Review: Dance: Nederlands Dans Theater Sadler's Wells, London 24/40

Guardian (UK) |

It's three years since Sol Leon and Paul Lightfoot succeeded Jiri Kylian as choreographer-directors of Nederlands Dans Theater, but the company looks largely unchanged. The dancers are still superb - sleek and supple - and the company aesthetic remains essentially unaltered, with stage design to ravish the eye, and dance to puzzle the brain. "To express the inexpressible" is Leon and Lightfoot's tag line. In Sehnsucht (Longing) a man and a woman dance in a tiny box of a sitting room which, as it periodically revolves on an unseen axis, turns their world upside down. Outside the box is a second man, whose anguished counterpoint to the couple's duet suggests he's either in love with one of them or mourning a passion of his own. That level of ambiguity is fine, except that the choreography developing this love triangle is peculiarly difficult to read. On top of a serene base of neoclassical dance, Leon and Lightfoot lay a clamorous vocabulary of facial grimace and agitated gesture. And too often this fevered activity seems disconnected from any emotional narrative, the gratuitous intensity underscored by the 12 dancers who thread through the piece, dancing to the grandstanding musical rhetoric of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. Schmetterling (Butterfly) is another meditation on love. But, with the lightness of comic fantasy in its mix, the choreography acquires a different lift. Playing around the work's more serious core are a fleet-footed sequence of vignettes, inspired by the mordantly clever 69 Love Songs by the Magnetic Fields. It's here, in the choreography's quick subtleties of rhythm, in the poetic lightness of touch with which the movement imagery fits with the lyrics that we see Leon and Lightfoot's talent really fly. Judith Mackrell Until 4 July. Box office: 0844 412 4300.

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