BRUSSELS.- What would it mean for choreography to perform as an exhibition? That is the question at the origin of Work/Travail/Arbeid, a newly commissioned project by Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker. Straightforward as it may seem, the implications unsettle both how contemporary dance and the art exhibition are conventionally thought, constructed, and experienced. After all, the apparatuses of the theatre and museum remain so distinctfrom their respective spatial arrangements and institutional significations to the expectations and protocols attached to each. Dance performances are traditionally presented for a fixed duration on a stage before a seated, frontally facing audience; an exhibition, on the other hand, presents artworks in a space available for viewing during public opening hours, over a duration of several weeks or months, where visitors enter and exit at will. The reconceptualization of what a live choreographed piece could be if subjected to the conditions of an exhibition formed the basis for how this legendary Belgian dancer-choreographer developed Work/Travail/Arbeid.
In response, De Keersmaeker takes her stage piece Vortex Temporum, choreographed to the eponymous music by composer Gérard Grisey, and reimagines it for the radically different conditions of an art space. The result is a project that transforms the very material and conditions that have long been essential to dance, in particular the rigorous structure and choreographic language for which De Keersmaeker is known, into an entirely new exhibition form. It also reveals, in a way that perhaps no other dance piece by the choreographer could, the complex conceptual, technical, and physical laborin sum, the workthat is the backbone of her entire oeuvre.
Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker
After studying dance at Maurice Béjarts Mudra School in Brussels and at the dance department of New York Universitys School of the Arts, choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker started her career with Fase, Four Movements to the Music of Steve Reich (1982). She founded the Rosas company in 1983, on the occasion of the creation of Rosas danst Rosas. Both works provided a quick international breakthrough and have been restaged at different occasions, most recently in the project Early Works (2010). From 1992 until 2007 De Keersmaeker was resident choreographer at De Munt/La Monnaie, the Brussels opera house, creating a wide range of works that have been presented all over the world. In 1995 Rosas and De Munt/La Monnaie jointly set up the international educational project P.A.R.T.S., the Performing Arts Research and Training Studios.
From the beginning De Keersmaekers choreographic works have focused on the relation between music and dance. She has worked with compositions ranging from the late Middle Ages to the 20th century, premiering creations of George Benjamin, Toshio Hosokawa, and Thierry De Mey and collaborating with various ensembles and musicians. She has also investigated different genres such as jazz, traditional Indian music, and pop music. She has a great affinity with Steve Reichs compositions and has worked with his music in pieces such as Fase (1982), Drumming (1998), and Rain (2001). Her choreographies present an everevolving marriage between a refined sense of compositional architecture and a strong sensuality or theatricality. This unique signature has been recognized with many awards, most recently the Samuel Scripps American Dance Festival Award (2011).
De Keersmaeker has also left the confines of pure dance and has ventured into the realms of dance and text, creating performances that blend the different disciplines: Kassandra, Speaking in Twelve Voices (2004), I said I (1999), and In Real Time (2000). She has also directed operas: Duke Bluebeards Castle by Bela Bartók (1998) and Hanjo by Toshio Hosokawa (2004). Several of her works have also been turned into autonomous dance films, directed by Thierry De Mey, Peter Greenaway, and De Keersmaeker herself, among others.
In recent years, she has strongly rethought and refined the core parameters of her work as a choreographer. The close collaboration with artists such as Alain Franco (Zeitung, 2008), Ann Veronica Janssens (Keeping Still Part 1, 2008; The Song, 2009; and Cesena, 2011), Michel François (En atendant, 2010 and Partita 2, 2013), Jérôme Bel (3Abschied, 2010), and Björn Schmelzer (Cesena, 2011) prompted her to reconsider the bare essentials of dance: time and space, the body and its voice, its potential to move, and its relation to the world. Her recent productions have been characterized by cooperation with visual artists Ann Veronica Janssens and Michel François.
These experiences generated a growing interest in interactions with the visual arts. She was invited to perform of Violin Phase in the atrium of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York in 2011. In 2012 she reworked Fase for the opening of The Tanks, the performance spaces at Tate Modern in London. In both situations the new spatial setting gave the audience the possibility of experiencing the performances from multiple viewpoints, breaking the frontality of the performance and emphasizing the core elements of the work.
Her most recent works are Partita 2 (2013), a duet with dancer and choreographer Boris Charmatz, set to Bach's Partita No. 2; Vortex Temporum (2013), set to the music of Gérard Grisey, Verklärte Nacht (2014), a pas de deux to the music of Arnold Schönberg and Golden Hours (As you like it), an exploration of Shakespeares poetic language through dance, in combination with Brian Enos album Another Green World. In A Choreographers Score, a three-volume monograph published by Rosas and Mercatorfonds (May 2012 / July 2013 / October 2014), she offers the performance theorist and musicologist Bojana Cvejić wide-ranging insights into the making of her four early works as well as into Drumming, Rain, En Atendant, and Cesena.