After class the dancers spill out and drift into NDT’s long, airy ‘green room’ where, the night before, the post-show party had been held. Now it’s a place for them to relax, socialise or informally take care of any company business before heading back into the studio to work on specific pieces. It’s during this break time that Irish-born Sarah Reynolds, in her last year as a member of NDT2, and the Portuguese-Dutch Roger Van der Poel, in his first, talk about being in the company and dancing in Lightfoot-Leon’s creations.
‘They try to give you a feeling of what you should try and imagine when you do certain steps,’ says Reynolds. ‘They want to see what’s behind the movement. Even though the movement is very pure dance, they want something to happen from inside.’ Although she’s speaking specifically about Postscript, the notion of dancers drawing upon something internal might easily be applied to other, more overtly theatrical work in the Lightfoot-Leon catalogue. That includes Sleight of Hand.
‘Not long ago they changed so many things,’ Van Der Poel says of this piece. ‘The music, the costumes, the steps. But the basic idea of a card game with a queen, a king and a joker has remained since the beginning. There’s a connection between the two characters on top and the boy and girl beneath. Those older characters are telling a story of what is going on underneath them, or else the two beneath are memories of their past. Even if you have your own story for what you’re doing onstage, you try to see it the way they [Paul and Sol] want you to. They gave us a lot of strong imagery as a guideline.’
What has he discovered about himself and NDT2 since coming to The Hague? ‘I’m here because of the atmosphere,’ he replies, ‘as well as the work itself. We work together easily. We talk a lot. We all try to build something together. When I arrived it was a shock, but on the positive side.’
‘It’s quite a phenomenal institution,’ Reynolds chimes in, ‘with a really solid structure, but within it there’s so much space. That’s what’s so special and refreshing.’
Both Reynolds and Van Der Poel are 23. Topping her wish list of choreographers in whose work she wants to dance is William Forsythe, while for him the biggest treat would be anything by NDT1 mainstay, and former artistic director, Jiri Kylian. ‘But we have so many wonderful pieces [in the repertory],’ Van Der Poel says. ‘Of course there’s a lot of pressure on you, because there’s a certain level you have to meet as a dancer. It asks a lot of you, but it makes you grow so much.’