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‘The Greatest Step of Them All’: Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker Passes On her Fase to the Next Generation

Posted July 16th, 2019

Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker’s breakthrough came in 1982, at the age of twenty-one, with Fase, Four Movements to the Music of Steve Reich. For years, she continued to dance the piece herself. In 2018, however, the moment came for her to pass the torch to a new generation of Rosas dancers, who will perform it in Philadelphia September 12–14 as part of the 2019 Fringe Festival. Anne Teresa spoke to Rosas archivist and dramaturg Floor Keersmaekers about the relationship between the past and present of Fase, and the road traveled between both versions.

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. Now, the time to pass on the choreography to a new generation of dancers seems to have come. 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. Violin Phase was the starting point for that exercise. When I left for New York to study at the Tisch School of the Arts in 1980, I kept a recording of Steve Reich in my travel sack. During the first months of my studies, I was bent on creating my own dance. I continued to consider this solo as ‘my’ own piece of dance, mainly since it contained all the elements that defined the (now 36-year) road that tracked the tight relationship between dance and music, and the concept of choreography as the art of organizing movements in time and space, where the music determines the time format and the space is divided based on an underlying geometry.

Finally, it also speaks to a strongly ‘focal’ use of energy. The vocabulary of movements deployed is highly minimalistic, almost mundane. Turning, jumping, swinging arms… it somewhat resembles the way a child dances. Yet in opposition to the simplicity of movements stands the outspoken energy of its execution. It is that tension I explored further in Rosas danst Rosas. The investment of such a high amount of physical energy in a composition culminates in a discharge that shares a great deal of emotional tension. At the time, that was at odds with the main strands of American minimalistic dance, which were based on a detached, almost mathematical sense of calculation and precision that required little to no personal involvement on the behalf of the dancer. Conversely, and in spite of the very tight structure and formality, dancing Fase has a great physical and—thus also emotional—intensity to it.

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