When people emerge from a show saying they loved the sets, it usually means they have serious reservations about the rest of it. And when a programme booklet makes no attempt to describe the ideas or intentions behind a work, it usually means those ideas are woolly. Both prove to be the case in Jiri Kylian's One of a Kind, an ambitious, three-act fantasy on the theme of personal freedom, created for all 29 dancers of Nederlands Dans Theater to mark the 150th anniversary of the Dutch Constitution.
Kylian was artistic director of NDT for 25 years, and his abstract yet emotionally florid choreographic style has imprinted itself on the way the company dances. Make no mistake, these are world-class practitioners: sleek, glittering creatures whose brooding sexiness makes frumps of us all. Yet I detect an arrogance in Kylian's more grandiose work for NDT that assumes the loyalty of an audience without bothering to win it. This is partly explained by the company's touted position as "the best modern ballet company in the world", but it also touches the fact that Kylian is seen to occupy the pinnacle of dance style - in Europe. UK audiences, with their taste for the rigours of Cunningham and Bausch, sometimes need persuading. I was not at all convinced by the ominous posturings in One of a Kind as it tracked the ups and downs, the self-doubts and difficulties of a single woman against the crowd.
The sets, by Atsushi Kitagawara, are indeed spectacular. Rarely has the Sadler's Wells stage been adapted so strikingly, with white zigzag ramps jutting out into the stalls and stretching into the far distance like icebergs. Act Two substitutes a giant mobile cone that hovers menacingly, threatening to stab the lead girl through the stomach when she foolishly sprawls beneath it. Act Three has three great black staircases ascending into mists like something from Lord of the Rings, and a floor-to-ceiling curtain of thin gold chain that singes the retina when it jiggles.
Cellist Matthew Barley sits sawing frantically at his instrument while dancers fling themselves around him, dry ice belching, choral electronics resonating. It's OTT from start to finish. The intimate duets spoke more truthfully, but by that point Kylian had lost me.Reuse content