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Nederlands Dans Theater 2 review at Sadler’s Wells – ’emotional electricity’

Katarina van den Wouwer and Gregory Lau in Cacti at Sadler's Wells. Photo: Johan Persson Katarina van den Wouwer and Gregory Lau in Cacti at Sadler's Wells. Photo: Johan Persson
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There’s nothing new here. The most recent of the five works on show was made last year, the earliest 1997. But any chance to reacquaint oneself with the mischievous, subversive anarchy of Alexander Ekman’s Cacti or Hans van Manen’s high velocity Solo is to be welcomed. The bonus here is the three-part opener from NDT’s dancemaking double act, Sol Leon and Paul Lightfoot – Schubert, a pas de deux of twisted symmetry that bends classical steps into new shapes, Sad Case, a vibrant mambo-driven romp and Some Other Time, a piercing and genuinely unsettling work of dark eroticism.

Made at different times the three pieces are held together by a set of shifting black screens that keep changing the dimensions of the space. There is a hint of Spain in the quartet of men in black suits with red lining, postmodern matadors with a sense of irony; the smeared white costumes of the middle piece suggest a bunch of funloving ghosts flitting and flirting through a house of dissolving rooms. Hesitant approaches collide with full-blooded seduction. The combination of shameless sexuality, parodic classicism, quirky humour and Edward Gorey gothic is parlayed seamlessly by dancers apparently made of India rubber.

The short pieces shine in different ways – Edward Clug’s is all spiky, angular elegance like watching replicants practising to be human beings, while van Manen’s Solo is danced by three different men that gives the impression of one man competing with himself. The infinitely amusing and inventively illuminated Cacti fills the stage with would-be Shaolin Monks going through exaggerated rituals of purification on individual platforms that are then piled into a higgledy-piggledy structure while a pretentious voice over pre-empts the critical attempt at semiotic interpretation. It’s surreal, bonkers and enormous fun.

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Varied programme from NDT’s ‘baby’ company pulsates with joy and emotional electricity