The Joyce Theater
New York, NY
May 3, 2012
By Carol Pardo
Copyright ©2012 by Carol Pardo
Introdans, the contemporary dance company based in Arnhem, the Netherlands and making its New York debut at the Joyce, has a lot going for it. At the top of the list are the vision and tenacity of its founder Ton Wiggers. Forty years ago, he saw that Arnhem’s dance lovers flocked to touring performances by the national dance companies, and decided that the city should have a dance company to call its own. So Introdans was born. Its first four decades have not been without growing pains, but the company now boasts royal patronage, strong, conscientious dancers and a varied repertory of works by internationally known names (Twyla Tharp, Mats Ek, William Forsythe, Jiri Kylian, etc.).
"Fünf Gedichte", to Wagner’s Wesendonck Lieder (all music was recorded), opens with Zachary Chant, barely clothed, facing a rectangle of blue sky and clouds hung against black velvet drapery. He sinks into a deep plié, as if in awe of light, air and nature. Throughout the solos, duets and ensembles that follow, he carries performers on and off the stage, like Cerberus, negotiating the no-man’s land between life and death. "Paradise?" may or may not head in the other direction. The setting is a disco or club, possibly subterranean (there’s no obvious exit) and smoke-filled. It’s an exploration of the one among, and sometimes against, the many, particularly the odd man (or woman) out, a theme that provides each member of the cast of fifteen with a moment in the spotlight. "Messiah", too, contrasts the earthly and the heavenly. The music is excerpted from Handel’s eponymous work—not including the "Hallelujah Chorus"—beautifully sung. There’s a modicum of pointe work. But the theme is most immediately expressed when dancers process across the back of the stage, and swish their white skirts (think Loie Fuller and "Revelations"), while those in front of them are only still black silhouettes.
Given the force and universality of its themes, "Hemel" should be a more engaging evening in the theater than it is. Christe has by far the most cogent dance vocabulary, but what sticks in the mind are a few leitmotivs: that plié, the aggressive presentation of the dancers’ posteriors to the audience and a lift in which the women perch on the men’s backs like dead cartoon mice, knees locked, hands cocked like paws. The strongest component of "Paradise?" is the lighting, particularly when the curtain rises to reveal twenty-eight lights, hanging on a low grid, cutting the height of the Joyce stage in half, both illuminating and pressing down on the action. Though the juxtaposition of dark and light, fluid and still,and two and three dimensions animates "Messiah, those skirts swing so much (particularly in a solo for Rashean Arts) that they wear out their welcome. The lack of choreographic texture and variety made the evening seem very long: a little variety in the choice of repertory would have helped. More critically, that sameness made the dancers seem unmusical and rendered them anonymous. "Hemel" had all the savor of a platter of processed Gouda, pre-packaged, lacking in bite, and so homogenous that there was nothing left to savor.