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 Post subject: Rosas - Early Works
PostPosted: Thu Apr 14, 2011 8:52 am 
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Fase, Four Movements to the Music of Steve Reich
Rosas
Sadler's Wells Theatre, London; April 10, 2011


David Mead


Opening the week long retrospective of four of Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker’s early works, “Fase, Four Movements to the Music of Steve Reich” is a 1982 collaboration with the minimalist composer that comprises three duets and one solo danced to compositions that shift gradually in rhythm and melody. While the four dances may not have different colours, each undoubtedly possesses a different shade and tone.

Structurally, all the works follow the interlocking patterns and phasing in the music. There are links to the movement too. Angular gestures and the mechanical nature of the opening “Piano Phase” reflect Reich’s percussive use of the piano, while the circular pattern in “Violin Phase” reflects the fact the music is a rondo.

Talking about her work generally, De Keersmaeker once observed, “I think that ultimately each dance is part of a larger whole, a dance that has no beginning, and no end.” That is certainly the case here. Although each of the four sections is quite distinct from the others, “Fase” is most definitely a single choreographic entity. In all four sections the dance is developed from short sequences that are repeated and then shifted, varied and combined into new, longer phrases. There are strong connections in the use of space and lighting, and in the later repetition of motifs developed in the opening “Piano Phase.”

When it comes to moving around the stage, the straight line is king, but circles have a role too, whether it’s the half turns in “Piano Phase,” moving round on a chair in “Come Out,” or in creating a complex pattern in “Violin Phase.”

“Piano Phase” is the longest, and probably the most difficult section for those unfamiliar with de Keersmaeker’s work. Dressed in calf-length dresses, white ankle socks and sneakers, de Keersmaeker and Tale Dolven, the latter outstanding in all four works, move in front of a white scrim, their shadows following them.

It starts in total unison. Blank faced with their right arms swinging, the dancers stride along a line making frequent half turns. The synchronicity is mesmerising. The initially simple dance gets increasingly complex but just when the steps have become fixed in the mind, small variations start to appear. Before long the pair slip in and out of synch with each other, sometimes still facing the same way, but sometimes facing each other. The change can be so sudden it comes as a shock, but often it happens so gradually that you barely notice it at first. One effect of the repetition is that tiny gestures, a sigh here, a glance there, a brush of the hair or a stronger flick of the arm, things that may otherwise pass unnoticed, become intensely dramatic.

The second section, “Come Out,” is performed to the same recording of a young black man arrested in a disturbance in New York, that was to more recently provide inspiration for Shobana Jeyasingh’s “Bruise Blood.” It all takes place sat on two stools, each dancer under a light. Now the movements appear more to reference everyday actions, although quite what is unclear. Is it abstract? There are no clues in the programme, but one repeated gesture certainly looks like sewing, or is it the nervous twitch of someone under interrogation.

On the face of it the solo “Violin Phase,” danced in London by de Keersmaeker, is a set of steps that mark a circle and its radii. In fact, and this is very difficult to spot from the stalls, the patterning is quite intricate. As anyone who has seen the film shot at MoMA in New York, when de Keersmaeker danced on sand will testify, the rose window pattern that results is startlingly beautiful.

The final “Clapping Music,” with its steps, hops and flips onto sneakered pointe is the most upbeat section. At times the dancers look like characters on an Ancient Egyptian frieze. At the end the audience roared its approval. And quite rightly too.

Rosas is not everyone’s cup of tea. If you are looking for meaning, you are probably not going to find it here. De Keersmaeker’s style does not mean a lack of emotion though. It’s just that it sneaks up on you in different ways, different ways that you need to be open to.

The reviews of all four works danced during the week will form the basis of a longer article (with photos) for the magazine.


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 Post subject: Re: Rosas - Early Works
PostPosted: Thu Apr 14, 2011 9:41 am 
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Rosas danst Rosas
Rosas
Sadler's Wells Theatre, London; April 12, 2011


David Mead


Although “Fase” is the most often performed of de Keersmaeker’s work, it is the award-winning “Rosas danst Rosas” for which she is best known. Made in 1983 it saw her international breakthrough and signalled the beginning of the Rosas company.

The piece features four female dancers in a series of five sections. Again both the music, created by Thierry De Mey and Peter Vermeersch alongside the choreography, and the dance are repetitive and minimalist in nature. The architecture of the space is now even more significant. Relationships between dancers and their positioning are important from the very beginning. That relationship is quite simple to begin with, but by the time the exhilarating finale is reached it is complex indeed.

Unison work remains important throughout, but de Keersmaeker plays constantly with the positioning of the dancers in the space, as well as with the phrasing and timing. All possible variations are tried. Sometimes three dancers are together, while a fourth is apart in the space or dancing movement counter to the others. At other times it is two and two, or two and one and one. You never know where it is going next.

The first section takes place on the floor and in silence. Silence, that is, apart from the dramatic sound of the breath, bodies rolling and arms thudding against the floor. It’s all very redolent of a sleepless night as slowly, the movement takes the dancers from upstage left to downstage right. The second section takes place on chairs positioned diagonally across the stage. The drab costumes and light and repetitive movement suggest a boring institution. The quick, energy sapping movement is broader than in “Come Out” in “Fase”, but the link is clear. For part three de Keersmaeker returns to playing with straight lines and diagonals, now accented by Remon Fromont’s strips of light. The most complex choreography is left to the fourth and last of the long sections. Diagonals, straight lines and circles now all combine. The importance of patterns is clearly revealed as they form and break, and the relationship between the dancers constantly shifts. Finally, a short coda reflects the exhaustion of the performers.

A few years ago a former Rosas dancer explained that each of the four parts represents a moment in a day: sleeping and waking up, working, afternoon and evening and nightlife. It perhaps no surprise, therefore, that recognisable gesture is now even more important. Time and again a dancer runs her hand through her hair, turns her head sharply, straightens her blouse or, provocatively, tugs at her blouse to reveal a bare shoulder. In “Fase” such moments appeared improvised. Here there is no doubt. It is not only deliberate, but most of the time quite clearly has meaning. The link with the everyday extends to the breaks between sections when the dancers reset the stage, carefully arrange chairs, put on shoes, take time to get their breath back and, on one occasion, have a brief conversation.

I needed to get my breath back too.


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 Post subject: Re: Rosas - Early Works
PostPosted: Fri Apr 15, 2011 10:44 am 
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Elena's Aria
Rosas
Sadler's Wells Theatre, London; April 14, 2011


David Mead


At a little under two hours, “Elena’s Aria” is the longest of the works is this Rosas season. While there are clear links to “Fase” and “Rosas danst Rosas,” it differs in many ways. Eighteen months after “Rosas danst Rosas,” and like many artists, it seems as if De Keersmaeker had reached that stage where she was questioning her work. Was her past style the way forward or should she look for a new path?

In “Elena’s Aria” De Keersmaeker’s departs from many of the elements featured in both “Fase” and “Rosas danst Rosas.” The minimalist, repetitive music of previous works has gone, replaced by long periods of silence and occasional recordings of arias, always heard as if coming from a next door room. The movement is also remote from the music in that it largely finds its own way in its own time. New too is the use of spoken text and film projections, and while the formal dance movement is as strong as ever, imagery now has much more impact.

The curtain rises to reveal around 30 or so chairs scattered about the stage. On them slump five women in tight sleeveless dresses and high heels. You sense they have been there a long time. It could be any waiting room, but mood is more important than place, imagery more important than the order of the choreography.

Although the title comes from an aria in Verdi’s “I Vespri Siciliani,” one of those heard in the distance, the piece takes its cue from a text from Tolstoy’s “War and Peace,” spoken by one of the dancers and in which the Russian writer laments his separation from a close and dear friend. An overwhelming sense of alienation and melancholy runs deeply through the whole work, created both visually and aurally. Everything points to the pain caused by the loss, absence of, and need for, love, but while such emotions infuse the whole work they are never expressed openly.

Despite the differences “Elena’s Aria” is undoubtedly De Keersmaeker’s work. The repetition of movement and motif is still there, although she has moved from a sparse minimalism to a more complex one. Simple repetition is now allied with the revisiting of ideas, themes and images, especially that of the opening scene, and the replaying of the same piece of music. Two motifs in particular recur. Both are reminiscent of childhood games as the protagonists try to escape their situation, albeit briefly. A stylised musical chairs using repeated movement is played out along a line of chairs upstage, the dancers alternately chasing and running away, while later they try to run round a chalk circle, their dresses held high on their thighs. As when the women in “Rosas danst Rosas” reveal a bare shoulder, the latter again suggests sexual attraction.

In between the movement and distant music there is stillness and silence that suggests the slow and painful passing of time. Even much of the movement takes place with the only sound being made by the props and the dancers’ themselves; their breath and the click of their heels making a sort of human music. There were some in the audience who found things slow going; too slow going. The silences were often broken by the sound of people leaving. One young man a few rows in front of me was clearly fast asleep. But there was plenty to take in, not least, and yet again, the astonishing precision of the dancers.

As in “Rosas danst Rosas” there is a coda. To the strains of a Mozart sonata the five performers sit in a row on chairs in front of the curtain, and perform a ballet of everyday gesture. It’s a return to the music and dance being at one with each other. It’s simple, yet intensely beautiful and moving. Hands are run through hair and dropped by the side, fingers drum on knees, heads are held in hands, shoulders and bodies slump…all movements that draw heavily on everyday gesture. The message is the same as in earlier works. This is real and it is heard work. It was hard for some of the audience too, but definitely worth persevering with.


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 Post subject: Re: Rosas - Early Works
PostPosted: Fri Apr 15, 2011 10:56 am 
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Some other reviews...

Sarah Frater liked "Fase"...Evening Standard

...as did Judith Flanders...The Arts Desk

...but Laura Thompson definitely did not...Daily Telegraph


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 Post subject: Re: Rosas - Early Works
PostPosted: Sun Apr 17, 2011 7:45 am 
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Bartók/Mikrokosmos
Rosas
Sadler's Wells Theatre, London; April 16, 2011


David Mead


With its combination of danced works and piano recital, the three-part “Bartók/Mikrokosmos”, the final programme of Sadler’s Wells’ De Keersmaeker retrospective, could best be described as a dance-concert. The three sections were originally conceived quite separately, De Keersmaeker only bringing them together in 1987, although there is enough connection between them to form a coherent whole.

The opening dance duet “Mikrokosmos, Seven Pieces for Two Pianos” is set to Bartók’s work of the same title, played live on stage behind the dancers. It opens with Elizaveta Pankóva and Jakub Truszkowski manoeuvring each other out of the way so she or he can stand in front, the force getting ever stronger and the resulting turns ever more complex. It is as if we have dropped in on the couple at a point in time. There is a clear sense of relationship between them, even if we are unsure of the causes of the unfolding story in which we find ourselves.

For the recital part of the evening the two pianists played three Ligeti pieces for two pianos: “Monument”, “Selbsportrait” (Self-portrait) and “Bewegung” (Movement). The first was oddly reminiscent of English church bells although the ringers had clearly only got an E in maths (for those unaware, English church peals are all based on mathematics).

The closing “Quatuor No.4”, in which four dancers are partnered by Bartók’s “String Quartet no.4,” reminds us that De Keersmaeker can do fun. There are hints of aggression, but it is very much a light-hearted piece with more than a few echoes of childhood. They find time to skip and play, but sometimes act like naughty girls, bending over and pulling up their grey school-like skirts to reveal white underpants, or hauling them up around their thighs making it difficult to walk. The effect though is very different from the sexual nature of similar gestures in “Rosas danst Rosas” and “Elena’s Aria.”

That “Bartók/Mikrokosmos” comes together as a whole is thanks to the music, and the sense of relationship between the dancers and the dancers and musicians. In all three sections both the dance and the music are filled with contrasting moments of hostility and togetherness, interlaced advance and rejection, even aggression. In both danced sections there is also a sense of developing narrative, even if it is one to whose conclusion we are not privy. “Quatuor No.4” in particular is packed with sideways glances, giggles and even the occasional shout. But in both parts the dancers’ emotions are clearly visible in their gesture and faces, allowing us to join in just by watching.


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