Review: Rosas in Repertory Evening at Sadler's Wells

Performance: 26 & 27 Oct
Reviewed by Tanja Mangalanayagam - Monday 23 October 2006

Part of the allure of dance is in its fleeting moments. The remains from a dance that has vanished are lingering memories of what just was, enduring images of movements wrapped up in a jumble of emotions, impressions and responses. Due to this ephemeral quality, significant choreographies from the past exist only in the minds of the audiences who witnessed them.

Therefore an evening such as the Repertory Evening, by Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker’s Rosas is a particular welcome addition to this year’s Dance Umbrella. The programme consists of three signature dances of de Keersmaeker: *Quator No.4* with music by Béla Bartok, *Die Grosse Fuge*, music by Beethoven and *Verklärte Nacht*, music by Schönberg.

Each piece has been carefully chosen for their individual qualities, each different in style, they signal the diversity of de Keersmaeker’s talent.

Quator No.4 begins with the musicians from The Duke Quartet entering and taking their seats on the bare stage. They are shortly followed by four female dancers, all dressed in black bell shaped skirts, neat black ankle boots and dark blue socks. Although the wings have been removed from the stage (and thus the dancers are always in full view), there is strong sense of an onstage and offstage area. Offstage is where they fiddle with their hair, adjust their clothes or stretch their backs.

Before beginning their dance, the dancers exchange knowing glances and subtly reassuring nods. As they enter the performance space, they begin by cautiously marking out the space in silence, inspecting their audiences while performing slow, continuous, flowing movements, movements marked by a playful femininity. This flow is occasionally interrupted by sudden outbursts: a sharp intake of breath or a violent act of pulling loose hair back. As the music begins, the dance sharpens and speeds up in impeccable unison. The dance follows the music slavishly and vice versa, every beat and accent is seen and heard. The movements draw upon references from a diversity of sources, from classical ballet to musical theatre and tap. Interspersed among these movements, such as a sharp turn in arabesque on demi-point, or a leap into the air while clapping feet together, are strong gestural references. These gestures, such as a seductive femme fatale catwalk or a cheeky flick of an ankle, point to the construction of femininity. The dancers resemble young women beginning to learn the codes of femaleness and by flaunting their bright white knickers to the orchestra and to the audience while coyly lifting their skirts up, they point perhaps also to the power of female seduction and sexuality.

Next piece up, Die Grosse Fuge, is a relief from the meticulously neat movements of Quator No. 4, the contrasting experience sends the dancers flying high up in the air extending their arms in strong horizontal lines before crashing into the ground. The energy is high as the seven men and two women all dressed in black suits and white shirts weave between each other. Movements when the whole ensemble come together in unison are particularly powerful, and as in the previous piece, seeing the dance in the music and the music in the dance, makes the watching an exhilarating experience.

In the final piece, Verklärte Nacht, de Keersmaeker displays her sense of the dramatic. The stunning set shows a fairy tale landscape, a dark mystical forest lit only by the moonlight. Tall tree trunks pierce into the ground and light flows diagonally from a corner, the stage is covered with red autumn leaves. Men in suits stand frozen among the tree trunks and face diagonally away from the audience, while a woman begins a tormented florid dance among the leaves in the dusky light. As the piece progresses certain moods and emotional themes convey a certain sense of narrative, a troubled love story unfolds between man and woman. These subtle hints are sometimes cleverly reinforced by de Keersmaeker, for example when making the ensemble of the women perform together in unison. One particular arresting image is when all the women slide seated along the floor with their legs bent and their knees pointing up, thrusting themselves forward while throwing their head back, suggesting images of pregnancy and birth. Within Verklärte Nacht, men and women dance separately in groups at first, until finally coming together into a series of tender duets.

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