Better Call Sol: Choreographer Sol León Discusses the Future of Dance

Nederlands Dans Theater 1 house choreographer Sol León takes a minute to answer a few contemporary dance questions.


Contemporary dance might not be the first thing an Angeleno associates with the Netherlands, but the country is home to one of the most innovative contemporary dance companies in the world. This weekend (October 18 – 20), Angelenos will have a chance to experience Nederlands Dans Theater 1 when the Dutch troupe opens the 11th season of Glorya Kaufman Presents Dance at The Music Center in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

Originating in 1959 when 22 people broke free from the Nederlands Ballet, the new company’s members were rebels impassioned by the desire to give dance a style all their own. Through the years, NDT has built a repertoire of more than 600 ballets while contributing to visual art, music composition, and innovative lighting and set designs. The dancers vary in age from 23 to 40, represent 20 different nationalities, and are renowned for their virtuosity, technique, and expression. One of Europe’s most respected contemporary dance companies, NDT has inspired many modern choreographers and dance troupes.

This weekend’s program features the U.S. premiere of “Same Difference” and the West Coast premiere of “Shoot the Moon,” both of which were set to music by Philip Glass and choreographed by artistic director Paul Lightfoot and house choreographer Sol León. Inspired by the chaotic influence of the ego, “Same Difference” is a theatrical piece that works on both a symbolic and literal level while “Shoot the Moon” gives the audience glimpses of three different couples, complete with a revolving set that creates the illusion of three separate rooms. The program also includes the West Coast premiere of “Chamber,” which was inspired by Igor Stravinsky’s 100th anniversary of “The Rite of Spring.”

We sat down with León, who hails from Spain and joined NDT in 1987 where she danced for 16 years before turning solely to choreography. In 2002 she was appointed alongside artistic director Paul Lightfoot as resident choreographer. Together, they have amassed 46 original pieces for NDT. In 2012, León became artistic advisor of the company. 

Two pieces in your repertoire are set to Philip Glass soundtracks and his opera Einstein on the Beach was just presented at The Music Center. How would you describe the impact of his music?
Philip Glass is a true artist to be recognized. His work influences all art forms. As a choreographer it is important not to feel framed by the composition. Philip’s music is open like a river and even allows you to go against it. I feel very comfortable with our collaborations; it’s like dancing a tango together.

Tell me about the process of making a production come to life, from original idea to premiere.
We are a family. Everyone and everything is involved. It is important that artists are free and fearless. NDT is a universe in itself that brings top quality to all elements; dance, music, lights, décor. That’s why choreographers love to work with the company. They know the landscape that they want to create and with us they can paint it in the best way possible. 

Do you foresee more partnerships and commissions with Los Angeles and The Music Center?
We will definitely return to The Music Center and will probably know more in December. For NDT it’s more important to be creative artistically than to simply put in an appearance every once in a while. So whatever projects we can share with The Music Center we will be more than happy to explore them. I can tell you that NDT 2 will go on tour to the US in 2015 and NDT 1 the year after. 

NDT 1 performances are Friday October 18, 2013 at 7:30 pm; Saturday October 19 at 7:30 pm, and Sunday October 20 at 2:00 pm. Tickets are $34-$125. Visit for more information.

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