A Love Supreme
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A Love Supreme

Salva Sanchis & Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker / Rosas

Four dancers surrender themselves to John Coltrane’s spiritual ode to divine love, his 1965 jazz masterpiece A Love Supreme.

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FringeArts
140 N. Columbus Boulevard
Philadelphia, PA
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“In non-Western music, composition and improvisation are not mutually distinct concepts. Indeed, improvisation is composition in the immediacy of the moment.” Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker

“Awakens the senses to the magic and the tenderness of the world. An hour full of grace and movement. Absolute magic.” Guy Duplat, La Libre Belgique

Four dancers surrender themselves to John Coltrane’s spiritual ode to divine love, his 1965 jazz masterpiece A Love Supreme. The album was revolutionary for its carefully balanced interplay between improvisation and structure, meticulous form and raw energy, and the powerful blend of styles expressed by the four soloists—John Coltrane (tenor sax), McCoy Tyner (piano), Jimmy Garrison (bass), and Elvin Jones (drums). This dynamic is transposed onto the dance: the choreographers bring improvised and composed materials, interweaving and absorbing them into one another.

More than ten years after its initial creation, De Keersmaeker and Sanchis reworked A Love Supreme into a full-evening program danced by four new, young dancers. Each dancer takes on the specific style of one musician and his instrument, creating striking, vital performances that move to the energy and intricacies of the original ensemble.

There is no late seating available. Please arrive 10-15 minutes before the show begins.

Choreography Salva Sanchis, Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker Lighting Jan Versweyveld Recast Lighting Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, Luc Schaltin Costumes Anne-Catherine Kunz Coproduction Rosas, De Munt/La Monnaie (Brussels) Dancers José Paulo dos Santos, Bilal El Had / Robin Haghi, Jason Respilieux, Thomas Vantuycom

Music A Love Supreme, John Coltrane Recording tenor saxophone, vocals: John Coltrane, piano: McCoy Tyner, bass: Jimmy Garrison, drums: Elvin Jones. Acknowledgement, Resolution, Pursuance & Psalm © Coltrane, J., © Jowcol Music, Inc. (Universal Music Publ. N.V.)

Festival Co-Producers Tony Forte & Ryan Hummel, Lynne & Bert Strieb, Judith Tannenbaum

Photos: Anne Van Aerschot

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About Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker

In 1980, after studying dance at Mudra School in Brussels and Tisch School of the Arts in New York, Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker (b. 1960) created Asch, her first choreographic work. Two years later came Fase, Four Movements to the Music of Steve Reich. De Keersmaeker established the dance company Rosas in Brussels in 1983, while creating Rosas danst Rosas. Her choreography has been grounded in a rigorous and prolific exploration of the relationship between dance and music. She has created with Rosas a wide-ranging body of work engaging the musical structures and scores of several periods, from early music to contemporary and popular idioms. Her choreographic practice also draws formal principles from geometry, numerical patterns, the natural world, and social structures to offer a unique perspective on the body’s articulation in space and time. In 1995 De Keersmaeker established the school P.A.R.T.S. (Performing Arts Research and Training Studios) in Brussels in association with De Munt/La Monnaie. De Keersmaeker’s latest pieces mark a visible “stripping down” of her choreography to essential principles: spatial constraints of geometric pattern; bodily parameters of movement generation, from the utmost simplicity of walking to the fullest complexity of dancing; and close adherence to a score (musical or otherwise) for the choreographic writing.

About Salva Sanchis

Salva Sanchis (Catalonia, 1974) moved to Belgium in 1995  to study at P.A.R.T.S. (Performing Arts Research and Training Studios, founded by Rosas and De Munt/La Monnaie), where he graduated among the first generation of students of the school. Since his graduation project Less than a moment (1998), he has produced over twenty full evening pieces, a body of work that is characterized by the dialogue between improvisation and set vocabulary, often with an outspoken link to music. His latest creation, which is currently on tour across Europe, is Radical Light (2016), for five dancers. In 2003 Salva joined Rosas as a freelance dancer for Bitches Brew / Tacoma Narrows. This led to a choreographic collaboration with Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker that resulted in Desh (2004) and A Love Supreme (2005).


Conversation with choreographers Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker and Salva Sanchis (abridged)

Facilitated by Michaël Bellon, 2017

Abridged, check the FringeArts Blog this summer for the full interview.

De Keersmaeker: The history of jazz is one of improvisation. Yet some historical studio recordings are to jazz what a score is to classical music. A Love Supreme is precisely one of these historical recordings meant for jazz posterity. Coltrane first drafted sketches for what would come to be known A Love Supreme, and then went on to record the piece in one single take.

Sanchis: The piece is different from Coltrane’s other pieces in that he considered this to be more of a composition. Coltrane was known especially for taking existing iconic melodies and (re)interpreting them over and over again. He was a real player, to use common jazz parlance: A Love Supreme is a piece in four parts that was written in one single day. It was a kind of spiritual revelation, which he presented as a short opera of sorts.

Michaël Bellon: As a dancer, how do you learn to improvise to music that is already carried by improvisation? 

Sanchis: We also studied the practice of improvisation with other musical pieces than Coltrane’s. Obviously there is a significant difference between improvising with musicians whilst being on stage and improvising to a recorded piece of music—the advantage of the latter is that one can easily establish a clear choreographic plan. To a great extent, the dancing mirrors what happens in the musical score: you work with the fixed materials of the melody and the main theme. When the musicians start to improvise, the dancers will do so as well. Or at least one dancer at a time while the others continue to dance together. If two dancers decide to improvise at the same time, it might be more difficult, although the same holds for musical improvisation.

De Keersmaeker: Of course, the decision to link each dancer with one specific instrument was crucial. In the original version, Cynthia Loemij took on the role of Coltrane, Igor Shyshko was Elvin Jones, Salva was McCoy Tyner, and Moya Michael was Garrisson. We’ll do the same this time with José Paulo dos Santos, Bilal El Had, Jason Respilieux and Thomas Vantuycom respectively. Each of those dancers will focus on a given musician. The time frame is indicated by the music, while the spatial frame is set by the choreography—what’s left is a subtext that might not be present in a physical manner, but nonetheless has a strong influence.

Michaël Bellon: Improvisation is listening.

De Keersmaeker: Dancing is always listening. My listening is my dancing. One challenge is the speed, however. With Coltrane there are many notes, to put it mildly. You need to find a good translation for that in your dance because the emotional speed can only be matched to a certain degree.

Sanchis: The first and the last sections are slower and more conservative, but that is almost an excuse for the veritable hurricane of energy in the middle section. You won’t be able to provide an answer to the energy of the music in the dance if you simply wear yourself out too quickly. The dancers must be able to efficiently convey the energy of the music to an audience. And they have to stay in mutual interplay. When a dancer improvises, he or she doesn’t do that to simply push another dancer who is currently performing the fixed material into the background, but to create a dynamic between them. The improviser continuously cites the composed material, just like Coltrane who always returns to the music when he is improvising and always listens to the bassist and the drummer when playing together. There is no hierarchy among the different instruments and the different interpreters.

De Keersmaeker: Perhaps, as choreographers and dancers, we don’t leave behind the same traces as composers do, but I do consider it an artistic challenge to provide a choreographic answer to the compositions that are benchmarks in music history. This is how we may be able to pay tribute to the power of the embodiment of contemporary dance.