Not only the Girl with a Pearl Earring, the International Court of Justice, the Royal Family, and the best herring sandwich in the world, but most important to dance lovers, The Hague is home to one of the world’s most celebrated dance companies, Nederlands Dans Theater. New York audiences will get a chance to witness firsthand the much-storied and spectacular 30-member contemporary dance troupe–in New York for the first time in nearly a decade–when it performs at The David H. Koch Theater, April 11 and 12, and as part of the The Joyce Theater Gala on April 10. In all, the company will present three New York premieres, each a collaboration between NDT’s new Artistic Director Paul Lightfoot and its Resident Choreographer Sol León.

The April 11 and 12 programs feature León and Lightfoot’s twinned works, “Sehnsucht,” created in 2009, and “Schmetterling,” created in 2010, whose themes are spiritually connected.

“Sehnsucht,” which defies a literal English translation, refers to longing or a sense of profound yearning. While “Sehnsucht” is suffused with a sense of nostalgia in the original sense of the word, “Schmetterling” suggests the transitional nature of existence, an unfolding of the future. Ideas of space and the transforming effects of time play a major role in both dances.

“Sehnsucht” uses a cast of 14 dancers. Parts one and three express a couple’s changing relationship through time, suggested in both the choreography and the rotating room in which the dance takes place, while part two of the work pulses with romantic passion and spirit. Memory is a driving force that unites the sections of the work. Beethoven is the musical force that empowers the dancing.

“Schmetterling” is an homage to the transformative nature of being alive, symbolized by the fleeting beauty of a butterfly. It takes place in a “dark cabaret” set atop the orchestra pit designed to shorten the gap between dancers and audience to create an aura of intimacy. Using a selection of emotionally complex love songs from the indie art rock band the Magnetic Fields and music by contemporary composer Max Richter, the piece suggests change and transformation on multiple levels. The results of the passage of time are also expressed through the gradual photographic exposure of a panoramic view of Death Valley. Death is not something to fear, but rather to befriend, believe the choreographers, whose thinking was influenced in part by the great German poet Matthias Claudius.

The Joyce’s Gala evening, April 10, features the American premiere of León and Lightfoot’s  “SH-BOOM!” With its good-humored wit dashed with irony, the work is set to an international collection of post-war songs. Created to showcase the internationalism of the company, the spirited work was originally inspired by a 45 rpm that Lightfoot’s mother gave him when he left his native England for The Hague as a young dancer. The record had been hanging on his The Hague attic apartment wall for a long while before he finally put it on his record player. On the B-side was “SH-Boom.” He listened, and the idea for the dance was born. The 1994 work was realized in a choreographic workshop at NDT while León and Lightfoot were still dancing. As the years progressed, León and Lightfoot added more songs, which extended its length and added to its complexity.

Where To Go

The curtain for the April 11 and 12 performances at the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center is at 8pm. The tickets range between $50 and $125, and can be purchased at the David H. Koch box office, by calling 212-496-0600 or online at www.davidhkochtheater.com.

The curtain for the April 10 Joyce Gala is at 7pm. Tickets for the performance range from $50 to $125 and can be purchased through www.davidhkochtheater.com or by calling 212-496-0600.

Artist Bios

Nederlands Dans Theater was founded in 1959 by 22 dancers who broke away from the Nederlands Ballet, determined to establish a contemporary company with a distinctive style of its own.  They decided to base the company in The Hague, the beautiful canal-lined city and home of the Royal Family. This new troupe, directed by Benjamin Harkarvy (1959-1969) and Hans van Manen (1960-1971), recruited many experimental international and Dutch choreographers to create works for them.  Influenced by the new ideas that were happening in American modern dance, the company was the first in Europe to give classes in modern dance.  Choreographer Jiří Kylián was appointed NDT’s artistic director in 1975. Under his leadership and because of his extraordinary choreographic gifts, the company reached a new level of artistic excellence and developed world-renown as a first-rate international company. In all, Kylián created 75 works for the company during his tenure, which ended in 1999. While at the helm, he created two offspring companies: NDT2, comprised of dancers between 17 and 22 years old, a kind of talent incubator for NDT, and the now- disbanded NDT3, which had been comprised of older dancers. Both companies marked radical new possibilities for traditional dance troupes.

Between Kylián’s departure and the 2011 appointment of choreographer and former NDT dancer Paul Lightfoot as its artistic director, the company was headed by Marian Sarstädt (1999-2004), Anders Hellström (2004-2009) and Jim Vincent (2009-2011). Since 1989 Paul Lightfoot and his choreographic partner, Sol León, resident choreographers of the company, have contributed over 45 works to NDT’s repertoire.

SOL LEÓN (Córdoba, Spain) finished her dance training at the National Ballet Academy of Madrid and came to The Hague in 1987 to dance with Nederlands Dans Theater 2 under Arlette van Boven. In 1989 she joined Nederlands Dans Theater 1 under artistic direction of Jiří Kylián, where she performed in many works of NDT house choreographers Jiří Kylián and Hans van Manen. In 2007 Sol León and Paul Lightfoot started a charity project for street children in Bangladesh.

PAUL LIGHTFOOT (Kingsley, Cheshire England) has been Artistic Director of Nederlands Dans Theater since September 2011. Lightfoot joined NDT as a dancer in 1985 after graduating from the Royal Ballet School. Sol León and Paul Lightfoot have worked together producing works for Nederlands Dans Theater since 1989. They became renowned choreographers and were appointed house choreographers at the Nederlands Dans Theater in 2002. To date, León and Lightfoot have created over 45 works for the company, for which they received many dance awards and are performed around the world.

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Leadership support for The Joyce Theater Foundation has been received from the LuEsther T. Mertz Charitable Trust. This program is supported, in part, by public funds from the Consulate General of the Netherlands in New York. Major support for The Joyce has been provided by Bloomberg Philanthropies, The Robert Sterling Clark Foundation, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and The Shubert Foundation. Additional major support has been provided by Alphawood Foundation, First Republic Bank, The Harkness Foundation for Dance, MetLife Foundation, The Jerome Robbins Foundation, and The Fan Fox and Leslie R. Samuels Foundation. Lead support has been provided by The Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation, The New York Community Trust/LuEsther T. Mertz Advised Fund in honor of Georgia Delano, and Stanton Public Relations & Marketing. Programs of The Joyce are supported by a grant award from the National Endowment for the Arts; and made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature; as well as supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council. The Joyce Theater Foundation, a nonprofit organization, has proudly served the dance community and its audiences for three decades. Under the direction of founders Cora Cahan and Eliot Feld, Ballet Tech Foundation acquired and renovated the Elgin Theater in Chelsea and opened it as The Joyce Theater in 1982. One of the only theaters built by dancers for dance, The Joyce Theater has provided an intimate and elegant home for more than 340 domestic and international companies and features an annual season of approximately 48 weeks with over 340 performances for audiences in excess of 135,000.
Photos by Rahi Rezvani. Girl with a Pearl Earring painted by Johannes Vermeer. Collage by Michael Bonfiglio/EJA.