REVIEW: Introdans at the Joyce Theater
[dropcap]B[/dropcap]allet has always held itself in a different genre, treasuring technique and choreographic innovation within that aesthetically clean framework. Prestigious visionaries like George Balanchine and Jiří Kylián found their own unique ways of transforming the classical to the contemporary, historically breaking new ground and allowing a next generation of creativity to progress and discover new ways to enrapture audiences. One of the national dance companies of the Netherlands, Introdans was met with high expectations for their US debut at the Joyce Theater. Ballet desperately needs new flag-bearers. The result this week was disappointing in its transparency.
Roel Voorintholt, artistic director of Introdans, opened with Heavenly, featuring divinity-themed revivals from three different choreographers. The first work, Fünf Gedichte (five poems), was choreographed by Nils Christe and premiered in 1996. The strategy here maintained the idea that such small modern adjustments like parallel position are enough to make ballet new. Its a safe, crowd-pleasing approach.The piece definitely felt 1996, if not older. Several duets donning matching unitards, broke up the group sections and were reminiscent of the centaur couples in Fantasia and their equally monotonous relationships. The piece begins and ends with a male soloist, wearing nothing but flesh-colored shorts doing his best Kylian impression. Spoiler alert: it’s pretty good.
The next piece, offering the 2006 work of Gisela Rocha, offered a different perspective on the company and its repertory. The simple and tired structure of Fünf Gedichte was strongly opposed by this chaotic and more experimental Paradise?. The piece, featuring everything from moving rows of overhead lights, creepy vocal riffs on “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” and an unexpected tap solo, was confusing at best, annoying at worst. Unfortunately, Paradise? falls into a strange sub-genre of contemporary dance where innovation is replaced with an abundance of different media-types and sensory experiences. Decision-making is replaced by chaos. Quality is replaced by quantity.
After intermission, the 1988 work Messiah, choreographed by Ed Wubbe, hit the stage to finish the evening. Surprisingly interesting and beautiful, Messiah was a breath of fresh air. Clean black costumes were coupled with hypnotizing white skirts, whipped about in the background. Smart and attentive lighting design made just as big of an impact, directing the audience’s focus and successfully maintaining interest. That is, until the third hour of the piece went by (read: exaggeration).
Thankfully, Introdans offers very talented and extremely powerful dancers from all over the world. Their virtuosity and technical mastery does not go unrecognized. If not for their devotion, I might have been tempted to depart before final curtain.