The works

Robyn Archer announces the second instalment of her 2000 Adelaide Festival

Les Balletts C de la B, iets op bach

Les Balletts C de la B, iets op bach

In 1990, I went to an all-Belgian night at Théâtre de la Bastille, a kind of upmarket Performance Space (great seats, a flytower) in Rue de la Roquette, Paris. The opening ‘act’ was (once started up) a self-driven installation that rhythmically emptied itself of sand and water using buckets and pulleys. Another act was Wim Vanderkeybus, one of the most influential dancer-choreographers in Europe (see Aleks Sierz, page 6), with a small group of male dancers. One boiled an egg and then all of them danced with it in turn as long as they could hold it. Having passed it on, they hung in the air from straps…another test, another suspension.

I’d heard long ago about Belgium’s Needcompany but had almost given up hope of ever seeing them—until the 1998 Adelaide Festival. In the 80s I used to greedily read every word and remember every picture in the impressive arts year books that the Flemish Belgiums put out. Something was happening in Belgium and it still is.

Robyn Archer has done something very brave and necessary—she’s brought back a 1998 success, Les Balletts C de la B into her 2000 program. With their La Tristeza Complice, the company was one of the hits of the '98 festival. In September of the same year Archer and I were in Denmark at the Århus Festival with a group of Australian composers and music artists for a conference on festivals, music theatre and new music. One night we all went to see iets op bach Balletts C de la B’s latest work, possibly their last. After the show, director Alain Platel commented wrily, “the critics like us now. Perhaps it’s time to stop.” That's one good reason why it's necessary to see this show. You might never see Ballets C de la B again.

iets op bach is another sublime work—its beauty is terrifying. La Tristeza… portrayed a frightening life without community in a grey terminal, a point of transition with nowhere to go, and yet, against the almost overwhelming grimness suggested opportunities for touch and compassion, and a unity through music and dance, momentary as they were. iets op bach, on the other hand, immediately suggests community—a rooftop on a hot summer’s day populated by the building’s inhabitants. There’s daring entertainment, very young children at play, wandering, watching; there’s everyday grooming, little romances, dance, more dance it seemed than in La Tristeza…and more fun, more communal dance at that. But there's also tension, outbursts, violence, negotiations, unbearable suspense as any sense of tolerance and compassion seems forever threatened. This time the musicians, an ensemble of players and 3 singers performing Bach gloriously, are much closer to the action—and sometimes in it—than the Purcell-playing accordion orchestra above the action (save for their molested singer) in La Tristeza…. The sense of community in iets op bach is exhilarating, though some of my fellow Australians found this the darker of the 2 works—perhaps because more was at stake. The festival promotion for Ballets C de la B is under the heading of dance but, as Archer has said, this work is everything—great dance, theatre, music, design, total performance, astonishing ensemble work—this is the future.

Rosas, i said i

Rosas, i said i

Another Belgian great, and another I'd almost despaired of ever seeing having missed her Perth visit festivals ago, is Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker and her company Rosas. Not since the Pina Bausch visit for Jim Sharman’s ground-breaking 1982 Adelaide Festival, is there so much cause for dance excitement. Bausch presented 3 major works in 3 separate groups of performances. It was an experience still widely talked about, etched even more deeply into the brain by William Yang’s marvellous photographs of Bausch’s company. De Keersmaeker is also presenting 3 major works. In fase she and Michèle Anne De Mey dance for 90 minutes—one performance only. In the second program, in a work created in 1998, the company perform to Steve Reich’s Drumming (a 2 night season). In the third, for 2 and a half uninterrupted hours, the company performs its latest work, i said i, dance with text (from Austrian playwright Peter Handke’s Self-accustation) and live music (from the ICTUS ensemble playing Brahms, Zimmerman, Berio etc, joined by scratch artist dj Grazzhopper and saxophonist Fabrizio Cassol). Two performances only. A necessary experience. A great companion piece for iets op bach.

Already announced earlier this year, from Belgium's neighbour, is de Nederlanse Opera doing the Peter Greenaway-Louis Andriessen collaboration Writing to Vermeer. Europe beckons in this festival with works that pay homage to the past and address the future. In a few weeks, Robyn Archer will announce the rest of her program. We wait to see how Australian artists (and which ones) will speak to us of ourselves and the world. KG

RealTime issue #33 Oct-Nov 1999 pg. 4

© Keith Gallasch; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

1 October 1999
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