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LIVRE // Rosas on the record, part two

EN ATENDANT & CESENA : A CHOREOGRAPHER’S SCORE ●●●● Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker Rosas and Mercatorfonds, 192/128 p., 3 DVDs (in EN, subtitled in NL & FR), €59,95, EN & FR

Last year, in A Choreographer’s Score, De Keersmaeker and the performance theoretician and musicologist Bojana Cvejic threw light on the development and poetics of the early Rosas choreographies Fase, Rosas danst Rosas, and Elena’s Aria. Now, this year’s new box set takes us, chronologically speaking, to the very opposite end of De Keersmaeker’s oeuvre. The choreographies En Atendant and Cesena came into being thirty years later and show even more clearly the extent to which the choreographer’s works are the crystallisation of an intense process of thinking and working. But there are also other reasons for documenting those two particular productions in a tangible book form that makes it possible to at least partially counter the ephemeral nature of every dance performance. En Atendant and Cesena were both projects created for a particular setting, that of the Festival of Avignon ; they took advantage of the natural light offered by dusk and dawn in that location and were inextricably bound up with the polyphonic music of the refined “ars subtilior” – which, in turn, had its roots in the turbulence of the late fourteenth century. En Atendant could perhaps be seen as a smaller-scale initial impetus for the even more ambitious Cesena, which was staged in the Cour d’Honneur.

The new publication (available in English or French) is in three parts. Two are books, including one of photographs taken by the visual artist Michel François during the process of creating the works. François did the sets for En Atendant. There are also no fewer than three DVDs with excerpts from interviews and videos of the two productions. The heart of the new publication, however, is a book in which Cvejic’s interviews with De Keersmaeker form the starting point for a detailed examination of the two works. This involves describing the general context of the ars subtilior, the fourteenth century, and death, as well as the sources of inspiration that helped to shape De Keersmaeker’s choreographic approach (Taoism, the magic square, etc.) and the concrete coming into being and organisation of the movements derived from the music. At times, the book goes into the details of a single specific movement. The text is complemented by notes and diagrams by the choreographer, photographs, documentary material, song texts, reviews, and lengthy footnotes. In the section on Cesena, Björn Schmelzer of the Graindelavoix ensemble also has his say.

The package as a whole shows De Keersmaeker to have a decidedly formalist approach as she makes use of mathematics, architecture, music, and Eastern philosophy in a way that is pragmatic but also speculative in terms of content, in order to shape her dance idiom. The narrative aspect behind the dance remains secondary in the sense that while it can generate movement, intensify it, or give it coherence, it never becomes explicit or develops into a plot. The document is certainly not easy reading for the occasional spectator. It is mainly aimed at people in the dance sector or lovers of Rosas who have been intrigued by the pieces in question and want to know more about the artist’s working methods.

REVIEW A Choreographer’s Score : Fase, Rosas danst Rosas, Elena’s Aria, Bartók