writers on dancing

The DanceView Times, San Francisco Bay Area edition

A Triumphant Return

Symphony of Psalms; Click - Pause - Silence;Walking Mad
Netherlands Dance Theater
[presented by Cal Performances]
Zellerbach Hall, University of California
Berkeley, California
March 27, 2004

By Marilyn Tucker
Copyright © 2004 by Marilyln Tucker
published 12 April 2004

The always-savvy dance audiences in the Cal Performances series at the University of California, Berkeley greeted the return of the Netherlands Dance Theater after a five-year absence as if they had died and gone to heaven. In more than 30 years of watching all manner of dance in Zellerbach Hall on the Cal campus, I've never heard the likes of the screaming, shrieking bravos that were accorded dances like Symphony of Psalms and Click - Pause - Silence, both by Jiri Kylian, and Johan Inger's Walking Mad. Presented as Program B in a four-performance series of two programs, the show followed an "A" program of all-Kylian offerings that I was unable to see—Claude Pascal, Last Touch and 27'52. The two programs made up a nationwide East-West tour that began at the Brooklyn Academy of Music earlier in the month.

Even with only two Kylian dances on Program B, the Berkeley audience was able to savor the great variety in the development of Kylian's choroegraphy, ranging from the exalted lyricism of dances like Symphony of Psalms (1978) to later flirtations with conceptual abstractions in Click - Pause - Silence (2000). The eight couples performing in Symphony of Psalms, which is set to Stravinsky's great choral work, offered this brilliant fusion of classical ballet and modern dance styles as an ample hymn of praise for the human spirit that is the music's as well as the choreographer's intention. In an ensemble work of agitated and intense energies the couples often came forward for exceptional duets, pure evocations of emotions that are humanist and non-religious by design. Symphony of Psalms has lost none of its powers to excite and inspire, and the style is perhaps preferable to Kylian's later more experimental choreography.

Click-Pause-Silence is set to a piano deconstruction by Kylian's frequent musical collaborator Dick Haubruch of the Prelude No. 24 from Bach's Well-Tempered Clavichord, although you might not recognize the Bach at first from the metallic burps and squeaks that often seemed to be coming from the bowels of a piano. In a note Kylian called it putting "Bach's composition under a microscope," taking up a scalpel, cutting it apart and throwing its elements loosely into space, Acreating new connections and relationships." This investigation in perception is extended to the choreography for four dancers—three men and the wonderfully loose-limbed Nancy Euverink in Berkeley—whose movement was seen within the very tight frame of an enclosed space. The same scene was simultaneously presented as a rehearsal on a constantly revolving mirror and further as a sequence on a television screen, perhaps underscoring the idea that life is not limiting, with Anew connections and relationships" being there for the taking.

One hears that Johan Inger, who was appointed artistic director of Sweden's Culberg Ballet just last summer, is a choreographer to watch. His Walking Mad (2001), in which three women and six men seemed intent on the lunatic mission of repeatedly knocking over a fence as large as the stage, put the audience in a delirium of giggles and guffaws. The merriment was further enhanced by the chase scene having the musical underpinnings of Ravel's Bolero. But when the music switched to Arvo Part's Fuer Alma at the end, the dance also changed gears, seeming to speak of anxiety rather than fun as the essential truth in women's relationships with the men in their world.

Originally published:
Volume 2, Number 13
11 April 2004
Copyright ©2004 by Marilyn Tucker




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