In France, a Pageant Delivers the Important: Dance to Audiences
MONTPELLIER, France — On the finish of her new solo, “Goldberg Variations,” on Tuesday night time on the Montpellier Danse competition, Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker held up a hand to cease the applause. “I need to thanks for being right here,” she stated. “This can be a tough time; with out stay audiences, there can be no performing arts.”
The solo was purported to have had its premiere in Could and been offered once more throughout the Montpellier competition’s Fortieth-anniversary season this summer time. Then, like each different cultural occasion in Europe and past, the competition was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. However not like many summer time festivals, which pushed again their programming to 2021, Montpellier Danse has gone forward, and so has “Goldberg Variations,” which had transient runs in Belgium and Austria this summer time earlier than coming right here.
Jean-Paul Montenari, the director of Montpellier Danse, isn’t pretending that it’s enterprise as common at this 12 months’s competition, which opened on Sept. 19 with Dominique Bagouet’s 1990 “So Schnell” and can shut on Dec. 28 with a piece by Mourad Merzouki. “The dance professionals from all around the world, the depth of many performances occurring directly, the encounters on the street, the warmth of summer time, all of that’s gone,” Mr. Montenari stated in an interview. With a substantial amount of juggling, the competition managed to maintain 75 p.c of its program, he added.
And he echoed Ms. De Keersmaeker’s level. “The important is there: presenting work to an viewers.”
Nonetheless, coronavirus instances have spiked once more in France, and on Wednesday night time President Emmanuel Macron imposed a curfew of 9 p.m. in 9 cities, together with Montpellier. The excellent news is that the theaters can stay open; the competition has merely moved reveals to a 7 p.m. curtain.
On Tuesday, Ms. de Keersmaeker’s gratitude appeared reciprocated by the viewers, who sat rapt (and masked) via the two-hour work, wherein she dances to Bach’s monumental composition performed by the outstanding younger Russian pianist Pavel Kolesnikov. Her resolution to make a solo piece was oddly apposite. In interviews, Ms. De Keersmaeker has stated that she started to create the solo in New York in January, whereas engaged on the Broadway manufacturing of “West Aspect Story,” effectively earlier than the coronavirus was perceived as a worldwide downside. After the present shut down, she returned to her house in Belgium, instantly freed from her common commitments to her firm and faculty, and continued to develop the fabric.
It’s been 40 years since Ms. De Keersmaeker started her skilled profession with one other solo, “Violin Part,” additionally made in New York. She just lately turned 60, and “Goldberg” is a great distance from the insistent formal brilliance of “Violin,” although there are echoes. They’re comfortable however current, the reverberations of 40 years of life lived, skilled and proven within the physique.
Ms. De Keersmaeker, who begins the piece in a sheer black gown and ends it in gold sequined shorts and trainers — “Go, 60-year-old girls!” a girl behind me stated — can generally appear like a teen onstage, however she doesn’t attempt to impress together with her bodily prowess. Her motion is easy: the spiraling turns, swinging legs, gestural vocabulary and sudden weighted drops of the physique that at all times inform her work, and that may appear informal, nearly pedestrian with out the athletic assault of her youthful dancers. However that casualness is misleading; as she strikes, Ms. De Keersmaeker and Mr. Kolesnikov develop into companions in an exploration of the large-scale structure and the tiny nuances of the music.
What’s it to bounce? she appears to ask. What do our our bodies know? As she strikes via the variations, Ms. De Keersmaeker typically echoes musical patterns: canon, counterpoint, retrograde, modulation. However her motion and fleeting facial expressions counsel feelings, recollections, historical past. In each music and dance, this “Goldberg Variations” gives virtuosity and expertise — of life, of the stage — resolved into simplicity.
Mr. Montenari, who has been the competition’s director since 1983, stated he selected to open the competition (now known as “Montpellier Danse 40 Model Two”) with “So Schnell,” reconstructed by Catherine Legrand, to honor Bagouet, who based the competition in 1980 and died, of AIDS, in 1992. Ms. Legrand took away the colourful costumes of the unique, and dressed the dancers all in black; watched on video (the competition gave me entry to movies of a number of works that had already taken place), the impact was spare and arresting, with a clear, Merce Cunningham-influenced vocabulary and scattered patterning that always evokes chook or animal life.
The anniversary version was to have fun a brand new technology but additionally look again on the competition’s historical past, Mr. Montenari stated. Along with Bagouet, he programmed artists he thought-about necessary to the competition: Jiri Kylian of the Lyon Opera Ballet, Raimund Hoghe, Ms. De Keersmaeker and Emmanuel Gat. (The Batsheva Dance Firm, a frequent customer to the competition, was purported to carry a brand new work by Ohad Naharin, however was unable to journey.)
“Jean-Paul has a method of acknowledging the method of an artist he believes in, fairly than particular items,” stated Mr. Gat, an Israeli choreographer who lives in Montpellier. “You don’t have the sense that that is your solely likelihood.” His new work, “Lovetrain2020,” his tenth piece for the competition, premiered in early October.
Even onscreen, “Lovetrain2020” was marvelous, a rambunctious but rigorously staged piece for 14 dancers, set to tracks by the British pop group Tears for Fears (large within the ’80s), outlandishly costumed by Thomas Bradley: ruffles, peculiar shapes, enormous skirts, lacking components of garments, plaid blended with satin.
Mr. Gat melds gestural element with larger-scale motion, generally working towards the music’s rhythms, generally with them, continuously in silence. This eccentric bodily dialogue with the music — principally in a minor key and vaguely gloomy in content material (do you know that the group’s identify comes from their curiosity in primal scream remedy?) but someway gloriously singalong — is exhilarating.
“Lovetrain2020” is all the pieces the small-scale, typically somber work made for video throughout the previous months shouldn’t be. It’s loud, joyous, bodily, shut. Though it’s one million miles from the introspection and internalization of “Goldberg Variations,” the 2 dances are alike in an important method. Each are celebrations — of the physique, of efficiency, of life.
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