One gets to the next slightly

Linda Marie Walker: Fase, Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker & Rosas

Fase (Phase): four movements to the music of Steve Reich. A work 18 years old and performed only once at this festival by the choreographer, Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, and Michèle Anne De Mey. A tense work, tiring to watch, in its nowhere-to-hide—precise repetitive small moves—style. Tiring because of its relentless repetition, its going over the same movement again and again, not to ‘teach’ you but to insist on its language—as Reich insists on the minimal (often hard) structure of his music. After a while you begin to doubt your understanding of what is exactly there, as one does after looking at a word for an extended time (said George).

The beauty and excitement of Fase is its making of 4 spatial scenes, as if space is produced incrementally, as if it is always (in the end) in the moving-body. There is little to look at, except the height and width of the stage, and light—and the difficult pleasure of bodies performing for the sake of dance—not for the telling of a story with dance. Dance for dance, the dance of dance.

The pleasure is dance itself, or a particular type of dance which ‘builds’ a world by geometric and sensual fragments. A spatial pleasure which opens up inside one, a presence which is personal and startling (as one returns from some stray thought to find the dancers still there, dancing in one’s absence): “Taken to its extreme, the pleasure of space leans towards the poetics of the unconscious, to the edge of madness.” (Bernard Tschumi)

The relationship between De Keersmaeker’s choreography and the music is close without being illustrative or subservient. There’s a similar strength, like a holding pattern, in both forms; they leave each other alone. This I liked, as it assisted the time (timing, as beat, rhythm) of the space-becoming (becoming an experience of strange-fates, of fateful-events). The body was machinic, yet couldn’t become robotic, it stayed too human, slightly off-balance now and then, enough to draw one’s attention to effort, work, and ‘now’. Within deliberate repetition is the dilemma of habit, or a naming of habit, as the effects of our own time alive surface, like a scent: is this how my living looks, arms flailing, head snapping, and sudden repose, like a tiny interlude of almost-sleep, then frantic action again (while sitting in a chair) doesn’t matter, up, down, same constant arrival ‘nowhere’ (or slightly over there): arrival takes its time, a long time, and then it’s over, all is changed. In real time, black stage, a few words projected large: Violin Phase, for instance.

Violin Phase, the third movement, is a solo work. A circle of light on the stage, the dancer’s domain. A circling, lyrical, phase, which edged toward abandon, only to withdraw, and fade, a kind of promise which was never going to be fulfilled. The light constant, keeping movement safe.

The final phase: Clapping Music. The sound of hands beating together, and primarily danced by the feet. The feet clapping the floor, the bodies slowly moving toward the 2 suspended lights from the second phase (Come Out). Arriving there just in time for the end of the music. Phase 4 reaching back to remember phase 2 (which was all arms). These unannounced symmetries laying quietly beneath appearances, like grammar. There were others. Like the use of light as set—the stage fully lit for the first movement (and spot-lit to make the merged shadows sharp), then moving with the dancers to the front of the stage (and back again); the rectangle of light in phase 4 a counter to the circle in phase 3. The constant use of arms in the first 3 phases, completely subdued in phase 4. Making the body appear much more hinged (making balance look like falling, and bringing the arms to the fore retrospectively).

Arrangements, like words, are orders. We arrange words, produce habits. Often with repetition we are displaced, out of our element, uncomfortable—excessive repetition is a way to make an outside (when despair turns silent, we are not happier, it’s just the beginning; noise is breathing, that sort of thing). Being out of one’s element is to recall the fact of inhabiting, we see the outside, newly arranged, and we are juxtaposed, instead of harmonised. So, we are alone, peeled off from habit-world, outside the inside of a moment.

In some way Fase was dance on the outside of an imagined inside, and to see it we had to come outside too, adrift. And, it might be that there wasn’t even an inside, imagined or real.

The 4 phases looked like this to me: Piano Phase: Dance For Plains (for the plains of Gerald Murnane: “And then word came that the plains had settled for peach.”); Come Out: Dance For Waiting (for the men of Maurice Blanchot’s infinite conversation: “This is a sentence of a somewhat enigmatic turn.”); Violin Phase: Dance For Round Things (for the things of Jean-Luc Nancy: “One and one and one.”); Clapping Music: Dance For Artists (for the music of John Cage: “One more idea and then I am through.”). The End.

Fase, Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker & Rosas, Festival Theatre, March 14; Adelaide Festival 2000

RealTime issue #36 April-May 2000 pg. 26

© Linda Marie Walker; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

1 April 2000