Talent on the Move Online

The annual Talent on the Move programme – a co-production by Codarts and Holland Dance Festival – usually gives 3rd year Codarts students an opportunity to gain stage experience by touring around the country and sometimes even the world. Of course, with corona, nothing is as usual. In lieu of a physical tour Talent on the Move offered audiences two online editions, both streamed live on Tuesday 20 April, available for free.

A total of thirteen pieces divided over the two programmes offers a good selection of contemporary dance works. From solos and duets to ensemble pieces, from works by Ed Wubbe and Roy Assaf to Ton Simons and Antonin Comestaz. Stephen Shropshire is represented four times. Most works have been made especially for Codarts, which makes Talent on the Move an impressive showcase of all the school has to offer.

That being said, watching both livestreams back to back – which I hereby dub Part I and Part II – the pieces do blend together a little, as do some of the 26 participating dancers. Thankfully, there are some real stand-outs as well. Bone Idle by Stephen Shropshire for instance, with its sinuous movements and tangolike vibe, or the intricate lift work by dancers Amy Lim and Aaron Faneyte in The Golden Pas the Deux (also by Shropshire), both seen during Part I. Nova Valkenhoff was assigned one of the most challenging solos with Still Life III by Ton Simons (Part I); with exacting movements and the dancer dressed in a grey bodysuit there is literally nowhere to hide. Valkenhoff’s solo becomes more tentative as it goes along, but she certainly vindicates herself in Acute, which was made by Patricia van Deutekom and the late Jens van Daele (Part II). Acute is a visceral duet (with Zumrad Mukhrimova) that is shrouded in darkness and light.

As is one of the more striking pieces of the evening, Acute ties in nicely with the broody mood piece Roger That by Antonin Comestaz, the opener of Part II. Roger That starts with four females wearing black helmets, which they discard almost immediately. The costumes feel more like school uniforms, with short black skirts and long black stockings, with the four girls as part of a clique in which everyone always falls back in line.

The camera does tend to wander a bit in the larger ensemble pieces, as was the case with Have Nothing to Say by Milena Ugren Koulas (Part II), a whimsical choreography for thirteen dancers.

Nine by Lóránd Zachár is the only piece that is performed twice. The performance has a Lightfoot León feel: not only because of the use of music of Philip Glass but also in its slowed-down, exaggerated movements. It comes with an added bonus: each performances has a different cast of nine dancers. I’m partial to the cast in Part I, with Viola Esmeralde Grappiolo, Faneyte and Julia Romain (who also gave a memorable turn in Roger That) as standout performers.

While online was not the way the Codarts dancers had hoped to present their work, it does come with benefits. For one, it gives each dancer the opportunity to introduce themselves to viewers beforehand. A short documentary before the start of the actual programme gives an entertaining, albeit very fleeting, glimpse into the audition process at Codarts. Added to the two entire programmes available for free, the audience is presented with an embarrassment of riches.

Still, there is room for improvement. Having the students themselves introduce each piece certainly sounds nice on paper, but its execution feels pretty artificial. More strikingly, the dancers’ names are omitted from the credits for each piece. During the performances I had to keep checking the dancers’ headshots on my phone to – hopefully – correctly connect a name to the dancer in action on screen. If one of the main goals of Talents on the Move really is to present the stars of tomorrow, this is a glaring oversight.