Gigs, dance, art

January 31st, 2011: Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker – En Atendant

théatre de la ville

Anytime I get to see something by Rosas is a special event for me, one I’ll usually have been looking forward for a while — like since the last time I saw them. En Atendant was a rich performance for me, bringing new things, new twists on older things, and a sense of continuity that reached back many years. This marked the thirtieth work by Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker that I’ve seen over the years — not counting films and those I have seen more than once — so maybe the past tends to skew my perception toward picking up this kind of thing.

There was live music this time — ancient music — but not all the time, usually for group sequences. Actually I think there was more silence than music. Those sequences with music felt the most intricate to me, often involving pairs of dancers, but maybe that’s just because I was too close to the stage to really get the big picture. That’s why I like to see her pieces more than once from a different point of view, but she’s so popular it’s become tough to get that second ticket. There was a lot of walking, like in The Song, but with more lines this time. Another recent trend is her work with support, both in groups — piling on in one corner then freezing, getting back up and freezing again, but the best was what went in around and between these poses — and in pairs. I especially liked a sequence with Sue-Yeon Youn and Cynthia Loemij because of the way the support evolved into just fingers touching then just barely so, with a hint of that much later in the piece.

I saw a lot of these fleeting hints at something that came before, phrases or single movements or even just bits that echoes earlier things, like shoulders moved forward or a foot pushing on the back of the other leg’s knee. Sometimes much earlier, as a couple of hip movements reminded me of Microkosmos. Of course the continuity was much stronger with The Song and Zeitung, mostly the legs, bending, coiling and support, but I saw things that echoed earlier works throughout her career — though I do have a big blind spot there in the late eighties. There even was a bent arm or two that reminded me of the first part of April Me, which I hadn’t thought of in a while, but which fits somehow.

But all there fleeting moments were just that, and didn’t hinder the flow at all. They just gave the piece a special kind of richness for me. There was enough going on not to dwell on this flashes. New things stood out too, like the violent burst of a solo ending close to exhaustion. Still precise, but with a different kind of geometry, different angles and a sense of pushing some limits, control without restraint. One pretty impressive thing is that the very different elements — groups, pairs, solo; silence, music; even pauses — fit together in a kind of polyphony spread out over time. It all felt connected into a whole that made sense. It felt so rich on so many levels that I’m sure I missed more than half or what was there, a convenient excuse to fuel my desire to see it again. Yet, there was a lot of space too, but not empty, the kind of space that is needed by what’s in there. Kind of like you need some silence to have notes.

Speaking of which, one of my favorite things in Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker’s choreography is when a dancer will lean before fully moving, something which makes movement start not just from stillness, but from within stillness. In music, I love Miles Davis’ silences, and I think that’s related. But sometimes dance takes it even further. That’s another reason why I was so happy/relieved to see Cynthia Loemij dancing. Sometimes I can see her start slightly before she actually moves at all. I guess I’m just picking up some slight visual hint of tension, out of the familiarity built over eighteen years of seeing her dance Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker’s works, without being able to point out anything. The same thing goes when she stops. It’s a blink of an eye, but it makes a whole lot of difference to me. She was not in The Song, and that probably shocked me out of taking her for granted. This is not a post about my appreciation for her though  — maybe I will write one someday — but what I want to say is this: Anne Teresa De Keermaeker is my favorite choreographer, though Padmini Chettur comes close. But for me nothing comes close to seeing Cynthia Loemij dance Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker.


February 2, 2011 Posted by | Dance | , | Leave a comment

October 23rd, 2009: Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker – Rosas Danst Rosas

@théatre de la ville

Wow. That was such a great show. And I really lucked out on the lineup because of some personal memories. I had not seen Samantha Van Wissen in a while, but I remember clearly that she was part or Rosas during my first years of seeing dance. My memories of Sarah Ludi go back even longer, as she was part of Angelin Preljocaj’s company for one of the very first dance show I ever saw, back in 1992 or so. Then Cynthia Loemij, who is my favorite artist bar none and whose performances have been one of the main reasons I’ve seen so much dance over the past 17 years. And of course Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker herself.

The first part took place in silence, with the four of them lying down in the back at first, rolling and filling the silence with slaps, bumps and breathing. In a way, the repeated patterns made these sounds musical in the way the everyday gestures integrated in the movements turned abstract and geometrical through duplication and repetition. Then one after the other rose and moved to a diagonal, keeping the same prone patterns. Already a great start.

The second part is my favorite of the show, and one of my favorite dance performances ever. I’d say it tops Fase and ranks up there with Rain at the top. They were sitting on chairs and again turned mundane gestures into something else, with a nod or letting one’s hand fall on their side taking on an intense charge. I loved the music too, it’s percussive quality a good complement to this fast sequence. What made it so special to me was the way they would repeat those movements with an additional dimension brought by the phasing between them. Less tense than Come Out, but with four dancers instead of two this side of the sequence got overwhelming in the best possible way, without the group pattern ever blurring the individual dancers and the specific take of each. It not just the same movements at different times, each was bringing her own way of performing those.

The third part had dancers in a line in the back — a little some parts of Piano Phase in their way of turning — while occasionally one or two would move closer to the stage standing almost still and baring one then two shoulders, with also some taking up of the turning movements. The most striking part for me in that sequence was when Sarah Ludi did just that and what a difference her hands made to the whole effect. A closed hand in contrast to the open hands of the others in the back when turning made a big impression on me.

The fourth part had a physical quality, relentlessly going in lines and especially a big circle toward exhaustion. There were more different movements there, and less of the phasing effect as many ways to pair and combine lines and circles. Again, some specific movements reminded me of other of Anne Terese De Keersmaeker’s shows, but most of all it was some more abstract elements that I think have been often present over the years. Group, sub-groups and individuals interacting without erasing the latter. Her balancing the mundane and the abstract. And her ability to reach an almost pure geometry while embracing the physical side of dance, and putting the effort and rest on display.

The latter was a part of my fondness for the final short sequence, each resting after the demanding run of the fourth, but each also echoing a part of the show. Samantha Van Wissen lying with an extended arm, Cynthia Loemij on a chair in the back, Sarah Ludi standing facing the audience, and Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker briefly bending her arms in front and back in a familiar gesture. I might be wrong, but I think a saw the last two nodding at each other as in the second part. Here it was really a part of the choreography, but one thing I like about her shows is that dancers usually don’t leave the stage when they’re not dancing, they stand or sit on the side. That’s important to me in the way that it breaks the illusion of ease and blurs the line around dancing proper, temporally but not only that way.

Of course a lot in that show is what she was doing then, and she has changed since. But it’s still current and I’m very happy she brings back those earlier works. I think seeing both an old and a new show in a short time increases my appreciation of both. And even though I think I was lucky to see these dancers, I’d love to see Elizaveta Penkova performing this.

October 27, 2009 Posted by | Dance | , | Leave a comment

October 20th, 2009: Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker – Zeitung

@théatre de la ville

I’m really glad I gave this one another try. I thought that having seen and loved The Song last year gave me a clue or two about what to look at in Zeitung. That proved roughly correct, with the added benefit of seeing how some elements in the group parts in the second half of Zeitung were also in The Song, but also different, more assertive and expansive somehow.

I think I was overly fixated on the first half the first time I saw the show, because those new movements were clearly different. But this time I both appreciated these better and saw the rest. I still think a lot of these bent limbs and awkward postures are a break with pure lines and prettiness, but they’re also exploring balance, support and momentum. And even if the geometric patterns are not as clear, there is still of lot of that, especially when they’re not made as obvious as during the sequence involving strings. And the running arcs are familiar. So these innovations are pretty much grounded in what she did before, and having seen what came later helped me a lot in making sense of that. It’s not even a break in that she has been doing this building and changing for a long time, so I should have done a better job of figuring it out the first time. The experience also gives me yet another reason to want to see more of the earlier shows, including those I have seen. Seeing her work live and evolve is highly rewarding.

For a work for nine dancers, I thought this one was quite individualistic, in that there were a lot of section with one or a few dancers on stage, and each of them had a specific character. This has always been something I love about her work, but here it went further than usual. Which made the few group sequences stand out, especially the one with them standing in a tight shifting group.

There was another element I loved, but I don’t think it was intentional: Igor Shyshko looked hurt and didn’t seem able to bend much, so another dancer took over most of his part. But instead of having him sit out the show, he was shadowing his replacement in the slower sequences, sometimes skipping a few movements, sometimes standing or sitting on the side before going back in. This doubling was very nice, and another thing I have often seen and loved in Rosas shows: the ability to make the most out of problems or mistakes.

October 25, 2009 Posted by | Dance | , | Leave a comment

July 1st, 2009: Vincent Dunoyer – Sister


I only knew Vincent Dunoyer as a dancer, and that made me wary of the concept of this show being just too big for a first impression. That was right, unfortunately, in that I would often just get too focused on echoes of the many times I’ve seen Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker work. It was pretty obvious that some familiarity with his own stuff would have helped me see beyond that. So I’m quite sure I missed most of the point.

After a long video showing a dancer repeatedly trying to through a whole sequence, Vincent Dunoyer did a quite good long sequence in silence, going through a lot of familiar movements, but in a somewhat different way. That really brought home how much I was missing, but getting beyong the call of memories was a struggle I just lost.

When Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker herself replaced him, it was quite more of the same, probably more challenging for me, as her presence would only reinforce the memories. The repetition of these movements — video, Dunoyer, De Keersmaeker — did add something, and Dunoyer’s occasional coaching was probably more helpful to me than to her — and the audience was obviously its target. But I still can’t shake the feeling that I missed the point. I stand by my original fear, seeing it again wouldn’t be much better, I would need to see his own work first to have a shot at understanding this one. I just whiffed this time.

July 6, 2009 Posted by | Dance | , | Leave a comment

June 29th, 2009: Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker — The Song

@théatre de la ville

Wow. I kinda know the drill by now, so I fully expected this show to give some keys into Zeitung, which I’ll be seeing again next season. But still, I’m in awe again. I should know better, it’s usually some sketches introduced in one show, then another one I can’t really relate to, then another one bringing the new direction to fruition, making me want to see the previous couple of shows again, just because I’m now better armed to see what it was about. I may be used to her work, but I’m nowhere near knowing where Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker is heading. The only thing that experience has given me is trust — no small thing in my book — that I’ll figure it out later on. Come to think of it, I’m often no better at making sense of my own act, I’m very often just as late in catching on with my own changes.

Credit were credit is due, even though I don’t what they contributed I have to name Ann Veronice Janssens and Michel François. She did, so I should, my lack of knowledge about exactly what they contributed is irrelevant — remember that trust thing. Had I to take a wild guess, I’d say the former had to do with lights, the latter with sound, but it scarcely matters as I liked both equally and I think I made it clear how little I know — corrections as to their input most welcome.

For a change, I did read about that show beforehand, again because I know whatever she chose to put out may be important. And those references to bird flights may have helped me getting into the early group moves, with dancers moving in and out of formation, as intricate as group moves can get with her, but somehow less formal. It was not my first impression though, because the play with light and darkness was enough, a single dancer coming on stage only to disappear soon as the lights were cut was introduction enough.

Going back to Zeitung, there were again a lot of stumbling-yet-mastered motions, a deliberate blurring of lines I already appreciate even though overstanding remains out of reach. But the most shocking development was the silence. No music most of the time, some Beatles songs performed by dancers at time, with a playful lack of dancing halfway through the one recorded song of the show — Helter Skelter — though that part went into blazing action suddenly yet without a real break in the feel of it, that’s how intense it all was. Silence isn’t exact, because one of them had a mic on and used it to fill that void with small sounds, be it a shoe stomping, ropes whistling through air or bare hands scraping the water covered floor. That was huge to me because De Keersmaeker’s ability to relate the choreography to music had been a big part of my appreciation for her work, and that made it clear it was not as big a part as I thought. In a sense, not having Cynthia Loemij dancing was a bit related, a disappointment and a robbing of a way in for me, but this show was so strong it didn’t matter in the end.

I was probably seated too close to the stage again, but this time I’m not complaining, because those close quarters probably made the intensity of it more immediate. And it was one of the most intense performances I remember; the relative silence actually helpful. I don’t know the names of the dancers, so I can’t credit him properly, but one of the bearded ones was especially amazing from that close, managing to be generous, focused and precise in mock awkwardness in a totally mind-blowing way. Another thing standing out was a group pattern having dancers come in and out into expanding squares, then that pattern was reversed. It did stand out for me because it brought to the fore the geometrical side of her work, bringing yet another dimension to the whole show.

OK, by now it should be clear I’m unable to give a remotely objective review of what went on, so I’m officially throwing in the towel. There are just too many echoes of things I went through in other fields. I assume no one but me will make sense of this, but this foray into silence reminds me of Wittgenstein’s so-called break from logic into language. I never could see that break, TLP and PI do feel totally consistent to me. Same thing here, there might be a break in some aspects, but what I most care about in Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker’s work carries on unchanged in this new phase — pun intended — and I’m like totally on board to see where this leads to. It might be a dead end for all I know, but the road is what matters to me, and it’s anything but complacent. I have no idea how any of this might be perceived by someone new to her work, but as far as I’m concerned it was huge. I feel just blessed having witnessed so much of her work, she’s been such a major influence for me on several levels. That’s putting it way too mildly, but putting into words what dance means to me is a hopeless endeavor, and I’m all too aware of that fact.

Just bring Cynthia Loemij back, pretty please?

July 4, 2009 Posted by | Dance | | 1 Comment

September 2nd, 2008: Rosas / Archie Shepp

@la villette

Opening day of the jazz festival, and of a new season for me. And I can’t think of a better way to start one than seeing my favorite dance company on stage.

The first part was a solo by Salva Sanchis with live music by Archie Shepp, Paban Das Baul and Mimlu Sen. I liked the music a lot, so much at times that I would get distracted from the dance. Usually not though, both were meshing well. Archie Shepp would often let Paban Das Baul take the lead and stop playing, but his jumping in was always welcome. I’ve stated many times how much I appreciate it when a musician knows when not to play, and he knows that almost as well as he knows how to play. Some winks to Coltrane in there, as a kind of preview of the final part of the evening, but the most satisfying was the interplay between musicians and with the dancer. Who was damn good as well, impressive without making a show of technique. He started slowly and didn’t as much gather speed as a kind of fluid flow. A lot of control with movements that would stop, rewind and go forth again, but always maintaining a kind of quiet tension that would make his stops motions. Maybe that was to be expected with the improvisation theme, but the community was there in spirit but hard to pin down to a specific element. The whole worked well without having one element subservient. More like a natural seeming growing organism.

The second part was a solo by Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker herself called Raag Khamaj, performed to recorded music. Beautiful, of course. A lot of familiar things, echoes of other performances rushing to my mind, but that’s become a regular experience over the years for me. And of course that band of light across the stage reminded me of Fase. But even those memories didn’t cloud my vision for long, the present was shining too brightly to be held at bay. The familiar patterns and new ones made we feel as I looking at some writing made of light, going in and out of existence but making a lasting impression, a language I could feel though maybe not understand. I all made perfect sense as I lost myself in the performance, but a sense that escapes words. The simplicity of the stage and of her dress made the dance itself stand out even more, and its unfolding through time and space was so captivating that I pretty much shut out the music. There was a real nice touch at the very end, when the music stops and the recording goes on to applause: at that time she was still dancing, making for a striking moment of disconnect before she stopped and the live applause joined the recorded one.

Finally, A Love Supreme danced by Cynthia Loemij, Salva Sanchis, Moya Michael and Igor Shyshko. It was the third time for me, but I was even happier to see it again because the first had come at a most peculiar time. Having only four dancers on stage made for a different experience, with a compelling balance between individual parts and group interactions — which makes a lot of sense in that jazz context. Each dancer had an affinity for an instrument — especially obvious at the beginning and during each matching solo part — but the dance itself was never illustrative. I loved some individual parts — some hand movements in the first parts were striking — more than others, but the best for me was in the group dynamics, that went beyond support and contrast to give rise to another level of experience. In that sense, it made perfect sense to have this particular dance performance opening a jazz festival, even though the music was obviously recorded.

September 3, 2008 Posted by | Dance, Music | , , , , , | Leave a comment

February 17th, 2008: Rosas & Ictus – Steve Reich evening

@maison de la musique, Nanterre

I read my notes about last year’s performance, and there’s not much to add to that. I was seated a few rows from the back, but this being a smaller room, it was still a good seat. The best part of seeing the same performance from a different perspective is that I can see different things. Overall I had a better view than last year, except for Piano Phase and Ligeti’s poem, which is much better from a short distance.

This wider field of vision allowed be to enjoy Eight Lines even more, with a better appreciation of the group dynamics there; they somehow reminded me of Drumming, with the circle always bound in my mind to Violin Phase, and an echo of A Love Supreme in the association of a dancer with a specific instrument.

The best new was that from this point of view I was able to get Four Organs at last. I hadn’t liked it the first time, but I could find a thread this time; I was just too close back then. It’s not my favorite of the evening, but now I like it; for me it was all about getting to see the wider pattern at the same time as the repeated sequences.

I never tire of seeing Rosas anyway, and I’d gladly go again next week if I had the opportunity. Piano Phase is so great and even makes me entertain the hope that the three other movement could be coming soon. I’d love to see Cynthia Loemij perform Violin Phase.

February 20, 2008 Posted by | Dance | , , | 1 Comment