Nederlands Dans Theater Artistic Director Emily Molnar talks NDT 2

Words by Diane Parkes.

When Emily Molnar took up the post of artistic director of Nederlands Dans Theater (NDT) in August 2020 it was a key moment in the development one of Europe’s most influential dance organisations. The company has a global reputation for creating new work, supporting emerging artists, and developing exceptional dancers. Emily is keen to build on that and take the company on the next step of its journey.

Founded in 1959 and based in The Hague, NDT has two arms, NDT 1 is its larger ensemble and NDT 2 its platform for young dancers aged 18 to 22 and acts as an extension of NDT to cultivate a fully engaged and creative dance company that next to creation, centralises development and research. It offers young, emerging artists an exclusive space to further develop their practice and to engross in a multitude of intensive, creative collaborations with a diverse range of choreographic voices.

Emily danced with internationally renowned companies on both sides of the Atlantic including Ballet British Columbia where she was also artistic director for 11 years and has choreographed works for companies across the world. She has a strong vision for NDT.

“I’ve always felt like dance has been the way I’ve learnt about myself and the world. When I took the position at NDT, I was at a place in my life where I wanted to continue with a larger platform to support the development of artists and extend the possibilities of dance as an artform,” she says. “NDT represents a lot of what I am attracted to — the commitment to creating new work and nurturing artists through all the stages of their careers.

“NDT supports such a diverse number of contemporary artists, choreographers and designers, it felt like the natural next step for me.

“It is a very exciting time for the company. We’ve just moved into a new building and after 60 years there is a very important question to consider — are we 60 years old or 60 years young? 

“I would say 60 years young and I think it’s very timely to consider what it means to be a large-scale arts organisation in the world today. How can we contribute now in ways we might not have been able to in the past? How can we share with and best support our international arts community?”

Part of that sharing with the international community sees NDT 2 embark on its first UK and Ireland tour in six years with a programme featuring two tour premieres alongside a firm favourite from the company’s repertoire.

The Big Cry. Photo credit: Rahi Rezvani.

The evening opens with one of the premieres The Big Crying, created by NDT associate choreographer Marco Goecke and set to songs by American singer-songwriter Tori Amos.

“The Big Crying was originally created for NDT 2,” says Emily. “It’s an exquisite and haunting work that exemplifies Marco’s inspired artistic voice and travels deep into the nervous system of the viewer. This piece was created right after his father had passed away, it is a conversation about loss and the longing for life.”

Also coming to the UK and Ireland for the first time is IMPASSE, choreographed by former Swedish Royal Ballet and NDT dancer Johan Inger with music by French-Lebanese jazz composer and trumpeter Ibrahim Maalouf.

 “Johan’s work carries a very human and poetic quality,” Emily says, IMPASSE is a wonderfully theatrical and playful piece. It hasn’t had a long life outside of The Netherlands yet because it was made just before Covid. We’re very glad to have this opportunity to share it with a larger audience.

“Both of these pieces are large group works which I find delicious because the audiences can get to know the whole company and experience their unique versatility and virtuosity as performers.”

The third production is Simple Things, an iconic quartet created by Hans van Manen who has been involved with NDT since it was founded, as a dancer and choreographer before becoming artistic director in 1961.

“Simple Things is a gem. It is a beautifully crafted interplay between music and dance that attests to Hans van Manen’s contribution to contemporary ballet. It’s a piece that we’ve had in our repertoire for many years. It is a wonderful work for the development of our young dancers and is always received well by audiences.”

For Emily, the programme is more than three separate works, they are all interconnected.

“What I find important is to curate a journey for audiences that travels through different qualities, fantasies and expressions during the evening. It’s about experiencing a diversity of ideas and styles that show a range of approaches to contemporary dance. 

“For audiences that have seen a lot of dance, there’s a lot to enjoy. And for those who are new to dance, it’s a very inviting and welcoming programme.”

The tour, which begins in February at London’s Sadler’s Wells and takes in venues in Norwich, Nottingham, Plymouth, Canterbury, Inverness, Newcastle, Dublin and Edinburgh, is presented by Dance Consortium, a group of UK theatres dedicated to bringing top quality international dance to British and Irish audiences.

This tour is key to the company’s development, says Emily. 

“NDT 2 showcases extraordinary emerging dance artists and being able to bring them to the UK and Ireland is an important part of our mission. We are an international company and we want to share our work with different audiences around the world.

“It’s also important that we commit to long-term relationships with the Dance Consortium theatres and their communities. Of course, we want people to come and see the work but it’s more than that for us, it’s about having a conversation and looking at how dance can connect us and build bridges in our society.”

After two years in which the Covid-19 pandemic has ravaged the company’s live tour schedule, playing before audiences will be particularly special.

“It will be very interesting to see how people respond to the work,” says Emily. “Some of our dancers haven’t had the same touring opportunities that other generations have had because of Covid so I’m looking forward to seeing what it brings out of them and what their reflections will be.

“My last experience of being on tour in the UK [with Ballet British Columbia] was an absolute delight. I really appreciated the conversations that we had post-performance and the attention that audiences gave us. I’m excited for NDT 2 to have that.”

As well as her enthusiasm for the tour, Emily is inspired by the future of dance as an artform. “I am inspired by where dance is going. I believe it is an important voice in the world today as we search for expression, community, a connection between the mind and body and a deeper understanding of our humanity. There is so much that the next generation has to say, and I’m thrilled to be part of that.”

NDT 2’s tour opens at Sadler’s Wells Theatre from 16 to 19 February / Tickets: 020 7863 8000 / On Wednesday 16 February there will be post-show Q&A with Emily and members of the company.