En Atendant and Cesena – Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker

DANCE REVIEW – Paula Varanda 

(originally published in Portuguese at Jornal PÚBLICO, 13 June 2012)

 En Atendant  & Cesena  –  By Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker  (cie. Rosas )

***** Beautiful dances in the city

The holiness we sometimes feel in human nature is difficult to explain. Keersmaeker however, shows how dance may have such faculty, which becomes once more evident, in these works made with the polyphonic music from the XIV century: Arts Subtilior.

En Atendant (2010) happens under the expectation of death, and revisits the infirmity that knocked down the European Middle Age. From the flute player that opens the performance with an incessant blow, we await the eminent ending of his breath; it is a symbolic prelude for a beautiful piece with a remarkable cast.

An outstanding formalism rigorously defines the speed, direction, shape and distribution of the movement among the corporeal group, as well as its spatial tendency: lines, parallel to the proscenium, as inevitable paths, where circles and diagonals are ephemeral emancipations. The choreography follows the structure of a musical composition, perceptible even during silent moments, as it is well expressed by a refined and rhythmic walking, which is decisive and recurrent for one dancer and often contaminated to the whole group.  

From the impeccable form emerges an expressionist and meaningful quality. It appears with the moving architectures of bodies that grab and support each other, which evoke tragic paintings of a population tearing apart in common sorrow; it is stressed by the tense relationships among performers that disclose social conflict; and also materializes during isolated meditations where personal dramas unfold. The piece, with no narrative, leads the collective to extinction, and ends with a spirit that, revolted with his destiny, jumps towards the sky, and stubbornly rises up his naked and lonely body.

Cesena (2011) is the awakening from night to day and bares, although not figuratively, France’s dispute of religious sovereignty over Italy, which in 1377 originated a massacre on the homonymous town. Here collaborating with Schmelzer, Keersmaeker has admirably blended her company Rosas with the choir Graindelavoix.

In the twilight a man repeatedly shouts a song out. From behind, a group walks forward, powerfully and synchronously, singing with hands held; this is an image of resistance and cohesion, which will command later on other corporeal unifying sculptures that transpose large distances on the stripped stage. Almost in total darkness, the skin of persons – that run, jump and slide sensually and energetically – traces incomplete drawings. This prolonged and unsettling occultation, announces a very interesting wideness and depth, transmitted by the horizontal displacement of the voice, which encourages imagining the dance.

The light will increase, bringing other achievements like, for example, a magnificent masculine solo, surrounded by phrases of majorities that mirror or counterpoint him. The community, which becomes revealed, expands also on the vertical, outreaching with the reflex of its terrain and decentralized force, the aerial and infinite space.

En Atendant e Cesena, share various qualities: performers that catalyse transformations; great mass movements; virtuosic trios, duets or solos; juxtaposition of objectivity and subjectivity; dark and casual costumes; rich but specific vocabularies; or absolute pauses that suspend the continuous intensity. Beautiful, in their intangible as well as edifying expression, these distinct masterpieces join together in perfection; one being more two-dimensional, creates a body filled with music; the other, more tri-dimensional, composes a music fully embodied.

The cultural agents that made this moment possible – the second episode of Keermaeker’s cycle Artist in the City, Lisbon 2012 – offered the audience with and excellent diptych, that praises the constructive power of the body based arts and is very inspiring: let us then put further grace on our everyday stride and notice more the anonymous lives that, with us, form a society.

 Paula Varanda

(please be kind and don’t forget to reference if you cite my work)
***** En Atendant   (Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker – Culturgest / Festival Alkantara, 5th June 2012)
***** Cesena     (A. T. de Keersmaeker e Björn Schmelzer – Centro Cultural de Belém / F. Alkantara, 8th de June 2012)
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