Nederlands Dans Theater 2: Q&A With Paul Lightfoot

Nederlands Dans Theater 2 – aka NDT2 – was founded in 1978 for dancers aged between 17 and 23 as their gateway into the main NDT company. The troupe is currently in the UK presenting a mix of classics and new, with Cacti – a humorous work by its associate artist Alexander Ekman – showcased alongside Kylián’s 100th choreography for NDT, Gods and Dogs, and renowned duo Lightfoot León’s Passe-Partout. Ahead of the tour’s final shows in Bradford and Nottingham, we had the chance to touch base with resident choreographer and NDT Artistic Director Paul Lightfoot himself:

Artists of Nederlands Dans Theater 2 - Photo: © Sadler's Wells

The Ballet Bag: You took over as Artistic Director of NDT in September last year. How are things going?

Paul Lightfoot: It’s a lovely chaos! There was no build up to the position, as I had to take it on immediately, so it was a lot of work but I had fantastic support from everyone around me and I have a new managing director, Robert van Leer. It is very nice that the two of us started at the same time. You would imagine that it could also have been difficult, but it was very nice that we both took our first steps together. It is an important time right now, not only for NDT, but also for culture in Holland in general. There is cultural change going on and that’s what NDT has always been about: it has always tried not to be established. Change is good for this kind of company. So yes, so far so good but maybe it is just the honeymoon!

On top of that, NDT2 has done really well, they’ve worked really hard and they’ve done some excellent work. I think they should be looking good out there!

TBB: How much involvement do you have with the tour?

PL: I was in London for the opening performances and then I had to come back to work with NDT, since we are on tour as well, so I am sort of splitting myself, and I haven’t been able to join them for the rest of the UK tour, but I get up to date reports from Gerald Tibbs who is the artistic director of NDT2, and things are running smoothly. It is nice to hear that there are no injuries going on. A healthy company is always a good sign, and they are obviously doing well and shows are selling: I am very happy for them.

Nederlands Dans Theater 2 - Photo: © Sadler's Wells

TBB: How does NDT2 program its repertory?

PL: There are certain works that we really want to bring and we prioritise them very much. At the UK Dance Consortium, they have a great system as theatre directors who are interested in bringing NDT2 can come and watch performances and have a chance to sit down and talk about programming. Each of them have their own particular wishlist in terms of what they think their audience will like or what they would like to see, and we also pitch our work because nobody knows better the works of NDT than NDT itself and we have so much to choose from! We know how to put good artistic programmes together, between what is ready and available, what is new and in creation, so these kind of things. We build the programmes together. We brought about  9-10 pieces to the UK, so in each city they can make different combinations of what the theatres really want to see.

TBB: One piece that seems to be generating great response and feedback is Alex Eikman’s Cacti

PL: Cacti is a super piece. It closes the evening in most places where it’s being performed, and is a great work. Alex himself was a dancer with NDT2, and he has got great talent. It is not just about choreography with Alex, is about the total feel and he does something that I really admire: he’s good with humour. I think very often we take our work very seriously, but at the same time we have to be able to laugh at ourselves and enjoy that side of life and he does it with great integrity. And yeah, Cacti has a really good feel to it, and he’s young and is good for him to be in the scene, giving it a very fresh feel to it. I’m very excited that he is getting good reviews.

Nederlands Dans Theater 2 in Passe-Partout

Nederlands Dans Theater 2 in Lightfoot/Leon's Passe-Partout - Photo: © Sadler's Wells

TBB: Can you tell us a bit about Lightfoot León, the longstanding collaboration with your wife?

PL: Sol and I have been together in life and work over the past 25 years. It all began as interesting choreography. I was sort of being pushed and Sol was assisting me, but it was strange because immediately we were both aware that it was more than being an assistant: it was shared creativity and we developed that relationship over many years and we really never made it official. But then there came the time where we felt that it was really necessary for it to be understood that we were together. It is beautiful to work with someone because you have that sense of dialogue within work.

I think what Sol and I have is the only way it can be done for us, the idea of passing ideas back and forth and developing things: you have to learn to respect the other, give them space for their ideas and at the same time move in, when you think it is a good time and be creative yourself. So, I personally really love to share the process with her. We have created I think over 45 works exclusively for NDT. It’s been quite a journey.

TBB: London dance fans long to see more of your work, to see the whole company here…

PL: … well I hope it happens! NDT2 is wonderful and NDT1 has such strength. I am hoping there will be time to bring the company back to London soon and share what we do, because it is a company that is always moving, given we are not a repertoire company. There’s talk of coming but nothing concrete yet.

Paul Lightfoot rehearses NDT2 in Studio 2 Photo: © Rahi Rezvani

Nederlands Dans Theater 2 (NDT2) performs at the Alhambra Theatre in Bradford on 28 March 2012 and at the Royal Concert Hall in Nottingham from 30 to 31 March 2012. For tickets and further information visit NDT2′s website.

We started The Ballet Bag in April 2009 with the mission to prove that ballet is not stuffy, old fashioned and inaccessible; that it is quite the opposite: relevant, fresh and topical. With the aim to Give Ballet a New Spin we try to show it under a different light. When writing our capsule biographies, ballet fact cards, review roundups and commentary on social media, we cross it over with other art forms and cultural references (pop culture, cinema, rock music – ie. other things we love!).