“Dancing is a potential remedy for some of the chaos in the world right now”

Dance, like any art form, provides a connection to what is happening around us. And sometimes a lifeline. Many say dancing is healing.

Like Michaela dePrince who fled the civil war in Sierra Leone and saw a page of Dance Magazine flutter against a fence. This image became his talisman of hope. She is now a soloist with the Boston Ballet.

Or choreographer Mark Morris, who was so strongly influenced by folk dance in the Seattle of the 1960s of his youth that it still permeates what he creates today.

Stories abound of how art changes lives. Despite personal stories, the transformative power of dance does not always permeate entire institutions. A shining example, however, is the Nederlands Dans Theater, an organization in The Hague made up of two groups of performers and some of the greatest talents in contemporary dance. Nederlands Dans Theater 2 arrives in Dublin on May 2nd and 3rd.

NDT would be the envy of any other artistic group. His company of young dancers, NDT2, employs early-career artists and offers them the opportunity to prepare for work in the 27-member flagship company, NDT1. Progression from one company to another is not guaranteed, but most dancers with experience in one or the other will almost certainly have their choice of choice jobs in the world of dance. . NDT’s impressive staff of over 80 provides tremendous support; dancers have access to everything from talent development and education to musical direction and Pilates.

The Big Cry. Photography: Rahi Rezvani

Before the onset of the pandemic, NDT hired a new artistic director, Canadian Emily Molnar, to follow in the footsteps of the organization’s former directors, who became legendary in their own right. Running one of NDT’s two companies would keep everyone busy, and right now Molnar runs both.

While both companies ceased performing during Covid, its members worked in bubbles entering the studio for rehearsals and workshops. Molnar describes it as a period of flourishing creativity. Normally, the artistic staff would have much less time to develop new ideas given the number of performances they put on in a season, so they used the time at Molnar’s insistence to fortify themselves as artists. artists. While others might have found it daunting to lead this powerful dance organization into its 60th anniversary season at a time of unforeseen world events, Molnar met the challenges head on.

“I think dancing is a potential remedy for some of the chaos in the world right now,” she says. “Because I know as a dancer it helped me; it was the only way for me to make sense of what I found confusing about how the world works. I found it through my body, not dissociating myself from my feelings or my physicality.

Human potential

Molnar spent the previous decade directing Ballet BC in Vancouver. She saved this company from financial difficulties while dramatically increasing the length of dancers’ contracts, equalizing dancers’ salaries and creating an extensive outreach program. Although she faces a different mission at NDT, her ability to see the organization as a whole and how it fits into the world of dance motivates her.

“NDT’s vision has always been to do work, but it also has to be about dance as a larger conversation,” she says. “It’s like, ‘How many bridges can we build around what dancing can be?’ It’s not just about selling it or bringing someone to the theater to watch it. I think if we do our job really well, we need to make it more universal. If we can connect people to their bodies and using the connection between mind and body more, for me, it’s all about human potential.

Dead end.  Photographer: Joris Jan-Bos

Dead end. Photographer: Joris Jan-Bos

NDT has been innovatively shaping the dance landscape for decades. In 1959, its founders began working with 18 dancers from the Dutch National Ballet to create progressive dance productions that did not fit any particular mould. Ballet has always been at the heart of what they do, and since its inception Nederlands Dans Theater has pushed the boundaries of dance in every direction. He did ballets with scantily clad dancers, dances with little or no music, dances with neutral roles, and ballets with provocative themes.

“Nobody says anything, but there’s just this swell of energy, and you can feel it because you’re so connected”

Of Dublin’s upcoming triple dance programme, The Big Crying is the newest, choreographed by Marco Goecke to a soundtrack of songs by Tori Amos. The dancers execute rapid arm movements with the same conviction as when they fall into a sort of hypnotic swing. As the 18 performers move together as one unit, occasionally splitting into duos and solos but maintaining a remarkable connection throughout, their versatility comes to life.

“You feel it as a group,” says Emmitt Cawley, a member of the company since 2019. “No one is saying anything, but there’s just this swell of energy, and you can feel it because you’re so connected We spend so much time together You know everyone so well, not just as people but as artists.

Cawley grew up in South Africa, the son of Irish parents. Cawley’s first contact with ballet came when he was cast in a school production by Billy Elliott and had to learn the basics. Fast forward to the Boston Conservatory, where he went to college and auditioned for NDT’s summer program. Just before the pandemic, he was offered a job.

Lack of hierarchy

Part of the appeal of NDT2 for dancers like Cawley is the lack of hierarchy. Unlike more traditional ballet companies that categorize their dancers as principal, soloists, or corps members, NDT bills each artist equally, with ample opportunities for each member to perform.

“The goal of NDT 2 is to really turn young talent into artists, but also into human beings,” says Cawley, “and this place gives you so many tools. When you come out of NDT2, you are one of the most capable artists of your generation.

The Big Cry.  Photography: Rahi Rezvani

The Big Cry. Photography: Rahi Rezvani

The dance trio coming to Dublin presents the company’s range. From the jerky movements of The Big Crying to the lyrical pas de deux of Hans van Manen’s Simple Things and the more personality-driven Impasse by Johan Inger, a simple leg lift or spin says it all. You don’t have to have an advanced ballet vocabulary to appreciate power and athleticism.

Although it’s easy to rest on the company’s superb reputation and incredible resources, Molnar continues to use dance as a beacon of hope to move the organization forward. She realizes the potential ripple effect of a performance or a dance class.

“Dancing, I love it. But it’s even more about self-development on the inside,” she says. “The intelligence of what it means to dance is what a lot of people don’t understand. you transfer that kind of knowledge into any other setting, that’s huge.

“We try to work in more remote places like Senegal, for example, where we can go in and not have the attitude ‘We are CND, why don’t you do this?’ but rather “We want to learn”. We want to share our resources so that we don’t always bring people to us, but we try to open up the dance and make it more global.

Nederlands Dans Theater 2 is on Board Gáis Energy Theater on May 2 and 3

About Keith Johnson

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