Dance Matters: A New NDT

December 31, 2013

The company will see big changes in 2014.


When Nederlands Dans Theater announced last May that it would stop performing Jirí Kylián’s work for three years, comparisons were made to a Balanchine-less New York City Ballet. But as artistic director Paul Lightfoot started factoring the decision into planning the next season, the company ran into another identity-altering change: In the fall, the city will tear down NDT’s longtime performance space, Lucent Danstheater in The Hague, to build a larger venue. Without its signature rep or home stage, what will become of NDT’s slick contemporary brand?

Kylián, who was NDT’s artistic director for 24 years and resident choreographer from 1999–2009, suggested shelving his work because he was concerned that the troupe was becoming dependent on his rep instead of focusing on progressive choreographers—the core ethos that defined the company many years ago. “Repertoire has weight, and he believes that the identity of NDT is rebellious and creative,” says Lightfoot. Initially upset by the proposal, Lightfoot says he understands that Kylián’s decision is in the best interest of the company. It will also give Kylián more creative freedom to work on smaller-scale projects. Others, including some NDT dancers who came to the company specifically to perform Kylián’s dances, have mixed emotions.

New commissions will be the focus of the reimagined NDT. In addition to his own work with Sol León, Lightfoot planned 10 world premieres in 2013–14. Going forward, associate choreographers Crystal Pite, Alexander Ekman, Johan Inger and Marco Goecke will stage at least one new piece or revival per season. Favorites like Ohad Naharin and Hofesh Shechter will remain regular guests. And the troupe’s dancers will be encouraged to create, as Lightfoot once did under Kylián, in evenings dedicated to young talent.

Lightfoot’s pressing concern, though, is finding a new performance space for the company, which has been at the Lucent Dans­theater, the largest Dutch theater designed specifically for dance, for nearly 27 years. “It’s a very dangerous decision, and our main worry right now,” he says. “They’re going to destroy our home.” The city has offered NDT a temporary location during the three- to five-year construction period for the new theater that will rise on the Lucent’s site, but as of press time, the company has not yet decided whether to take it.


Above photo: NDT in Kylián’s Tar and Feathers
. By Joris-Jan Bos, Courtesy NDT