I mentioned previously that two of the finest contributions of Belgium to the world are comics and Art Nouveau; another is Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker. A leading figure in the world of contemporary dance, groundbreaking and innovative since her debut in 1980, De Keersmaeker has been dancing through life with her signature swirling steps, sweeping hand gestures and spiralling pirouettes. Her 54-year young, lean, agile, boyish figure is as light and elegant today as thirty years ago.
Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker in her solo dance, “Once” – image via
Alongside her, surrounding her life’s work, the work of her life: the dancers of her ensemble, Rosas. Most of them, former students of The Performing Arts Research and Training Studios (P.A.R.T.S.), a school launched in September 1995 as a joint initiative of the dance company Rosas and the Belgian National Opera De Munt/La Monnaie. Director and mastermind of the artistic curriculum is, of course, Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker.
A week ago, I had the immense privilege of attending Drumming Live, a 1998 production choreographing Steve Reich’s eponym composition. American pioneer in minimal music, composer Steve Reich -himself a drummer from the tender age of 14- composed Drumming in 1971 on his return from an educational trip to Ghana. A piece in four parts, gradually introducing bongo drums, marimbas and glockenspiels accompanied by a piccolo and two women’s voices, merged all together in the fourth part. A hypnotic, organic beat – captivatingly performed by Ictus Ensemble.
Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker’s choreography evolves and expands around the music. 15 dancers meet in solo, pair and group combinations, forming spiraling motifs, a theme de Keersmaeker was obsessed with at the time. Following the fluctuations in intensity and speed, the spirals expand with the rhythm of the music, opening up in space, then shrinking back in themselves, as the rhythm slows down.
I watched the dancers move with grace, smiling, engaging in eye contact, enjoying themselves, bathed in a warm light reflected in the women’s white and orange shifts lined with silver undertones and the men’s simple black and white costumes, elegantly designed by Dries Van Noten…
… and I felt that never before did a choreography so complex, so meticulously studied, so precise and geometrical seem so simple, relaxed and effortless!
Drumming is one of De Keersmaeker’s most abstract, minimal and fascinating works; dance in its purest form to music in its most rhythmic.
Rosas are on tour; Drumming opens next on 25 February, in Nîmes, France but check their website for a complete performance schedule.
Photographs courtesy of La Monnaie/De Munt
Kaaitheater, 12 January 2014