September 12–14, 2019
Before she became an internationally acclaimed choreographer, Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker was a young Belgian student moving to New York City with a music cassette in her travel pack. The deceptively simple repetitive compositions by American minimalist Steve Reich became the soundtrack and inspiration for a breakthrough choreographic work—three duets and one solo credited with creating a new vocabulary of movement for contemporary dance.
Both the music and the dance start from the principle of phase shifting through tiny variations: movements that are initially perfectly synchronous gradually start slipping and sliding, resulting in an ingenious play of continuously changing forms and patterns.
Premiered in 1982, Fase, Four Movements to the Music of Steve Reich laid the foundation for a groundbreaking choreographic career. Having always danced Fase herself, De Keersmaeker now passes her first performance piece on to two new dancers.
“I wanted to come up with my own vocabulary of movements, with its own grammar.” Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker
“Put Fase, please, on the list of post-modern greats. This is thrilling work: rigorous and pure, the dancing burns like dry ice…. Fase and the women who dance it create a stunning image of daring within order and turbulence within calm.” Village Voice
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Choreography by Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker Created with Michèle Anne De Mey Danced by Laura Bachman, Soa Ratsifandrihana Music by Steve Reich [Piano Phase (1967), Come Out (1966), Violin Phase (1967), Clapping Music (1972)] Light Design by Remon Fromont Costumes by Martine André, Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker Rehearsal Direction Fumiyo Ikeda Artistic Coordination and Planning Anne Van Aerschot Technical Director Joris De Bolle Costumes Coordinator Heide Vanderieck Sewing Maria Eva Rodrigues-Reyes en Charles Gisèle Technician Max Adams
Photos by Hugo Glendinning (middle), Anne Van Aerschot (featured, above, and below)
Rosas is supported by the Flemish Community and by the BNP Paribas Foundation.
Festival Co-Producers Bill & Joyce Kunkle; Lynne and Bert Strieb; Judith Tannenbaum
About Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker
In 1980, after studying dance at Maurice Bejart’s Mudra School in Brussels and NYU Tisch School of the Arts in New York, Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker created Asch, her first choreographic work. Two years later came the premiere of Fase, Four Movements to the Music of Steve Reich. De Keersmaeker established the dance company Rosas in Brussels in 1983, while creating the work Rosas danst Rosas. Since these breakthrough pieces, 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 its 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.
From 1992 until 2007, Rosas was in residence in the Brussels opera house La Monnaie / De Munt. During this period, De Keersmaeker directed a number of operas and large ensemble pieces that have since been performed by repertoire companies worldwide. In Drumming (1998) and Rain (2001), both with Ictus contemporary music ensemble, complex geometric structures in point and counterpoint, together with the minimal motivic music of Steve Reich, created compelling group choreographies that remain iconic and definitive of Rosas as a dance company. Also during her time at La Monnaie, De Keersmaeker created Toccata (1993) to fugues and sonatas by Johann Sebastian Bach, whose music has continued to be a recurring thread in her work. Verklärte Nacht (both the 1995 version for fourteen dancers and the 2014 version for three) unfolded De Keersmaeker’s expressionist side, bringing the stormy narrative of Arnold Schönberg’s late romantic string sextet to life. She ventured into theater, text, and interdisciplinary performance with I said I (1999), In real time (2000), Kassandra—speaking in twelve voices (2004), and D’un soir un jour (2006). She highlighted the use of improvisation within choreography in tandem with jazz and Indian music in such pieces as Bitches Brew / Tacoma Narrows (2003, to the music of Miles Davis) and Raga for the Rainy Season / A Love Supreme (2005).
In 1995 De Keersmaeker established the school P.A.R.T.S. (Performing Arts Research and Training Studios) in Brussels in association with La Monnaie / De Munt.
Conducted by Floors Keersmaekers, 2018
Floor Keersmaekers: Together with Rosas danst Rosas, Fase is the performance that has been on stage the most of all pieces, and has remained on the program all this time. Would you mind explaining why Fase is so important to you and to Rosas?
Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker: Strictly speaking, Fase is not my first choreography—before that there was Ash (1980)—but it really was a seminal work, showing the first traces of a composition style I was later to make my own. Ash still was an exploration, an attempt to spy out the land. Fase is about the art of choreography, the art of composing movements that I wanted to master so badly as an autodidact.
ATDK: I myself do notice that these dancers have an accumulated history with the work, that they have quite literally incorporated my ‘language’, and that this language gains depth every time it’s taken up again. One begins to share a common ground with those dancers and that is immensely important. But Fase does confront a dancer with specific challenges inherent to the piece itself. The choreography verges on the extreme with its combination of great physical intensity and strict formality, together with the requirement for it literally to be given a divine ‘breath of life’. This is an element that is prone to disintegration, or to a temptation of mechanicality. The right amount of energy should be invested in this piece.
FK: Your choice of music is very diverse, but it also betrays a specific strand of preferences. The work by Steve Reich makes up a large part of it, and of course there is Bach as well. Are there similarities in the way their compositions appeal to you or do you see, from your experience as a choreographer, commonalities in their music?
ATDK: Although I believe the differences are plenty, their work does exert some strong commonalities. First and foremost, both composers made highly structured music, although Bach is slightly less systematic than Reich. Then there is the presence of a ‘pulse’, meaning there is always an ‘invitation’ to dance. But what seems crucial to me is that the repetitive part in Reich’s music closely resembles something called canon writing. Bach is known as master of the canon and especially as master of the fugue, a music form based on the canon. In fact, the key to fugue is the maximal exploitation of a minimum of material. I believe that is an important principle that the music of Bach and Reich share and from which I, as a choreographer, draw a lot of inspiration.