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In and Out of Time

Dutch company Introdans’s mission statement is in its name: The group was founded by Ton Wiggers in 1971 to “introduce dance” to as large an audience as possible, at first responding to a lack of professional concert dance in Wiggers's own region, the eastern part of the Netherlands. Now, Introdans is one of the largest companies in the Netherlands and tours globally, priding itself on eclectic contemporary programming. Last week, the company returned to the Joyce Theater for the first time in over a decade with a characteristically diverse, if slightly outdated, evening of dances.  

Performance

Introdans: “Kaash” by Akram Khan, “Concerto” by Lucinda Childs, “Cantata” by Mauro Bigonzetti

Place

The Joyce Theater, New York, NY, June 13, 2024

Words

Cecilia Whalen

Introdans' Diego Benito Gutierrez, Ross Martinson, Vérine Bouwman in “Concerto” by Lucinda Childs. Photograph by Hans Gerritsen

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Introdans opened with Akram Khan's breakthrough work, “Kaash,” from 2002. “Kaash” is a meditation on creation and destruction, particularly relating to the Hindu god Shiva. For this piece, Khan collaborated with composer Nitin Sawhney, who provided a hypnotizing, percussive score, and artist Anish Kapoor, who designed the backdrop, a large rectangle which looms over the dancers like a black hole.

“Kaash” put Khan on the map in 2002 highlighting his unique blend of kathak and contemporary dance which has become his signature. Silky head rolls and back bends contrast excitingly with slicing arms, clawing hands, and grounded feet. Introdans's performance achieved the ominous, meditative feeling resulting from sharp repetitions and fluid contemporary moments, though missed the rootedness—the connection of bare feet to the floor—of Khan's kathak.

Introdans in “Kaash” by Akram Khan. Photograph by Hans Gerritsen

Lucinda Childs's brief “Concerto” from 1993 followed “Kaash.” Choreographed mathematically to the unsettling, up-tempo harpsichord concerto by Henryk Mikołaj Górecki, dancers move balletically through and around each other in lines. Górecki's score, full of quick ascending and descending scales and reminiscent of a fork scraping a fried egg off of a stainless-steel pan, is chaotic: Childs's choreography reveals the organization in the chaos. With each repeated ascending motif, the dancers swivel around and lift one arm to high fifth, marking the listener's place in the music and reassuring a method to the madness. In “Concerto,” the dancers were precise and witty, with clean lines and rhythmic clarity.

The evening concluded with Mauro Bigonzetti's “Cantata” from 2001, a piece full of passion, sexuality, and rage, but which shows its age.

“Cantata” depicts relationships between men and women in an Italian village. Men wear slacks and suspenders; women wear darkly colored, battered dresses.

The dancers begin together in a large clump, singing, establishing their unity. Soon, they break off into duets. Men hold women's hands behind their backs and drag them across the floor. The women writhe while the men stand behind them. This remains the primary dynamic between couples.

Introdans in “Cantata” by Mauro Bizgonzetti. Photograph by Hans Gerritsen

There are moments when the women express a sense of opposition to the men's abuse—in one, women stand in a group and bite their thumbs at the men; in another, they stand on the men's pelvises. Even then, somehow, the men still end up on top: After standing on the men, the women are thrust to the ground and the men run and tackle them.

One particularly disheartening moment came in a featured duet. After impressive lifts where the woman is flung around with legs stretched wide open, the man sets the woman down and raises a hand to slap her. She catches his hand in time to stop the blow, but then places the hand wanly to her chest and dips into a backwards arch. I had hoped, instead, that she might twist his wrist or bite his thumb, or perhaps simply kick him in the nose (Introdans's women all have wonderful extensions). To make matters worse, when the man pulls away from her and walks off, she runs after him in desperation.  

Maybe this piece is a commentary on domestic violence and demonstrates the unfortunate realities of Stockholm syndrome and the plight of women, or something like that, but this is hard to believe when the bursts of duet violence are juxtaposed with jolly peasants—both men and women—standing around the stage, looking fondly upon their quarreling countrymen.

Meanwhile, Bigonzetti's women wear their long hair down so as to appear raw, loose, and uninhibited. Of course, this meant that, for much of the dance, you couldn't see their faces.

Cecilia Whalen


Cecilia Whalen is a writer and dancer from Charlotte, North Carolina. She is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and holds a bachelor's degree in French. Currently, Cecilia is studying composition at the Martha Graham School for Contemporary Dance in New York City. She lives in Brooklyn.

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