April 16, 2011

A Serious Woman

Sadler's Wells have had a Rosas Early Works season this week, celebrating some of the most incredibly purposeful, austere and highbrow dance theatre created in the last few decades. Of the four revived shows, I've seen three before, Fase and Rosas Danst Rosas several times. (At least part of Mikrocosmos too, come to think of it.) But Fase in particular is always worth another viewing, so I went again on Sunday night -- and so did Ian, despite swearing after last year's The Song never to darken Anne Teresa's theatrical door again. He too has seen Fase more than once, and it's fucking irresistible, the most perfect choreographic match ever found to the minimalist genius of Steve Reich's soundscaping.

Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker's work is always interesting, even when it's boring, as sometimes it really is. I've talked about her here a fair bit -- try a search -- and after all that perhaps there's not very much left to say. Her high seriousness stands as a constant theme from the earliest Rosas stuff I've seen right up to the latest.

Which brings us to Elena's Aria (1984), the only previously unseen piece of the season, which I went to with old ex Matthew on Thursday night. Very much in the same mode as Rosas Danst Rosas, but more complete and coherent, this is an unashamedly difficult work, two hours of uncompromising, mostly-silent repetition, looping passages of stillness with gradually incrementing complexity in dense woven layers. Occasional musical accompaniment from scratchy vintage operatic tenors intrudes as if from a bakelite wireless in another room, barely audible at first, only building to full volume by the end. Eventually -- long, long into the evening -- there's also a visual counterpoint from flickery monochrome footage of explosive tower-block demolitions -- including some from the Pruitt Igoe housing projects, also seen to such great effect in Koyaanisqatsi. The dance is gobsmackingly detailed, so precise and formal, exuberant and energetic but also schematic and witty and sometimes even broadly comedic, that it fair boggles the mind. As do the performers, including -- again -- Anne Teresa herself, now 51 years old. OMFG.

It's fairly unlikely that I'll ever see Elena's Aria again -- and it's certainly not without flaws and longueurs -- but I'm really glad to have gone. It stands, I think, even more than Rosas Danst Rosas as the quintessential de Keersmaeker work. As such it should be a fucking legend.

Posted by matt at 12:07 AM | Comments (0)