Friday’s performance at UCSB’s Campbell Hall by Spain’s Compa±-a Nacional de Danza 2 (CND2) was a stellar example of contemporary ballet at its best. The inventive choreography of the young company’s director Nacho Duato is fluid and acrobatic, and he finds delightfully original ways of intertwining bodies.
It’s also impossible to see Duato’s work without noticing his skill in interpreting music. Every piece is further evidence that music is an integral part of his art, much more than merely a background for movement. Indeed, Duato has said that when creating dance, he starts with the music, allowing it to inspire his visions of bodies in space.
CND2 is a pre-professional company where young dancers get high-level training, with an eye to joining Compa±-a Nacional de Danza or another professional company. They may be young, but these dancers are anything but second-rate. The first two pieces of the evening, “Duende” and “Without Words,” were set to the music of Debussy and Schubert, respectively. These works shared a similar quality of lightness and grace infused with quirky touches like a flexed foot or a hip-hop-style knee pop. The dancers’ movements often were suggestive of natural elements: water drops falling and leaping, leaves whirling and tumbling in the wind. Their lifts were soft and strong, but when they touched down, their footfalls were silent on the stage. Both works were a pleasure to watch, full of balletic grace and playful partnering.
The final piece, “Gnawa,” shifted the evening’s mood. Set to earthy Spanish and North African music with moody lighting, its movements were more grounded and robust, with elements of Bollywood and flamenco dance. It also contained lovely echoes of spiritual ritual, as when the dancers held lit candles ceremoniously aloft to the sound of softly breaking ocean waves. This piece revealed another side of the company, and confirmed its versatility. It is not hard to imagine that this new generation of dancers will go on to become the stars of the coming decade. Meanwhile, Duato continues to prove himself a significant contributor to modern dance in the early 21st century.