Review: Vera Tussing and Albert Quesada in Trilogy at The Place

Performance: 10 May 2011
Reviewed by Katie Fish - Wednesday 11 May 2011

Vera Tussing & Albert Queseda 'Oh Souvenir'
Photo: Luc Depreitiere.

The three works that form Trilogy are intricately connected by two of the choreographers’ shared concerns: that together they create a ‘listening experience’ for the audience whereby the very different musical compositions are danced (rather than danced to)and that what is realised onstage is not the physical presence of the performers but the idea driving the movement.

First up was Beautiful Dance, a visual manifestation of Beethoven’s Sonata No. 13 (as rendered by Glen Gould) for which Vera Tussing and Albert Quesada experimented with the acoustic and sensory variations possible in simple walking sequences. As they invited the audience to do at the beginning of the piece, Tussing and Quesada spent time listening with eyes closed, tuning in to the subtle changes of intonation, tempo and rhythm in each other’s footfalls. Tempting though it is to open your eyes and see the movements that are producing the sounds, it is also pleasantly engaging just to listen to the reverberations. Both performers wear hats pulled over their eyes and much of their movement is done with their backs to the audience, allowing the acoustics to become the third person. The choreographers also designed the lighting, which was cleverly angled to give the impression of a crowd of chasing shadows. The idea of a chase also presents itself in Bach’s score with its beguiling playfulness that in turn lends itself easily to the light and minimalist charm of this work.

For the lighting in Your Eyes the pair collaborated with Andrew Hammond and their regular designer Arne Lievens. This time however the shadows are not just projections but are actualised by the silhouetted figures of the performers dressed head to toe in black. The soundwaves of the music – a rock piece this time by JS Rafaeli – can be seen in the rebounding and rippling waves of their bodies. The layers of Rafaeli’s composition are unravelled so that bass, percussion and strings are explored and their subtleties brought under the spotlight. Likewise, the lyrics add another level through the imagery of the words. The movement material is often repeated but thanks to the rhythmic structure of the music that is being physicalised and that propels it forwards, the work never becomes repetitious but has a living fluidity.

A duet from Bizet’s Carmen was the impetus behind the last piece in the triune, Oh Souvenir [pictured] and the dialogue between the song’s two lovers frames the humorous vignette of two enamoured sound speakers masterfully conducted by Tussing and Quesada. In this instance, the performers remove themselves from the direct glance of the audience by personifying the speakers as Don José and Micaela, thereby becoming facilitators instead of protagonists. A white billowing curtain on a pulley system screens their bodies so that we see two pairs of bare legs, one in heels, one in lace-ups guiding the speakers – one waistcoated, one cloaked – as they prowl and stalk the stage before coming together to embrace. At another point it is the curtain that is manipulated in synch with the male and female librettos, with Tussing pulling one side and Quesada the other. Perhaps this is a work you have to watch to be fully convinced. Fortunately, each of the three works is available to view on the choreographers’ website Experience for yourself and see the music!

Photo: Luc Depreitiere

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