DDF News — 14 Oct 2019

The best dance of the 21st century

The best dance of the 21st century

The Guardian looks back at dance over the last two decades to find the best new dance productions of the 21st century and DDF artists claimed several places including the top spot for Crystal Pite's Betroffenheit.

17. Rain (2001)

The minimalist composer Steve Reich has been a longtime muse for Belgian choreographer Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker, and she immersed herself in his Music for 18 Musicians to make this shimmering dance. De Keersmaeker’s choreography is meticulously precise but the result looks like joyful, carefree abandon, the dancers bounding and skipping in a winding, looping skein of movement. A hugely sophisticated work that bathes the audience in a dreamlike glow.

16. V (2001)

As with all of Mark Morris’s best work, V does more than take inspiration from its accompanying score; it allows you to see, feel and hear the genius of Schumann’s Piano Quintet in E flat major with a piercing clarity. From its passages of brightly crafted invention – floated on music of rapt and tender lyricism – to the stark, even abject melancholy of its darker sections, this is pure dance at its most emotionally and physically distilled.

14. Formosa (2017)

Lin Hwai-min’s final work for Cloud Gate Dance Theatre, the company he founded in 1973, shows both the sure hand of long experience and an imagination still fresh and full of wonder. A tribute to Lin’s native Taiwan that deftly weaves choreography, scenography, voiceover and typography, its nine numinously poetic scenes are as distilled, elegant and dense with imagery as the Chinese script itself, whether Lin is contemplating an egret, a war, city life or the sea.

13. Desh (2011)


London-born Akram Khan is one of the most captivating dancers of his generation, his childhood training in the Indian classical dance form kathak underpinning explorations in contemporary dance and performance. Following powerful pure dance works and experiments with text, Desh is the solo that most successfully synthesised Khan’s mix of awe-inspiring physicality and funny, searching monologue, as Khan journeys into his Bangladeshi heritage with Tim Yip’s designs creating a magical visual feast.

8. Umwelt (2004)

Understandably, Maguy Marin’s Umwelt always induces walkouts. Nine mirrored panels rotate slowly, for an hour. Nine performers emerge at each turn to execute an action – all deadpan, whether it’s mopping the floor, pointing a gun or chucking out a baby doll. There’s a pervasive noise, as blank as the wind. A rope winches across the stage, at paint-drying pace. The entire process remains indifferent to our thoughts, feelings, wishes or indeed presence. Painful to watch, yes, but there it is: an unblinking glimpse into the void at the core of our existence.

6. Véronique Doisneau (2004)

French provocateur Jérôme Bel illuminates the life of ballet’s worker bees, the corps de ballet, in a solo for Paris Opera Ballet’s Véronique Doisneau (later released as a film). Forty-one and nearing retirement, Doisneau stands centre stage and talks of her career, the parts she danced, and most poignantly the ones she didn’t – she floats through a scene from Giselle, humming the music to herself, haunting the role. It’s a bittersweet story of almost, but not quite, achieving one’s dream.

4. Merce Cunningham at the Tate Modern (2003)

It’s hard to think of another performance where dance, design and location coincided to such serendipitously beautiful effect. Framed by the cosmic sorcery of Olafur Eliasson’s Weather Project, the dancers from Cunningham’s company took possession of the vast Turbine Hall, sometimes moving so close to those of us watching that we felt the whiplash passing of their bodies, sometimes receding into the outer edges of hall, silhouetted against the giant glowing radiance of Eliasson’s sun. Both intensely intimate and spectacularly awesome – it feels as though the universe were dancing around us.

3. Sutra (2008)


In this funny, charismatic and profoundly humane collaboration between Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and the monks from Shaolin Temple, there is not a whiff of fake “exoticism” or cultural appropriation. Cherkaoui’s choreography revels in the maniacal danger and beauty of the monks’ kung fu heritage – shamelessly displaying their shadow-boxing, backflips and flying kicks – but it also explores the spiritual and social heart of the Shaolin’s monastic world. A journey of joyous exchange for Cherkaoui as well for as his audience.

2. Swan Lake/Loch Na hEala (2016)


Rarely does dance address specific social issues with the imagination and sophistication of Michael Keegan-Dolan’s Loch Na hEala, unpicking Swan Lake’s simplistic view of good and evil via a story of sexual abuse in the Catholic church. There’s always been a bristling undercurrent of scorn in the Irish choreographer’s work, but the power of this piece is the marriage of blunt detail and disgust with moments of mythical transcendence, all swirled together like the mist on a lake.

1. Betroffenheit (2015)


One of the most thrilling dance stories of the new century has been the rise and rise of Crystal Pite. With a steadfast belief in her own choreographic principles, Pite has created true and startling works for both classical and contemporary companies. Her language has taken flight in epic compositions of abstract dance but, as in her harrowing masterpiece Betroffenheit, it has also plumbed depths of human experience. Created in collaboration with actor and writer Jonathon Young, this 2015 work explores the hellhole of grief into which Young was plunged by the accidental deaths of his daughter, nephew and niece. The pain, humiliation and sheer ugliness of that experience is given searing physical embodiment in Pite’s choreography but so too is the slow process of recovery and redemption. As raw and unflinching as Betroffenheit is, however, you come away from it with a wild feeling of exhilaration – uplifted by its courage, its coruscating beauty and by the faith it affirms in the power of art to address emotions that lie beyond reason or words.

Read the full article by The Guardian.


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