by Paul Lightfoot, former dancer, house choreographer & artistic director
choreography: subject to change by sol león & paul lightfoot
photo: joris-jan bos
“The moment I crossed the threshold of NDT through the bulky wooden door of Koningstraat 118 on January 7th 1985, I knew that I had found my place.
These past 35 years spanning my entire professional career so far with NDT is a personal encyclopedia of immeasurable stories and inspirational colleagues. Deciding on a single ballet in an attempt to encapsulate the precious beauty of NDT isn’t easy though I have settled on a work of Sol and myself whose circumstance process and creative result both emotionally and factually exemplify in my opinion why NDT is like no other dance company in the world.
Subject to Change was a world premiere in March 2003 for NDT 2, the company where so many dear colleagues and friends also began. The ballets title was aptly nabbed from the corner of the page of every schedule, cast sheet, and planning document we print at NDT. Three little words to remind us that this artistic house rarely does anything as expected, so be prepared…
When Sol and I started the work all we knew was that we wanted a pas de deux and a large red carpet to dance it upon. The music originally chosen was Allegri’s ‘Miserere Mei’, which got overruled when one day I returned to the studio from the music library with a CD of Mahler’s transcription of Schubert’s ‘Der Tod und Das Madchen’. Hedda Twiehaus, our wonderful assistant declared her love for the music and everyone in the room agreed that it was such a powerful poetic piece that we should use it. Little did we know that it was a precursor for events which were to follow.
Saura our daughter, who was five then, spent much of her time in studio 2 around us during the creative process. A dear friend called Ruth from Chile was helping to look after Saura. During an evening rehearsal Saura literally rang us up in the studio. To this day I still don’t know how she managed to do that as a five year old. She said quite calmly that Ruth was on the floor and that she couldn’t “wake her up”.
What transcended was a harrowing time as Ruth fought for her life against a severe brain haemorrhage. Sol and I had never been so close to death. The reality of the world had suddenly punctured a hole into our creativity and we could not ignore this reality so we kept choreographing whilst watching Ruth’s faculties as a human being brutally taken away from her. As Ruth’s sole carers we spent every moment we could with her in hospital whilst back at NDT we worked all kinds of irregular hours creating the piece. No one questioned it. We all simply faced this storm together. Gerald Tibbs, artistic leader of NDT 2 always knew how to help creators in whichever way he could.”