Fascinating Collaboration between Dancers and Musicians from Belgium

United KingdomUnited Kingdom   Grisley, Vortex temporum: Rosas & Ictus, Sadler’s Wells, London, 27.5.2014 (J.O’D)

Created with and danced by: Boštjan Antončič, Carlos Garbin, Marie Goudot, Cynthia Loemij, Julien Monty, Michaël Pomero, Igor Shyshko

Musicians: Ictus: Jean-Luc Plouvier (piano); Michael Schmid (flute); Dirk Descheemaeker (clarinet); Igor Semenoff (violin); Jeroen Robbrecht (viola); Geert De Bièvre
Choreography: Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker
Created with  Chrysa Parkinson
Music Director:Georges-Elie Octors
Music: Gérard Grisey, Vortex temporum (1996)
Lighting design: Anne Teresa Keersmaeker, Luc Schaltin
Costumes:Anne-Catherine Kunz
Musical dramaturgy:  Bojana Cveji
Sound: Alexandre Fostier

The stage, as the audience takes its seats, looks surprisingly static for a piece whose title includes the word ‘vortex’. Under harsh, overhead lighting, five chairs are arranged in the centre and to the front. To the left is a small grand piano. Only the white lines of overlapping circles on the grey floor indicate the sweeping study of movement in time and space that is to come, one that projects its audience almost to a sense of the infinite.

The first people to appear are not the dancers of Rosas, Belgian choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker’s company, but the musicians of Ictus, the Brussels-based contemporary music ensemble which often accompanies them. As soon as they begin to play the opening bars of composer Gérard Grisey’s Vortex temporum (1996), a sense of swirling, circling movement begins to be felt (particularly through the flute and the clarinet). There is an echo in this music of Bernard Herrmann’s score for Hitchcock’s Vertigo, a film in which the dizziness is both physical and temporal (‘Somewhere here I was born; somewhere here I died’). For anyone who has seen the film, the spirals of its opening credits come to mind.

When they stop playing, the musicians leave the stage, taking their chairs with them. The grand piano remains. The dancers now enter. Standing in their black clothes where the musicians sat, they seem to act out, in silent point-counterpoint, the music that has just been played. Moving first in their bodies (bends and undulations), they progress to movement in space (discus thrower-like turns in which their arms scoop the air; spins and small jumps).

The musicians return, without chairs, to play long, single notes as the dancers move in wider circles and ellipses around the stage. As they run forwards and (more remarkably) backwards, they never collide with each other, or with the musicians. Throughout the whole piece the dancers never make contact. The impulse for movement passes from one to the other across the space between them. The piano is revolved among them on its wheels (even as it is played) by one of the dancers and by Ictus music director, Georges-Elie Octors. At a given point the dancers come to a standstill. Half the overhead lights are extinguished. The figures closest to the audience become silhouettes. Across the vast, grey space of the stage, other figures can be made out in the semi-darkness. It is a pause in which time itself seems to come to a halt.

When things start up again, the musicians and their director stand against the back wall. Now the dancers move more freely to the music that was played at the start. They do not overtly express emotion. They simply dance the music, sometimes dividing into groups that move at different tempi on either side of the stage. And each one does what the authors of The Intimate Act of Choreography (1989) say a dancer should do: ‘a dancer must go beyond the mere execution of movements; she must emphasize and draw the audience’s attention to them.’ Because they do this, there is an emotion difficult to define as, at the end of one hour, they come to a standstill again, and as the lights begin slowly to fade. The last thing visible in a diminishing pinpoint is the hand of Georges-Elie Octors (watched by audience, musicians and dancers alike), beating time.

John O’Dwyer 

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