Dance Sophie Constanti NDT2 Sadler's Wells, London: REVIEW

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The Independent Culture
NDT2, the youth branch of the flourishing industry that is Nederlands Dans Theater - NDTs 1 (the main company) and 3 (staffed by the over forties), and the 10 Dancers Ensemble (an independent offshoot of NDT1) - was formed in 1977. It began life as "Springboard", was later renamed "the Juniors" and, although originally intended as a bridge between training and the profession, has long shed its implied amateur status. These days, NDT2 remains dedicated to showcasing young talent - its intake consists of 14 dancers aged between 17 and 22 - but the troupe is as slickly professional as any NDT project.

In terms of technical skill, stamina and versatility, NDT2's performers are as able and assured as their colleagues in NDT1 - the company within which most of them probably hope to find full employment. And while there is a certain satisfaction to be had in watching these well-trained dancers work their magic on the mediocre choreography that makes up Programme One of their two-week, two-programme season at Sadler's Wells, you can't help noticing that same bland efficiency that has become a prime characteristic of nearly all NDT enterprises.

If NDT2 transcends the limitations of the NDT aesthetic, it is because of the dancers' adult yet clearly unjaded approach to the whole business of performance. And it is this combination of acquired discipline and youthful enthusiasm that serves to intensify and freshen the rhetoric of works as varied and humdrum as Jiri Kylin's Un Ballo and Gideon Obarzanek's Petrol-Head Lover. In the first, couples in black occupy a candle-lit dance floor, the swell and lilt of their dances filling the space as politely and earnestly as Ravel's music; in Petrol-Head Lover, a more wild-child manner prevails, from the opening solo for a head-banging motor mechanic to the cutesy bump-and-grind explorations of a Bill and Ben duo.

As in the other pieces on NDT2's quadruple bill - Hans van Manen's Two (one of those man encounters woman / lives a brief life with her / departs numbers) and Paul Lightfoot's Solitaire (a series of duets ranging in mood from frolicsome to ponderous, all accompanied by the freewheeling rotations of a man suspended in mid-air) - it is the dancers, rather than their material, that you engage with. Such eloquent application goes some way to disguising the innate but flat classicism and fallow modernism of much of the choreography here. But the squiggle and exclamation mark territory of Lightfoot and Obarzanek follows much the same inner logic as the well-behaved exertions of Kylin and Van Manen - and is equally forgettable. That, after the event, one can still recall the dancers as babes scuttling around in Noddy car costumes for Obarzanek; or as more conservatively dressed NDT1 clones showing us the obsessive body sculpture of Kylin and van Manen is, if nothing else, reassurance that youthful florescence - even a hint of individuality? - will out.

n Sadler's Wells, London EC1 until 1 July (box-office: 0171-713 6000)

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