Review: Turning Dancers Into Aliens One Step at a Time

Emily Molnar, the artistic director of Nederlands Dans Theater, is committed to giving her dancers, as she has said, “creative agency and a greater sense of belonging.”

That matters in the studio. You want it to matter onstage. But without substantial dances to dance, it can’t help but to matter very little — especially not in promoting the individuality that comes, one hopes, from having creative agency in the first place.

The company, under Molnar’s artistic direction since 2020, returned to New York City Center on Wednesday with the support of Dance Reflections by Van Cleef & Arpels and three works, including “N.N.N.N.” (2002) by the esteemed William Forsythe. (As a dancer, Molnar was a member of his Frankfurt Ballet.) It isn’t Forsythe on his best day — it’s too knowingly playful to really soar — but at least it was succinct, with dancers that looked like real people. As the evening dragged on, this wasn’t necessarily the norm.

In the Forsythe work, four men create a score using their breath, which provides the rhythm and the choreographic pulse alongside barely-there music by Thom Willems. Swinging their arms, resting their hands on one another’s shoulders, they inhaled and exhaled with fervor. Their breathing, sharp and drawn out with the occasional whoosh, mirrored the rise and fall of their limbs.

They tapped and lightly smacked one other as they lined up side by side, tangling and untangling like interlocking puzzles, yet there was something off about their flow as their movement right from the start seemed premeditated. It was as if they anticipated how their weight dropped instead of being guided by it.

Still, gimmicky Forsythe is better than nothing. The other works on the program were created by duos — which really goes to show that two choreographers aren’t better than one. In “The Point Being,” the Dutch choreographic pair of Imre and Marne van Opstal — they are siblings and former members of the Nederlands company — collaborated with Lonneke Gordijn and DRIFT, an Amsterdam studio, to create a light installation that interacted with dancing bodies.

Back to top button