Saturday, July 12, 2014

Lincoln Center Festival presents Rosas revival

Right before the evening's performance of Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker's Rosas Danst Rosas, I find myself seated behind a tall, big-headed man accompanied by his tall, big-headed friend--they tend to go about in pairs--and our section of rows facing the Gerald W. Lynch Theater's stage at a less-than-ideal angle anyway. I have never seen a Rosas dance live--only on video...theirs and Beyoncé's--but I'd hoped to see De Keersmaeker's stage in full. I longed to see De Keersmaeker's stage in full and to track the play of energies between bodies. I'd not expected to have to tilt way over in my chair at times, the way her dancers sometimes tilt in theirs, in order to follow some of the action. The first man's head, as things develop, will be precisely stationed in some crucial gaps between dancers--De KeersmaekerTale DolvenCynthia Loemij and Sue-Yeon Youn--bifurcating the choreographer's enigmatic arrangements at certain times. In a mood of revenge, I wildly fantasize going all Harlem Church Lady on this Lincoln Center Festival audience, leaving and coming back with a big ol' feathered hat and refusing to remove it. But you can't go out and come back--hat or no hat. De Keersmaeker won't let you.

My seat is way back in the packed theater, and the distance and frequently dimmish lighting (Remon Fromont) make it hard to read facial expressions, the kind that, on video, make a particularly striking segment of Rosas Danst Rosas look like a growing conspiracy among a clique of bored teenagers. Dolven's open, eager presentation and coltish energy carry most clearly, but I often glance at De Keersmaeker, who made this signature piece as an NYU undergrad and performs it now three decades later. I'm excited to see her dance, to see what this piece, born of her body and spirit, can tell me about this woman.

I find a solemn, closed face, what I can see of it, and a dutiful body. It does its work in the ensemble but does not show too much of itself amid the younger women. She tells me nothing. But when De Keersmaeker performs that repeated turning movement that looks like a flamenco dancer whipping a dress front and back, gripping it at her pelvis and tailbone--if you've seen the dance, I think you'll know what I mean--she shows an intensity that underlies everything. Underlies abstraction, repetition, synchronicity, motionlessness. Underlies melting and dissolution. Underlies uncertainty and self-consciousness. A dashing style, a passion and a power that turns the stage and all four physically, mentally vibrant women on it into an engine that, with Thierry De Mey and Peter Vermeersch's aggressive music, opens your head like nobody's business.

Lincoln Center Festival presents Rosas through July 16 with a schedule of performances of Rosas Danst Rosas (1983), Fase, Four Movements to the Music of Steve Reich (1982), Elena's Aria (1984) and Bartók/Mikrokosmos (1987) as well as several free public events. For further information, click here.

Gerald W. Lynch Theater
John Jay College
524 West 59th Street (between 10th and 11th Avenues), Manhattan

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