"Mats Eks Sleeping Beauty is disruptive, comical and touching," the Telegraaf wrote in October 2014, one day after it premiered as the opener for the 2014/2015 season in the Lucent danstheater in the Hague. "Why NDT takes on the famous dance classic of Ek, remains curious", De Volkskrant mentioned that same day. These different sounds emphasize the ambivalent effect innovation and artistic risks can potentially entail, one of NDT’s top priorities. However, the interest and encouragement from the public showed no ambiguity whatsoever; sold out performances throughout the Netherlands led to exuberant ovations.
Nederlands Dans Theater (NDT) is one of the most productive dance companies in the Netherlands, if not in the world. With six programs and nine world premieres in season 2015/2016, NDT shows an unprecedented number of new ballets. Artistic director Paul Lightfoot has deliberately chosen only a few revivals: "It's about artistic creation, not just choreography."
The company has always been ambitious and idiosyncratic. Since its founding in 1959 by Benjamin Harkarvy, Aart Verstegen and Carel Birnie in cooperation with eighteen dancers from Het Nationaal Ballet (The National Ballet), NDT has tried to pave its own way in the modern dance field. Glen Tetley and Hans van Manen prominently imprinted NDT with an avant-garde aesthetic and their nonconformist, progressive productions put the company on the national and international map.
Jiri Kylián added his own vision in the 80s and 90s, giving the company a distinct choreographic profile. Kylián was also a pioneer in focussing on talent development within the company, giving young professionals from within as well as outside the organization a chance to becomes dancers and choreographers of international repute. Sol León and Paul Lightfoot, both the house choreographers of NDT since 2002, are the primary examples of this.
Since 2011, Lightfoot also serves as the Artistic Director of the overall company whereas León has been its artistic advisor since 2012. León & Lightfoot have been working together since 1989 and earlier this season celebrated their 25th anniversary with new works and revivals of Sad Case and Subject to Change (NDT 2) and Sehnsucht and Schmetterling (NDT 1).
Video: Sad Case - León & Lightfoot
Video: Subject to Change - León & Lightfoot
The idea to divide the company into one that focuses on talent development (NDT 2) and one where the more mature dancers (NDT 1) can fully grow into their artistic personalities, was developed thirty years ago. Dancers of NDT 2 join NDT 1 under the condition that they meet the expectations of the artistic direction. The high requirements that must be met result not only in appreciation by the public, but also in international dance prices. Dancer and choreographer Medhi Walerski won the prestigious 2013 Swan for 'most impressive dance performance'. "With his impressive appearance and theatre sensitivity his presence never loses meaning and he holds the audience’s attention by continuously fixating them. Walerski is a master magician in time and space " according to the VSCD jury report.
The level is not only high for the dancers, but also for the (guest) choreographers. NDT is one of few production houses that offers the stage and the opportunity to many external choreographers to create work with a virtuoso dance company. It is therefore not surprising that international, award-winning Crystal Pite, Hofesh Shechter as well as Marco Goecke are regular guests at NDT. Their presence leads to creative cross-pollination of world class and unforgettable ballets. Masterpieces like Bella Figura, Symphony in D and Déjà Vu are among the classics of the company. A part of the collection is even included in the archive of the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag, a unique phenomenon in the Dutch ballet world.
Read more on our story in the NDT magazine: