Arts ballet review

Likeness of love

Nederlands Dans Theater 2 presents four explorations into human connection

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Dancers from Nederlands Dans Theater 2 convey their unique language of love.
Courtesy of Rahi Rezvani

Nederlands Dans Theater 2
Presented by Celebrity Series of Boston
Boch Center Shubert Theatre
Jan. 26 – 27

It was not about loving. It was about making love: mechanically, practically. Then it was about the performance of love; a farce between partners, put on first for outsiders, then for one another as well. Finally, it was about the experiment of love: a bewildering process of trial and error.

In their second visit to Boston, Nederlands Dans Theater 2 (NDT2) staged four exquisite treatises of how we try to love one another. As the younger, more experimental sister to the Nederlands Dans Theater, NDT2 was originally founded with the goal of feeding young talent into the main company. However, it soon took on a life of its own, attracting choreographers to create their most exploratory work on the company’s blank canvas of impeccably skilled, vibrant young dancers. As the evening clearly demonstrated, the classically-trained dancers possess a superlative ability to soak in any form of choreographic language, to convey the full volume of each choreographer’s unique message.

In the opening piece by Edward Clug, dancers use his extraordinary movement vocabulary to look for the titular mutual comfort in one another. They interlock with one another, pushing and pulling like mechanisms in search of resonance, before disengaging for their next potential partner. Clug enables this disinterested functionality through the use of pas de deux so seamless that it is hard to tell whether one dancer is lifting his partner off the ground, or if she is in fact pulling him into the air — draining their relationship of all intentionality.

Sol León and Paul Lightfoot then explored the performative aspects of love through a piece that was at once comedic and dark. Set against a background of generic cabaret and salsa tunes, Sad Case is a parody of the ornate mating dances we put on and an exposé of their soul-crushing nature. Flirtatious scenes, taken straight out of a club, are portrayed in jerky and exaggerated ways with adages pushed to an almost vulgar degree. Throughout this, the dancers maintain macabre expressions, almost shocked at what their bodies are doing.

In a similar fashion, Wir sagen uns Dunkles conjures the mating dances of pigeons, through an incoherent assemblage of short pieces. Dancers’ motions grow increasingly stuttered, and their props and costumes (from shimmering pants to hankerchiefs to fake eyelashes) grow increasingly illogical. Like birds, they mindlessly employ the next shiniest object at hand to catch the attention of a potential mate.

Lastly, León and Lightfoot returned with perhaps the most thematically bewildering piece of the night. SH-BOOM! portrayed a series of male dancers in their underwear (or less) trying to assert themselves within an oppressive coterie of women in severe black dresses. They navigate one another, in both triumph and fear, and in the end their relationship is even more of a question mark than when it began.

Overall, the evening was rich with possible interpretations enabled by an innovative set of choreographers let loose on a cast of deft dancers. We left the theater inspired, invigorated, reflective, and in eager anticipation of NDT2’s Boston return.