The Poetic Body

In this interview, Emily Molnar, Artistic Director of Nederlands Dans Theater (NDT), dives deeper into her thoughts and vision for the company and season 2021-2022.

You’ve chosen to give season 2021-2022 the title The Poetic Body. Can you tell us more about what inspired this title and your intentions behind it?

For this season, I wanted to curate a programme that celebrates a diversity of ideas and creative voices that collectively push the boundaries of the expression of the body. Season 2021-2022 continues relationships with longtime NDT-collaborators while introducing exciting new storytellers; together these voices embody a unique spectrum of approaches to dance and theatre.

I wanted to highlight our artistic versatility and our dedication to supporting a range of perspectives, artists and models of making. For me, The Poetic Body is an example of how I imagine NDT moving forward in the future.

Photo: Rahi Rezvani. Dancer: Yukino Takaura

When you commenced your role as Artistic Director in August 2020, you stepped into a company that has a long history having recently celebrated its 60th anniversary. How does this affect your vision for the company and what were some of the questions that laid at the foundation of this?

The first question that rose to the surface was: “Are we sixty years old or sixty years young?” I imagined the company as a 60 year old person. With that in mind, would I see this company settled in its ways, beliefs and methodologies, or would we want it to stay curious, and use its knowledge and experience to explore new ways of creating, new ways of approaching art? I chose the latter.

Any work, like the artists performing it, is a living, breathing organism, developing and moulding into something new each day.

Emily Molnar

I am deeply inspired by NDT’s beautiful legacy and feel honoured to have this opportunity to lead a new era of creative collaboration and exchange. Additionally, I wondered what it means to be a large creative arts organization in these complex times, how adaptive and reflective can we be as a company, and what this means for how we support and develop our art. It is important to me that NDT continues to thrive as a leading creation house, focused on quality and creativity that nurtures the many inspired voices that make up the company. This is an ideal time to introduce new voices and approaches for our artists and community while also celebrating and learning from the company’s heritage. Season 2021-2022 puts that into practice. With all that in mind, I asked all of us the question: “What does innovation look like to us?”

And how would you answer that question in this moment in time?

When talking about the question of innovation we always have to ask about the now. For NDT, this means going deeper into the process of our creativity. What the audience sees on stage is never finished.

Any work, like the artists performing it, is a living, breathing organism, developing and moulding into something new each day. For this to unfold in practice, more time for exploration and dialogue is required by creating an environment with an equal focus on process and performance, that carves out space to discover that which we have yet to understand. Our new platform, NDT Lab, with a focus on research and development, is a good example of how we will step into deepening our practice of learning, shaping tools for the creative process and offering entry points for broader conversations about dance within the company and our community.

Photo: Rahi Rezvani. Dancers: Auguste Palayer, Kele Roberson, Kenedy Kallas.

Thinking of innovation also extends beyond the members of NDT; it includes our audience, workshop participants, and students as well. The choreographic act shapes the expression of the body through the language of movement.

This relates to everybody. Everyone is a dancer and a mover; our job is to help encourage that. Dance is, at its core, a democratic act. It harbours an unspoken intelligence about self-expression and community. We don’t all have to speak the same language, but we can share the same space and find common ground within minutes, no matter how diverse we are. I find that a beautiful metaphor for society.

I tend to say I am in the business of connecting people, because like all art, dance too creates, provokes and inspires dialogue towards an inclusive society.

The art of dance doesn’t only belong to us, it is all of ours. Everything we do extends far beyond NDT; we are part of a larger engine. Dance is a universal experience.

Emily Molnar

COVID -19 restrictions forced NDT to reshape its modes of presentation and production. What have you learned in the past season and what will that mean for the company in the future?

Of course we will keep touring and performing live, that connection is essential and that is who we are as a company. Last season challenged us greatly but through it we found new ways to perform. It’s been an exciting time for us; the digital capabilities that we have established through live streams and the creation of films will never replace the live experience but will remain part of how we present work. Through a hybrid form of the live and the digital, we can now extend our reach to more remote audiences in faraway places.

As a company we feel very fortunate to have continued our work throughout the pandemic and are grateful for the creative opportunities and discoveries it brought us.

You bring up the audience’s role. By extending their purpose and presence from a passive viewer to an active participant, the audience is invited to be an even more integral part of the company. In what other ways do you see the role of the NDT audience(s) taking shape?

I want to cultivate a conversation with our audience and engage in a dialogue about their experiences. That feedback loop is very important to me. To listen to their thoughts, insights and ideas feeds into the belief that the art we offer knows no boundaries.

The art of dance doesn’t only belong to us, it is all of ours. The power of dance provides bridges to creating solutions for the world through vulnerability, openness and risk. Everything we do extends far beyond NDT; we are part of a larger engine. Dance is a universal experience.

Photo: Rahi Rezvani. Dancer: Boston Gallacher.