after contemporary choreographers, that I became acquainted with the company. His 1991 creation, Petite Mort, was a defining moment for NDT. Lightfoot, who followed Kylián, says “It was challenging when Kylián stepped away, because he had been the longest serving (artistic) director and the company had really developed themselves around him.” But in addition to his own masterful work, Kylián surrounded himself with other important choreographic voices including William Forsythe (Frankfurt Ballet, Germany), Mats Ek (Cullberg Ballet, Sweden) and  Ohad Naharin (Batsheva Dance Company, Israel). That is something that Lightfoot has emulated during his tenure.  

I was fortunate to catch a performance of NDT this past March at City Center Theater in New York City, exactly one week before the COVID crisis changed our lives forever. The dancers of NDT are amongst some of the best in the worldas it is a virtuoso company. Although, it is known for its “boundary-pushing contemporary repertoire and world-class artists,” behind the dancers' extraordinary contemporary virtuosity lies a classically-based technique.” In Broadway World’s review of NDT’s first performance at City Center Theater in 2020, they said “The performers of Nederland Dans Theatre fuse exacting execution and creative ambition to create grotesque, haunting, and sublime images.”  

Lightfoot was just out of London’s Royal Ballet School when he joined NDT2 as a dancer. In an interview with Pointe magazine, Lightfoot claimed “I knew the classical world was not the place where I could be the most creative with my career. Lightfoot enjoyed a long career as a dancer with NDT1 under the direction of Kylián before becoming a house choreographer with his creative partner Sol León. In 2011 he assumed the role of artistic director, and is stepping down this fall in order to give choreography his full attention. In total, he has been with NDT for 35 years as a dancer, choreographer, and artistic director. 

According to Lightfoot, NDT has always been about change; it’s not a company that works well if it rests on its laurels. 

NDT will next tour the US in 2023 and hopes to include a stop at the Detroit Opera House. 

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