Dance theater at the berlin volksbuhne: one wants to be part of a movement

Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker from Brussels has brought out a world premiere in Berlin for the first time: "The Six Brandenburg Concertos".

Musicians and dancers form a protected space on stage. "The Six Brandenburg Concertos," rehearsal photo, 2018 Photo by Anne van Aerschot.

Smart. Casual. Powerful. Sexy? Yes, sexy, too. So they come towards us in their dark suits from the depths of the stage, synchronized steps, even where they hesitate briefly, stopping just short of the ramp, turning a little forward, as if the momentum once set in motion would still want to pull the bodies over the ramp, going back and coming again. One wants to be part of this movement, to be carried along by this group, up and down, up and down.

This is how the Rosas, Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker’s company, begin their performance of the first of Johann Sebastian Bach’s "Six Brandenburg Concertos" at the Berlin Volksbuhne. There are 16 dancers, 4 women, 12 men, but it feels like the group is larger.

For a moment, one might think of the advertising walks of the models at large fashion shows. Yes, this dance is also about desire. Desire for belonging, for being taken up into the flow, for being seen, for affection. And then, as the evening progresses from concert to concert, for the possibilities of individual expression in the protected space created by the ensembles of musicians in the orchestra pit and dancers on stage.

The B’Rock Orchestra in the pit rebuilds itself between the various orchestrated concerts, tunes itself, meanwhile one can watch the silhouettes of two or three dancers who still seem to be in an echo of what has just been moved. The movements in this piece, in the large structured groups and in the slightly scattered gestures and poses of individuals, have something of a breath, a permeability, as if they were always only the visible excerpt from a longer lasting process, whose before and after play out beyond the stage.

Dancers and musicians observe each other, they conduct a dialogue. The fact that the music is played live is part of the concept in many of De Keersmaeker’s choreographies. Violinist Amandine Beyer leads the orchestra – in "Partita 2", another piece with music by Bach, she plays the violin solo once in complete darkness and alone, before music and movement come together. The fact that the musicians do not always play the "Brandenburg Concertos" perfectly, that some notes sound crooked, is surprising. It does not change the fact that the "Brandenburg Concertos" sound familiar, often heard in many classical music programs.

The disordered in the harmonic

Music that shines and glows, serene and harmonious. This does not change the interpretation by the dance. But that this can also be a space of the present, that in being human there is the potential to unfold so consensually as a social being, is the assertion of the piece. Almost a utopia.

There is differentiation, but no conflict and no violence in the images that this choreography invokes. This is striking, even unusual, for a contemporary dance piece. What is organized on stage resembles the creation of a map on which more and more paths are entered. First the parallel lines emerge from the synchronous movement of all, then they dissolve into groups that circle each other, bump into each other, pull along, overtake, cross, interpenetrate.

There is differentiation, but no conflicts and no violence in the pictures.

The dances demonstrate how the disengagement of individuals is taken back into the great circular movement, how the whole structure is informed by the advances and rule-breaking of individuals, how the disordered can become part of the harmonious.

One may know individual movements from the choreographer, the spiraling around one’s own axis, the light-footed hopping and jumping, which with zigzag movements from the hips makes the deviation from the classical line the rule. The new piece echoes and continues other pieces in their oeuvre, not only to compositions by Johann Sebastian Bach. The ensemble achieves great virtuosity in this vocabulary, which is never used with great gesture, but as if casually shaken from the joint. They just dance, nothing is symbolically charged or given another meaning.

It was the first time that De Keersmaeker, who is at home in Brussels with her ensemble Rosas, brought out a world premiere in Berlin, thanks to a cooperation of the Volksbuhne, agreed upon under Chris Dercon and the program director Marietta Piekenbrock. The long applause on the evening of the premiere will certainly have been enjoyed by Chris Dercon, who is now no longer artistic director, but was sitting among the audience.

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