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Friday, June 10, 2016

Moved by the Music: Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker's Choreographic Vision

Vortex Temporum in rehearsal. Photo: Anne Van Aerschot
By Anna Troester

Thirty years ago, Belgian choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker and her company, Rosas, made their BAM debut in the 1986 Next Wave Festival with a deeply compelling work of driving intensity. Weaving repetitive, mundane gestures with moments of visceral spontaneity—in symbiosis with a similarly relentless, minimalist score by Thierry De Mey and Peter Vermeersch—four female dancers demonstrated a kind of stripped down movement idiom that audiences had never seen before. The piece was the now-seminal Rosas danst Rosas.

De Keersmaeker has since established herself as among the most influential choreographers in contemporary dance. Her work has evolved dramatically over the decades, exploring new territory and drawing inspiration in myriad ways, while what has remained constant is her choreographic vision, her propensity for artistic collaboration, and her unerring interest in the relationship between dance and music.

Vortex Temporum in rehearsal. Photo: Anne Van Aerschot
She is perhaps most famously aligned with the minimalist compositions of Steve Reich; her continual interest in Reich’s work was the subject of BAM’s 2008 program Steve Reich Evening. One of De Keersmaeker’s earliest pieces, Fase, Four Movements to the Music of Steve Reich, from 1982, drew upon the patterned, propulsive structures of Reich’s Piano PhaseCome OutViolin Phase, and Clapping Music. Beginning in perfect synchronicity, the movement and music gradually slide apart in incremental bursts, until an altogether new congruity is established. Similarly, in 1998’s Drumming and 2001’s Rain, both set to music by Reich, De Keersmaeker’s choreography adds a layer of dimensionality to these dizzying compositions, a kind of physical embodiment of the music. Reich himself said, in The New York Times, upon seeing a revival of Fase: “My jaw dropped… On an emotional and psychological level I felt I’d learned something about my own work.”

Add to this list names like Ligeti, Brian Eno, Schönberg, Bach, Joan Baez, Mahler, and Coltrane, plus the rhythms of classical Indian ragas and complex polyphonic tones of ars subtilior, and the extent of De Keersmaeker’s devotion, to her vocation and artistic vision, is clear. In her own formulation of the relationship between the two art forms, articulated in a 2006 interview: “Dance is a language, and as in love, the most beautiful things are said through the body. I continue to be obsessed by the art of writing dance as we write music, in time and space.”

Vortex Temporum comes to the BAM Howard Gilman Opera House Oct 14 & 15 as part of the 2016 Next Wave Festival, and subscription packages are available now to BAM Members.

Anna Troester is the Marketing Assistant at BAM.

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