Irina van der Sluijs

Celebrating Dance (1)

Dancer of NDT - picture from

Dance, I once read, is the art form closest to the soul. What I believe to be very true. I think this is because dancers dissolve, so to speak, in air. Their bodies filled from top till toe with energetic presence; extending beyond their physicality to become one with all.

Watching dancers perform makes me feel I am one of them; they pull me into their world of stories, aesthetics, emotions and elegance. I don’t think I ever experience this total absorption of art while standing in front of a painting or reading a novel – however thrilling that can be.

At the start of the new cultural season, I am glad to say, dance was much celebrated. In honour of Hans van Manen’s 80th birthday the "Nederlands Dans Theater" performed one of his ballets. I immediately recognized the hand of the master, his signatory power arms up in the air.

Van Manen transformed dance in his era – the 60s – 90s. A Mondriaan painting on stage – inspired as he must have been by modern art in those days. It always strikes me not only how minimal his choreographies are, but also how the costumes and lighting contribute to his minimalistic perfection.

I can appreciate his work – I like how he emancipated the male dancer and plays with sexuality in pas de deux’s or trois’s with both men and women. But times change and although Van Manen’s influence in contemporary dance will remain undisputed, I prefer the work of his ‘pupils’.

Choreographers like Lightfoot / Leon who now run NDT dare to be more theatrical, ferocious, sexy, hilarious, devastated, baroque, intuitive and delicate in their work. It is less stern - at least that is my impression when I wacht their dancers - they seem freer in their movements and expressions.

By that I don't mean their choreographies are an emotional chaos, far from that! Their ballets are superstyled, created with the same dedication and perfection as Van Manen. What they add is a sort of intuitive sensibility to their work, drawing from the vulnarability of life. 

Is it just me or is this a sign of the times? Humans are not minimalists. Now that we live together with computers and gadgets all day we seem to be in desperate need of liveliness. Is that why the new generation of choreographers create such zest for life? To remind us what it is again?

To be continued..