Rosas/Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker

July 16, 2009
Rosas/Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker


Vienna, Austria

July 16–August 14, 2009

Reviewed by Victoria Looseleaf

De Keersmaker’s
The Song. Photo by Herman Sorgelo, Courtesy ImPulsTanz


Vienna, erstwhile home to Mozart, Beethoven, and Brahms, also knows a thing or three about dance, the Viennese waltz aside. Indeed, contemporary dance takes flight each summer with ImPulsTanz, the month-long festival now in its 26th year. Directed by Karl Regensburger, who co-founded it with artistic advisor Ismael Ivo, the 2009 edition featured 100 performances by 39 companies from around the world. Big-name choreographers included Wim Vandekeybus, Maguy Marin, and Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker.


De Keersmaeker’s troupe, Rosas, which she founded in 1983, officially kicked off the proceedings with her latest creation, The Song. Surprising for what it wasn’t (the Belgian dancemaker is known for her musical sensibilities), as much as for what it was (a mostly silent, nearly two-hour ode to the body), the work was also a departure for De Keersmaeker in that it was done in collaboration with visual artists/sculptors Ann Veronica Janssen and Michael François.


Having said she wanted to reduce things to their essence in order to question movement and sound, De Keersmaeker, who also appeared with Rosas in a reconstructed work later in the festival, did precisely that by making use of onstage Foley artist (or sound-effects guru) Céline Bernard. Hooked up with wrist and shin mikes, Bernard tapped shoes, crinkled clothes, twirled a rope, and squeaked her hands around a small pool of water while the dancers—nine men—moved to the funky sounds.


And what movers they were, with their quirky solos, muscular duets, trippy trios, and rabid unison running, oftentimes backwards. Abrupt stops and skids led to frieze-like poses while others intently watched, either bemused or with great interest. The dancers also took turns, as if in a duel, hopping up and down; several hurled themselves against the back wall. One performer leaped up only to come crashing down on his side. Balancing moves were prevalent, with dancers determined to maintain focus amid chaos or calm.


This study in stamina was carried out on a bare-bones set consisting of a Mylar cloud of a curtain that hovered overhead, while the lighting, a disconcerting series of blackouts and harsh-interrogation-like spotlights, contributed to an inevitable feeling of isolation. 


In fact, the large, computer-operated klieg light situated at the front of the stage was akin to a character in its own right, reminiscent of Hal the Computer in 2001: A Space Odyssey. When it tilted backwards to shine a light on the audience before shedding its final beams on the dancers, the performers’ journey, too, had helped illuminate the human condition. 


What more can we ask of great art?