ICOON, Introdans’ first full evening program dedicated to the work of Lucinda Childs and marking her eightieth birthday, is also a celebration of her creative partnership with Dominique Drillot. The combination of her mastery in the art of making dances and his caring eye as the designer of most of the lights, costumes and sets was bewitching to behold. And even if Kilar (2013) – the sole piece of the second half – felt as something of an unnecessary stretch to the evening, the first four pieces came across as true dance-jewels: crafty and delicate, polished and rock-solid. ICOON premiered Friday 14 at Stadstheater Arnhem.

The sixties: Childs was one of the youngest players at Judson Church – the famous incubator for new dance development in postmodern New York. The choreographers at Judson looked for ways to de-sacralize dance, unlinking it from any form of representation. Within this mind-frame, Childs took it upon herself to rethink the relationship of movement with an old ally: music. Unlike Merce Cunningham, who challenged that bond by juxtaposing music and movement in collage-like settings, she made both mediums work together instead. But in her work music isn’t an emotional wagon for movement; nor is movement an illustration of the melody: the two interrelate on a common ground made of structures and counts. This allows for a shimmering vitality to emerge, emitted from the tension between the apparent simplicity of the dancers’ task and the presence demanded of them to execute it with precision and clarity.
Chairman Dances Introdans Hans Gerritsen

Photos: Hans Gerritsen

Petricor (2018) and Canto Ostinato (2015), both Introdans premieres, are astounding examples of this strategy. In Petricor Drillot’s audiovisual décor allows us a peek inside Childs’ choreographic mind. From a fixed position in space, ten dancers move individually, repeat several movement phrases in different numeric combinations and face different directions, resulting in kaleidoscopic arrangements. Meanwhile, animated projections of scribbled patterns taken out of Childs’ notebook appear and disappear on the backdrop. The movingly minimal melody by Ludovico Einaudi finds an echo in the colourful and airy costumes, as the dancers respond to its underlying structure. The whole thing feels like threaded cotton, even more so when four soloists dressed in black and grey weave themselves onto the stage in a horizontal chained transition with the others, coinciding with the introduction of a new musical theme.

In Canto Ostinato, two couples engage in more intricate duets, three-dimensional dynamic sculptures which contrast sharply with the rest of the choreographic design, mostly made of flat lines. How can so much happen with so little? When, at different moments, the four dancers face the audience, the impact of their verticality is enhanced by Drillot’s simple, animated and equally vertical lines, constantly strolling across the backdrop of the stage. It all blends to perfection with Simeon ten Holt’s cyclic composition, an ideal partner to this enterprise: the observation of what can happen to a whole formal universe by means of a single shift.

“Ice cold, austere, mathematical”: these are the usual suspects when choosing words to describe Childs’ work. But the first half of ICOON – accompanied live by Het Gelders Orkest for the premiere, a true privilege – brings an underlying and crystal clear heartbeat to the fore. Childs’ analytical approach to choreography poses a challenge to any dancer. Especially Angelica Villalon (in Petricor and Concerto) stood out for sharing her outspoken pleasure as she faced it. An experience of musicality and precision, also present in the rest of the cast, that brought the pieces to life.


Seen: February 14, 2020. Stadstheater Arnhem. Tour ICOON

Choreography: Lucinda Childs | dance: Introdans ensemble | musical composition: Ludovico Einaudi (Petricor) | Simeon ten Holt (Canto Ostinato) | Henryk Mikołaj Górecki (Concerto pour clavecin et cordes opus 40) | John Adams (The Chairman Dances (from the opera Nixon in China)) |  Wojciech Kilar (Piano Concerto: Andante Con Moto, Corale, Toccata) | set, lighting, costume and audiovisual design: Dominique Drillot | audiovisual design in collaboration with Matthieu Stefani for Canto Ostinato | costume design: Anne Masset (Concerto), Jean Michel Lainé (Chairman Dances).