Nederlands Dans Theater's Dare to Say delves deeply into relationships and human autonomy

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      A Nederlands Dans Theater (NDT2) production in partnership with DanceHouse. Livestreamed from The Hague on November 6

      The greatest dance programs can force a person to ponder the most profound aspects of their own existence. But to accomplish this with a virtual performance is no easy task.

      However, Nederlands Dance Theater's Dare to Say achieves precisely that with world premieres of two new choreographic works.

      They were developed under NDT2's new artistic director, Emily Molnar, who's familiar to Vancouverites as the artistic director of Ballet BC from 2009 until this past August.

      Alexander Ekman's Four Relations explores the vicissitudes of love and companionship in ways that married couples could not conceive of in their wildest imagination.

      Dimo Milev's Fusions and some confusions conveys how our opportunities for free expression are narrowing.

      Clearly, one of the stars of both shows is the stunningly creative Sophie Whittome, a former Ballet BC dancer and graduate of Arts Umbrella.

      In a dazzling pas de deux with charismatic French dancer Auguste Palayer in Four Relations, they sit side-by-side on two seats—almost like they are waiting for a train or a bus. Then suddenly, they explode into wild arm and body movements, coupled with dramatic facial expressions, as this segment takes on a life of its own.

      These are two dancers who clearly love performing for the camera as their relationship seesaws between curiosity, passion, and a battle for supremacy.

      At one point, Whittome appears to be banging Palayer's head on the floor as if to knock some common sense into him. It's a scene that will no doubt draw smiles from wives who've felt exasperated by their husband's stupidity.

      At times, the way Whittome and Palayer move their bodies seems to defy the logic of human physiology. But what remains with audiences afterward is how authentic their relationship is.

      Choreographer Ekman's creativity seems boundless. At different points in Four Relations, a baby comes sailing down from the sky, a woman appears in a heterosexual couple's dream, and a gay couple dressed identically in white morph into cups of coffee between their bickering, fighting, and then making up. 

      American dancers Barry Gans and Jordan Pelliteri capture the euphoria of new love through movement.

      It's a truly astonishing piece of work—often joyful but also with requisite amounts of angst and alienation, just like so many real-life relationships.

      And it's all captured on camera—as part of a movie set—at a dizzying pace in wildly different milieus, accompanied by a magnificent string quartet. 

      One can only guess at how Ekman came up with the idea of dancers performing horizontally and then vanishing on a bed (thanks to clever lighting and set design).

      The first show, Milev's Fusions and Confusions, unfolds more slowly, with dancers initially coming across as puppets at the whims of an external force.

      Two men in business attire (Jesse Callaert and Barry Gans) move around the stage with herky-jerky movements. They're clearly not in control—and that's given away by their expressions.

      They seem befuddled as parts of their body are jolted from above.

      Fusions and some confusions shows that sometimes we need to shed the trappings of everyday life to find ourselves.
      Joris Jan Bos Photography

      Only when they move onto a platform at the centre of the stage are they free to behave naturally. This is most apparent when Gans appears to be admiring himself in a mirror, smoothly and effortlessly groovin' to some music.

      This contradiction between how the dancers' movements are dictated in the outside world and their relative freedom in a private space represents how we all feel at times.

      As this private space shrinks, the dancers experience greater stresses. Just like the rest of us.

      The electronic music is, at times, foreboding. The relatively dark space and spare set add a sinister feel to Fusions and some confusions.

      And yes, there is some impressive fusion taking place on-stage involving dancers writhing around in azure bodysuits.

      We can all be sensuous at times after we shed our work clothes. That is, until the external world starts closing in on us.