Nederlands Dans Theater 2
Swedish choreographer Alexander Ekman discusses his playful new piece, Cacti
Watching a piece of modern dance often provokes an irresistible urge to analyse it. Unlike narrative ballet, there’s no story, so viewers can be left wondering ‘what does it all mean?’ More often than not, the answer to that question is ‘whatever you want it to’, but it’s this search for meaning that brought about Swedish choreographer Alexander Ekman’s humorous work, Cacti.
‘I think sometimes the untrained dance or art eye feels they’re supposed to understand something,’ he says. ‘And Cacti is a kind of relief from that, a breath of fresh air.’ As the name suggests, at one point in the piece, each dancer holds a potted cactus. Inevitably, those watching instantly search for the context of these spiky yet beautiful plants.
‘I thought it was just a good object that could be analyzed into so many different things,’ says Ekman. ‘I don’t really have a right answer for what it means, and I hope the audience gets the joke – that they don’t have to analyse it. That’s the comment for the whole piece.’
Performed in a programme alongside Jirí Kylián’s Gods and Dogs, and Studio 2 by Paul Lightfoot and Sol León, Cacti is yet another perfect vehicle to show just what the dancers of NDT2 are capable of. Joined on stage by a string quartet, they display a remarkable sense of rhythm, using their bodies as instruments to complement the musicians. Was it difficult to hone the precise movement that Cacti demands?
‘Oh it was very hard,’ recalls Ekman. ‘It took a lot of rehearsal and I asked the dancers to be in a state of complete concentration and listen to each other. I told them it’s almost like a game between the dancers and the musicians – they listen and they answer. It was like a score they had to learn, to be like a human orchestra.’
Edinburgh Festival Theatre, Fri 23 & Sat 24 Mar.