Monday, 29 June 2015

Venice Biennale Dance 2015 - Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker and The Golden Lion

Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker & Tale Dolven in FASE - La Biennale Danza

(Venice, Italy) Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, the Belgian dancer, choreographer, and founder of the Rosas dance company, was the recipient of this year's Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement for Dance awarded by the Venice Biennale. De Keersmaeker is so original that Beyoncé "borrowed" some moves to create the dance steps for her Countdown video. Here are the two dancers side by side:


When De Keersmaeker got a Facebook message about the Beyoncé videoclip -- which is the way she learned that her work Rosas danst Rosas had zapped its way into pop culture -- she commented:

...People asked me if I’m angry or honored.Neither, on the one hand, I am glad that Rosas danst Rosas can perhaps reach a mass audience which such a dance performance could never achieve, despite its popularity in the dance world since 1980s. And, Beyoncé is not the worst copycat, she sings and dances very well, and she has a good taste!

On the other hand, there are protocols and consequences to such actions, and I can’t imagine she and her team are not aware of it.

To conclude, this event didn’t make me angry, on the contrary, it made me think a few things.Like, why does it take popular culture thirty years to recognize an experimental work of dance? A few months ago, I saw on Youtube a clip where schoolgirls in Flanders are dancing Rosas danst Rosas to the music of Like a Virgin by Madonna. And that was touching to see. But with global pop culture it is different, does this mean that thirty years is the time that it takes to recycle non-mainstream experimental performance?And, what does it say about the work of Rosas danst Rosas?

In the 1980s, this was seen as a statement of girl power, based on assuming a feminine stance on sexual expression. I was often asked then if it was feminist. Now that I see Beyoncé dancing it, I find it pleasant but I don’t see any edge to it. It’s seductive in an entertaining consumerist way.

Beyond resemblance there is also one funny coincidence. Everyone told me, she is dancing and she is four months pregnant. In 1996, when De Mey‘s film was made, I was also pregnant with my second child. So, today, I can only wish her the same joy that my daughter brought me.

Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker & Tale Dolven

De Keersmaeker's extraordinary performance on Saturday night, June 27, of her 1982 piece FASE, Four Movements to the Music of Steve Reich, received a standing ovation. According to Biennale, "this piece exploded onto the scene and is still considered to have been the starting point of the contemporary dance movement that developed in Flanders during the eighties."

De Keersmaeker was born in 1960, which made her about 22-years-old when she created Fase 33 years ago (when Beyoncé was about one-year-old:). Fase is a sophisticated masterpiece, danced to complex phasing music created by minimalist pioneer, Steven Reich.

Before the show - Outside Teatro alle Tese, Arsenale

To appreciate how extraordinary the evening was, we must first understand what phasing means when applied to music. According to Wikipedia:

Phasing is a compositional technique in which the same part (a repetitive phrase) is played on two musical instruments, in steady but not identical tempi.

Steven Reich experimented with this technique back in 1967 to create the first piece of the evening, Piano Phase, which is easier to define by listening, rather than explain with words, but the folks at Wikipedia give it a shot:

Reich's phasing works generally have two identical lines of music, which begin by playing synchronously, but slowly become out of phase with one another when one of them slightly speeds up. Reich had previously applied this technique only to sounds recorded on magnetic tape, but experimenting in his studio, he found it was possible for humans to replicate the effect.

In Piano Phase, he has the two pianists begin by playing a rapid twelve-note melodic figure over and over again in unison (E4 F4 B4 C5 D5 F4 E4 C5 B4 F4 D5 C5). After a while, one of the pianists begins to play his part slightly faster than the other. When he is playing the second note of the figure at the same time the other pianist is playing the first note, the two pianists play at the same tempo again. They are therefore playing notes at exactly the same time, but they are not the same notes as they were at the start of the piece.

The process is repeated, so that the second pianist plays the third note as the first pianist is playing the first, then the fourth, and so on until the process has gone full circle, and the two pianists are playing in perfect unison again. The second pianist then fades out, leaving the first playing the original twelve-note melody. They then seamlessly change to a similar melody made up of eight notes. The second piano fades in again, only this time playing a different eight-note melody at the same time. The phasing then begins again. ...

Anne Teresa De Keermaeker, Dance Director Virgilio Sieni, Biennale President Paolo Baratta - Golden Lion

Now just try dancing to that. De Keersmaeker and the more-than-20-years-younger Tale Dolven started off in unison as if they were both pendulums on two different clocks, perfectly in sync. As the dance progressed, the women spun in a circle, skirts twirling, moving slightly out of sync, as did the music, until they were directly facing each other... The mathematics and skill involved were riveting. They never missed a beat. Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker is a woman who is tapped into the mystical, sensual female energy that never grows old, but teems with eternal life. No wonder Beyoncé stole her moves.

Dirty Hands and Beauty by Cesc Gelabert in Campo Sant'Angelo

Meanwhile, throughout Venice, Virgilio Sieni, the Director of the Biennale Dance Section, scattered the Biennale College of Dance in strategic campi, allowing tourists and locals alike to stumble into performances choreographed by masters on the international scene. I was impressed with the quality of the students -- I thought most of them were not only talented, but daring and courageous.

Tiny dancers

But what moved me the most was the amount of children -- the under 5-set -- that spontaneously moved into the empty campi just before the shows, in front of the eyes of the adults, and simply started dancing.

Ciao from Venezia,CatVenetian Cat - The Venice Blog


1 comment:

  1. Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, the Belgian dancer, choreographer, and founder of the Rosas dance company, was the recipient of this year's Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement for Dance awarded by the Venice Biennale. De Keersmaeker is so original that Beyoncé "borrowed" some moves to create the dance steps for her Countdown video.