Performing Arts: Dance
  ANNE TERESA DE KERSMAEKER
November 1, 2016
Many choreographers are known for their specific relationships to music. Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker’s latest appearance at BAM continues her uniquely multifaceted musical functioning. Vortex Temporum is a thesis of approaches. Choosing the simplest relationship of dancing to music, she uncovers richness in possibility through Gérard Grisey’s score of the same title.

The first sub-relationship of dance and music is listening. Chamber ensemble Ictus enters the pre-set space and plays alone. Shrill arpeggios slice from piano and woodwinds. The onset is loud, followed by a fizzling decrescendo, during which a stringed instrument seeps in one tone at a time to initiate a new explosion of dissonance, increasingly diced into asymmetrical subdivisions. De Keersmaeker may not have her dancers onstage, but sensitizes us to movement in how the ensemble, already focused on heightening awareness to sound’s behavior in space, plays. Their bodies manage technical difficulty and spatially represent their sonic presence. Once a solo begins, the rest depart. Jean-Luc Plouvier continues to rage on the piano, hunched over, brutal, yet infallibly precise. He finishes with a swing of his left arm down and behind himself, rising to leave before his arm returns to his side.

Having sonically sculpted the space, the dancers of Rosas enter, one body per instrument, standing at their corresponding musician’s seat. They proceed to dance in silence, embodying two relationships – matching rhythms and motifs, and maintaining the spatial arrangement of the musicians’ bodies. Certain physicalities are borrowed, such as the long friction-laden arm swipes of bows, and Plouvier’s loose shoulders, working between mime and rhythmically precise pure movement. This does not mean every note is represented. Flurried gestures manifest in slow encompassing gestures that make the texture more digestible and trigger our memory of the music more effectively. Movement itself is simple with minimal technical flourish, as to most clearly visualize the musical element at hand.

After Carlos Garbin dances Plouvier’s piano tantrum, Ictus re-emerges with their instruments, phasing into a third behavior – dancing with music. Players walk along chalk circles on the stage. Extended techniques, such as wind players amplifying their breath by blowing through their instrument but not generating a pitch, draw on physical relationships to instrumentation and blur roles while dancers faintly count along their pathways, no longer tied to their sonic counterpart. Dancing now focuses on polyphony via level shifts. Visual representation of dissonance does not necessitate visual dissonance, but more charged spatial relationships, capturing the harmonic act over aesthetic impact.

A reprise of the opening texture brings lights up and dancers in motion while Ictus stays back with conductor Georges-Elie Octors, crafting the curious problem of the musician who only moves in a dance where dancers correlate specifically to musicians. Despite Vortex’s clear organization there are some inevitable speedbumps that come from a this sort of process involving an extant piece of music versus one that was created along with the dancing: The choreography invariably appears caged, unable to recreate a full kinesthetic correlate to the sound, alternately making it feel all the more alive via its sole nature of reactivity.
EYE ON THE ARTS< NY -- Jonathan Matthews




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