We went to Sadler’s Wells last Wednesday evening to see Nederlands Dans Theater 2. All of the pieces were beautiful, but we were especially interested in the audience’s reaction to CACTI by Alexander Ekman (who was incidentally in the audience for the UK premiere of his piece.)
Being amidst the aftermath of CACTI was quite startling: whispers of surprise and appreciation began to buzz around the auditorium as soon as the music ended. We felt there was a genuine feeling of something akin to joy around us. This piece made us smile, and, it didn’t ask anything of us. All we had to do was sit and be entertained.
Not that CACTI lacks depth. Underlying Mr Ekman’s enormous aptitude for the comic, the quirky, the twee and the romantic, and not to mention gorgeous choreography, there was a subtle, serious undertone about contemporary dance and the world at large.
We caught up with him for comment on his piece, and here’s what he had to say:
‘I think CACTI is one of my most complete works. It has a clear beginning and end, and all parts of the piece somehow magically fit together.
It’s a subtle and comic comment on artistic critiques and the way I think many people feel that they always have to ‘understand’ something while watching dance.
Maybe we don’t have to understand everything while watching art…. I pushed myself to create a lot of dance in CACTI; usually my works can be filled with theatrical situations and scenes, and less dance.
The dancers are young and ready to give it all at every rehearsal which is everything you can ask for as a creator.
NDT has a very open-minded relation towards creation which is very valuable. We had quite a long creation time in the studio. I think we must have made ten pieces on the way to the final version of CACTI. But that’s how I work. I just keep trying different versions until the right puzzle of scenes, music, steps lights and text fit together. ‘
Here’s what the critics have been saying about CACTI this week:
“I can’t remember the last time one of the NDT companies made me laugh out loud. During the three decades or so in which they were collectively dominated by the work of Jiří Kylián, even the most exhilarating dance material tended to have an undertow of puzzled angst.”
Judith Mackrell, The Guardian 7 March 2012
“Choreographically, and theatrically, the most original section is a pas de deux where the two dancers produce a running commentary on their piece: “Jump. Jump. Bitch.” “Please be careful of my head here. Please.” “It’s not always about you.” I look forward very much to seeing where Ekman goes next.”
Judith Flanders, The Arts Desk 7 March 2012
“..the finale, Cacti, by the gifted young Alexander Ekman. The entire company takes joyfully to the stage, each with their own small platform upon which to dance or pose. Later, each also acquires their own cactus. A voiceover deconstructs the piece, gently mocking our obsessive desire to define and interpret, using the cacti as a symbol of that desire. The cacti, it seems, mean absolutely nothing.”
Laura Thompson, The Telegraph 12 March 2012