The global influence of the Nederlands Dans Theater in the Hague cannot be denied. Since its founding in 1959, the modern ballet company has attracted visionary talent like a magnet, and timeless works have emerged from it that helped shape contemporary dance as we know it. Martin Schläpfer has put together a trio of exceptional performances by three of the Dans Theater’s legendary leaders. Hollands Meister includes ‘Skew-Whiff’ by Sol León and Paul Lightfoot, ‘Adagio Hammerklavier’ by Hans van Manen, and ‘Symphony of Psalms’ by Jiří Kylián. Each of the pieces has left its mark in the modern ballet pantheon, but this unique performance at Volksoper Wien puts these masterpieces side by side for the very first time.
The programme opens with ‘Skew-Whiff’, a playful and freedom-loving choreographic exploration of lightness and fun in perfect musical unison with the unchained melodies of Gioachino Rossini. The ethereal movements and the child-like energy that León and Lightfoot have woven into the dancers’ movements emanate joie de vivre. The similarly energetic and positive ‘Adagio Hammerklavier’ by van Manen builds up on the cheerful theme, but it provides a different take on how movement can express the happiness of life. Based around Ludwig van Beethoven’s Sonata in B-flat Major, op. 106, the performance stands out with its remarkable precision and clarity of motion and message. Light and dreamy but also highly technical and accurate, it is a classic van Manen and a pleasure for the senses.
Last but not least comes the spiritual and sensual ‘Symphony of Psalms’, based on the orchestral and choral work of the same name by Igor Stravinsky. Kylián’s fluid and expressive choreography has 16 dancers perfectly express the trials, tribulations and exaltations that together make up life as we know it. While not explicitly religious, the work has a strong basis in spirituality. Duets and ensemble episodes explore the gamut of human emotion with its natural ups and downs. Backed by Stravinsky’s evocative music, Kylián’s choreography brings Hollands Meister to a glorious climax on the stage of Volksoper Wien.