Sunday, October 20, 2013

Waiting at BAM: Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker's "En Atendant"

So, yesterday afternoon, this malcontented woman in the audience--loud enough for people on at least one side of BAM's Gilman Opera House to overhear--leaned over to her date and said, "It doesn't make sense, it doesn't make sense." And as Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker's often unusually silent and exposed En Atendant continued for ninety-plus minutes, the critic-at-large found any number of thoughts to share with us all, culminating with "It's over, I hope!" as gloomy darkness closed in on the final dancer.

Michael Schmid opens a performance of En Atendant
The rest of us, far better behaved, had waited patiently through what seemed to be at least five--possibly as much as ten--minutes of dry, flat sound issuing from Michael Schmid's flute as as he stood alone at the lit edge of an otherwise bare, darkened stage at the opening of En Atendant. The houselights, still up, united audience with one another and with the flutist and--at least for those of us who chose to listen--made us collaborators in the creation of a disquieting place in the mind, a void into which Schmid poured raspy breath, a foreshadow of death.

The bleak, intense 2010 ensemble, En Atendant ("While waiting, I must suffer grievous pain/and languishing live; such is my fate, for I cannot reach the fountain....") is one of two works, premiered at Festival d'Avignon, that the Belgian troupe Rosas has brought to New York for this fall's BAM Next Wave Festival. The other, Cesena (2011), which I will not get a chance to see, represents the flip side--the coming of dawn's light. De Keersmaeker steeped both pieces in the atmosphere of western Europe's 14th century--a time of plague and massacre--while highlighting the exquisite polyphonic music also characteristic of that violent age. The ensemble Cour et Coeur, featuring the sublime vocalist Annelies Van Gramberen, performs live as part of the stage scene.
Above and below: Dancers of Rosas perform En Atendant
at Brooklyn Academy of Music's Gilman Opera House
(photos courtesy of BAM)

In En Atendant, De Keersmaeker resists easy theatricality and obvious narrative while going for the primal essence of drama. You know that when any dancer touches another, a relationship is forged there and registered in your mind, although you might not clearly identify the nature of it. It lives. It resonates. Each of these brilliant dancers transmits a specific and memorable human sense of himself or herself. There is nothing cookie-cutter about these presences--from the severity of Chrysa Parkinson to the frenetic, bull-like thrashings of Boštjan Antončič. De Keersmaeker makes sure of that, just as she makes vivid movement that genuinely breathes like music even when--as in long, long, long stretches of this dance--there's no music to be heard.

Danced by Boštjan Antončič, Carlos Garbin, Cynthia Loemij, Mark Lorimer, Mikael Marklund, Chrysa Parkinson, Sandy Williams and Sue-Yeon Youn

Music performed by Michael Schmid, Bart Coen, Thomas Baeté and Annelies Van Gramberen

En Atendant will be repeated today at 2pm. Cesena will be performed this evening at 7:30pm, concluding Rosas' BAM season. For information on Cesena, click here.

BAM Howard Gilman Opera House
Peter Sharp Building
30 Lafayette Avenue, Brooklyn

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