Gerald Tibbs says “get ready.”
The executive artistic director of the Nederlands Dans Theater II (NDT II) said his dancers are thrilled to be in America and are pumped and ready to dance their hearts out on Sunday at The Egg.
“When we got here, everyone was so excited,” said Tibbs, executive artistic director of NDT II. “We got off the bus at the Empire Hotel across from Lincoln Center. There are the huge posters of New York City Ballet. They took a class at Juilliard. They went to a Broadway show. They have been drinking it in. Right now, they are running on super energy. They love being in America.”
While the company doesn’t frequently visit the U.S., the feeling is mutual. Tickets at the Joyce Theater in Manhattan, where the company’s five-city tour has started, are sold out. Tibbs described the opening night crowd as enthusiastic.
Young American dancers are enthusiastic about NDT II too. Like Tibbs, who graduated from the North Carolina School for the Arts, they seek out the company by attending its annual open auditions. Tibbs takes a handful of the 250 dancers who show up to replace the seasoned dancers who move up to the main company or go onto careers elsewhere. Right now, the company comprises 16 dancers, ages 17 to 22, from 11 countries.
Nederlands Dans Theater II
WHERE: The Egg, Empire State Plaza, Albany
WHEN: 7 p.m. Sunday
HOW MUCH: $28, $24 seniors and $14 children
MORE INFO: 473-1845 or www.theegg.org
They are lured by its cutting-edge repertory and a chance to work with international giants like Jiri Kylian, Hans van Manen and Ohad Nahrian. And while Tibbs and his dancers plan to perform Kylian’s “Sleepless” at The Egg, the program will be dominated by NDT II’s resident collaborators and choreographers Paul Lightfoot and Sol Leon, better known as Lightfoot/Leon. Their works “Said and Done,” “Shutters Shut” and “Sad Case” will dominate the evening.
“We decided that we would focus on Lightfoot/Leon because there is less known about them in America,” said Tibbs, a Richmond, Va.-native who has spent the last 35 years in The Hague. “Jiri is well-established in America and the world. Everyone dances his pieces — Hubbard Street, Houston Ballet, Boston Ballet. We wanted Americans to see our other choreographers. Hopefully, the public will enjoy it.”
It’s likely. In 2003, Allan Ulrich, a dance critic with the online magazine voiceofdance.com wrote that the young company is seductive.
“Nederlands Dans Theater II is one of the great audience rousers of the season, a captivating experience,” wrote Ulrich.
At Jacob’s Pillow, four years later, Susan Reiter of danceviewtimes.com described the company as “crisply efficient” and dancing with a “bracing fluency and ability to immerse themselves in each choreographer’s style.”
NDT II got its start in 1978 as a seed company for the parent Nederlands Dans Theater. Like most second companies, the dancers were young and well-trained, but not yet primed for the world stage. And while the main company is made up of 90 to 95 percent of dancers from NDT II, the junior ensemble has matured to stand proudly on its own.
Kylian, who directed the main company and created its junior, pushed the young dancers and elevated their reputation by making dancing specifically for them. Other choreographers followed. And now, the NDT II unveils four new works a season that are created for them.
“NDT II was a starting ground for younger choreographers. The company gave them the opportunity to start out their careers. Now, we have established choreographers creating for the dancers.”
Lightfoot and Leon, a husband-and-wife team, started creating for NDT II while dancers with the parent company. With the junior company, they have cultivated their own special vocabulary that forms the basis of 30 ballets. Described as two of the most exciting European choreographers, they have won awards at the Edinburgh International Festival and the Lucas Hoving Prize. They were also nominated for a Lawrence Olivier Award.
Naturally, with Kylian making plans to retire at the end of the year, Lightfoot is expected to be his successor. However, Lightfoot has said in interviews that he does not want to direct NDT. He prefers creating and collaborating with his wife.
Either way, NDT is readying for change. On its next visit to American, NDT II might look different. But Tibbs said what ever happens with NDT II, one thing will remain, the ebullience of his youthful dancers.
“These are dancers in their prime,” he said. “They are right on the brim of taking off.”
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