CULTURE

Dance seedlings flower on stage

A dozen dancers gaze into space while their bodies stand motionless like Japanese symbols on stage. Susumu Shingu’s striking sculpture is suspended from the roof, conveying the feeling that we are facing the dancers of the future. That is choreographer Jiri Kylian’s «Toss of a Dice,» but he has more surprises in store. The famous Nederlands Dans Theater is set to present a highly interesting program at the Athens Concert Hall until Sunday, starting tonight. The Dutch company, one of the world’s most acclaimed and popular dance ensembles, will perform choreographies by Kylian as well as by his younger colleagues Paul Lightfoot and Sol Leon. The Nederlands Dans Theater, especially its main section, NDT I, has visited Athens in the past. This week, local audiences will be able to enjoy its new face, meaning its new generation of dancers. Artistic director Anders Hellstrom, who took over Kylian’s position just four years ago, recently talked to Kathimerini. What is the company’s vision today? The Nederlands Dans Theater will celebrate its 50th in the 2009-2010 season. Over the years, it has developed into a very famous contemporary dance ensemble, thanks to the numerous directors, choreographers, dancers, set designers and composers who have worked for us. A successful company always runs the risk of turning into a «museum,» so it is necessary for us to keep creating new works and producing new generations of choreographers and dancers, while respecting our past as well. We have a rich repertoire from the previous years and our main choreographers at the moment, Jiri Kylian, Britain’s Paul Lightfoot and Spain’s Sol Leon, are a very important part of it. What is not widely known is that apart from our main choreographers, every year we have about five to six world premieres of works by foreign guest choreographers that Dutch audiences have the opportunity to get acquainted with. Next season, Canadian choreographer Crystal Pite will also team up with us and will create a new work for every season, initially for the next four years. A major part of our work is to support and encourage future choreographers and dancers. Our annual project «Upcoming Choreographers» is part of that effort – three talented dancers are given the opportunity to do a choreography for their fellow dancers, with our full support. Already two of our new choreographers, Lukas Timulak and Medhi Walerski, came up with choreographies for our second group, NDT II, this season. In this way, while keeping our rich past we also ensure an exciting present and always look ahead to the future. Sometimes I describe this as a garden where seeds are planted and plants grow. Some of them are ready to blossom and others have given us the most beautiful flowers and fruit. Tell us about the works that will be staged in Athens. The program features two choreographies, one by Lightfoot and Leon and another by Kylian. Both premiered in the Hague in April 2005. Earlier in the season we had been forced to cancel a big tour in the Far East. To have an unpredictable, mid-season change is a nightmare for any artistic director; but on the other hand it can provide opportunities. So I decided to give our main choreographers an extended period of time, which in turn led to the program that we will stage in Athens. Lightfoot and Leon’s «Silent Screen» is inspired by silent cinema. Although there is no specific plot, the choreography is like a narrative. The music is by Philip Glass. As for Jiri Kylian, his work in general is inspired by Japanese culture. «Toss of a Dice» is no exception – here Kylian worked with Japanese artist Susumu Shingu, whose sculpture features prominently on the sets and has a direct influence on the stage and the dancers’ relationship with it. Is Jiri Kylian’s influence still strong? Undoubtedly Kylian’s repertoire is a very important part of the Nederlands Dans Theater and his works are often staged by both our groups, I and II. As he is still one of our main choreographers, he produces a work per year for both groups. The Nederlands Dans Theater has performed in Athens lots of times in the past and it is very popular here. What new things can the audience expect this time? The last time we performed works by Kylian and Johan Inger at the Herod Atticus Theater, in June 2004. Most dancers now belong to the new generation and we will stage works by Lightfoot and Leon for the first time in Greece. Since this time we are performing at the Athens Concert Hall, we will be able to present a program with complex and striking sets and technical effects. What characterizes the new generation of dancers? Young dancers work constantly with many different choreographers. It is a huge challenge for a young dancer to have such a wide field. It is equally important to have an open mind, to be curious to discover the latest tendencies and to try new directions. That way of thinking and that curiosity are typical of our dancers and is what makes them unique. Other than a very powerful ballet technique, they are very skilled in improvisation, they can work with a choreographer in the creation of a work and they can easily adapt to different styles. How would you describe the company today? We have a powerful past and an exciting present. We keep looking for new talented choreographers and dancers to introduce them to today’s and tomorrow’s audiences. We are very happy to be in Greece where we can share some of that with you.