Nederlands Dans Theater at The Edinburgh Playhouse, Edinburgh International Festival review

Last Friday’s performance by the Nederlands Dans Theater at Edinburgh’s Playhouse theatre totally restored my confidence in the contemporary dance line-up of the Edinburgh International Festival. It also went some way to banish the awful memory of Bruno Beltrão’s H2 I had seen a week earlier. This collection of four separate performances, approaching a running time of 2 and a half hours, had the whole audience launching into rapturous applause after each act.

Silent Screen opened the performance and at 45 minutes it was the longest act in the whole show. It was also fantastic, imaginative and surreal; not to mention beautiful, poignant and polished. The work opened with a male and female dancer silhouetted against a large black and white video projection of some rocks, with the sea in the background. A third man in the video cautiously walked out to sea, while the dancers made their way forward. The contrast was stark and would prove a running theme throughout the show. The music was perfect, here and throughout, and so were the various projected videos, such as moving through a forest or stars in space. The later appearance of a lady wearing a huge flowing gown that filled the entirety of the stage was surreal; the audiences breath was literally held by the beauty of it all.

Sh-Boom and Shutters Shut were two light-hearted works, that included a naked male dancer surrounded by females, whose torches provided the only light on stage. It was choreographed and performed to almost perfection and remained gripping, enthralling contemporary dance. The timing of each individual performance was perfect, with each point being emphasised enough to show the concept, yet not over-done as to alienate the audience. Lighting, whether it be spot lighting on individual performers or the whole stage was excellent too. Combining each quality detail of the production made my £9 ticket really feel like a bargain - this show certainly provided the best value of anything I’d seen at any of this years festivals.

The final Signing Off work was mesmerising and ended with the opening video played in reverse, at a faster pace. Two performers slowly walked backwards and became submersed in draped and flowing curtains - the sea swallowing them up. It was a surreal moment and a fitting finale to this excellent production.

My only criticism would be the Edinburgh Playhouse venue, whose uncomfortable seating and lack of air flow is to bemoan. World class productions like the Nederlands Dans Theater produced need world class venues. Unfortunately the Edinburgh Playhouse just isn’t it.

However, this was a brilliant show by a brilliant company that remained totally captivating throughout. More of this please Edinburgh International Festival!

The Nederlands Dans Theater three night run at The Edinburgh Playhouse ended last night.

One Response to “Nederlands Dans Theater at The Edinburgh Playhouse, Edinburgh International Festival review”

  1. I too had the privilege of seeing Nederlands Dans Theatre during the festival and wholeheartedly agree with the review here.

    Prior to this performance, I had very limited exposure to contemporary dance. Rather, I’d taken the well worn path down the classical ballet trail, and tossed up whether to choose contemporary or classical on this occasion. I chose contemporary.

    Silent Screen was a sharp piece, with conflicting themes - a young child seeking the attention of faceless strangers, flowing water of the sea being the soundtrack to the rigid movement of the performers. There was a story line to it, yet it was not obvious. The audience was left to interpret it on their own, and had I not gone on to read the performance booklet, I may have come away from it with a completely different outcome. Watching it was an intense, rough ride, but at the end, you felt like you came away with some kind of understanding of sorts.

    Sh-Boom and Shutters Shut, as said above, were lighthearted additions. The audience was thankful for these, given the intensity of Silent Screen. The choreography was similar throughout all pieces, but it was amazing how the choreographers adapted it to suit each piece.

    The end being Signing Off was, as the name suggests, about saying goodbye. It was an endearing piece, but one which still stuck to that familar “rigid” type of choreography of the Nederlands Dans Theater.

    A brilliant production which used the combination of human figure and lighting with limited props. It was wonderful to watch, as long as you were prepared to let your senses and mind work for it.

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