Looking back?

Afterwords: Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker and Rosas, 'Gala - Soirée répertoire'

DerStandard.at / ImPulsTanz.com 18 Jul 2002English

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Contextual note
This text is part of the project Afterwords, curated by Jeroen Peeters for the festival ImPulsTanz Vienna in summer 2002. Every night, three critics in residence shared their impressions and thoughts on the performances immediately after having seen them, in an act of instantaneous writing. During the process of writing, these comments were projected in the theatre lobby and later that night made available on the websites http://www.impulstanz.com and http://derstandard.at.

A selection of the texts by Jeroen Peeters is available on Sarma, in a slightly edited version, sometimes with a postscript. Two essays elucidate the project Afterwords and reflect on its poetical and political implications. To retrieve the material, search under: ‘Afterwords’.

Violin Phase, a solo by Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker dating from 1981, is still performed by the same woman, now about twenty years older. It is a paradoxical situation: a woman in her forties dancing as if she is still the young girl she was by then, as if she is still the young girl she staged by then. A refusal to become older, to recognise that time is passing by?

Later on the evening, the perspective provided by the scenography changes: the rear screen is lifted, behind the dance floor a second stage rises, with a fancily dressed table, velvet chairs, candles, bottles of champagne… – the infamous gala. After performing the dancers install themselves over there in evening dress, watching their colleagues on stage. A well-known figure in the work of Rosas, namely dancers watching each other from aside during the performance, is particularly meaningful here: watching means also looking back.

Quatuor nr. 4 (1986) suffers from the paradox mentioned: four adult women performing girls. Still a beautiful piece, but aiming so hard to be young and playful: it somehow doesn’t match. Not because aesthetics are changing and the eighties are far behind, but because the performers themselves are older. Französische Suite (1993) is more interesting to see these days: although subject to the same paradox, the maturity of the dancers gives a new and touching patina to it.

Grosse Fuge (1992) was De Keersmaeker’s first male group choreography, eight machos dancing acrobatic movements. Unfortunately nothing much did change: even apart from the image of men she conveys, De Keersmaeker still has problems to choreograph men – obviously her movement language has always mainly been developed by women.

More recent: The Lisbon Piece (1998), the one and only ballet by De Keersmaeker. Interesting in this context, for it relies on a canon set during several centuries, as if ballet is not subject to time. The question of the dancer’s age is not even at stake.

One walks out with the question if dance is meant to be archived and to be presented as fine arts in a museum? Let’s leave it open. For sure the dusty bourgeois audience visiting Burgtheater doesn’t give a fuck.