Repertoire: Straddling the line between classical and modern

©  Jorge Fatauros

Benjamin Harkarvy’s contemporary approach

In 1964, US choreographer Benjamin Harkarvy created a ballet titled Recital for Cello and Eight Dancers, set to music by Johann Sebastian Bach. The choreography was inspired by traditional dance forms: an allemande, a courante, a sarabande and two gavottes are followed by a gigue. While the obvious choice for this production would have been to let the dance follow the music, Harkarvy adopted a different approach: using recurring dance motifs, he created a modern and dynamic interplay of lines which expanded on the traditional dance movements of the suite, separately from the music.

Photo credit: unknown

Photo credit: unknown

Modern dance makes its debut in the Netherlands

Harkarvy invited guest choreographers from the United States to come and teach his dancers, most of whom were classically trained, more modern techniques. Before long, contemporary dance productions by choreographers such as Anna Sokolow, Glen Tetley and John Butler were added to the repertoire. Harkarvy himself did not shy away from blending classical and modern styles: both in his ballets and in his classes he sought to find a balance between these apparent opposites.

© Ben Vollebregt

Kylián's oeuvre

The fact that NDT’s dancers are proficient in both classical and contemporary styles enables choreographers to experiment with different vocabularies of movement. The eclectic oeuvre of Jiří Kylián is a prime example of this.

Critics have described his productions as anything from ‘angular, sharp and abrupt (Trouw on Sweet Dreams, May 30, 1990) to ‘fluid and expressive’ (De Telegraaf on Return to a Strange Land, October 31, 1979).

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‘In a programme of four ballets, you would have four different styles. You’d see Alexandra Radius dancing in ballet slippers in the first ballet, pointe shoes in the second, barefoot in the third and in trainers in the fourth.’ 1    – Gérard Lemaître

1 Versteeg 1987 p.49

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