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15.-18.12.2022 Chrëschtdag

22 February 2018

«Music is my first partner»

von Lydia Rilling

Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker in conversation

Lydia Rilling: In September 2017 you opened the red bridge project by dancing Violin Phase at Mudam. This piece dates from 1982 and was your very first choreography. How does it feel to dance this work again?

Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker: It is exceptional to stay with a dance for more than 35 years. This dance is the DNA of my practice as a performer and also as a choreographer. It is sheer pleasure. Somebody described the dance once as a squared circle. Maybe that is a good definition of my way of dancing. There is a whole number of aspects that are very characteristic of the dance: the underlying geometry, the notion of maximizing a minimal amount of vocabulary, the natural movement – the movement follows the architecture of the body because there is a very big notion of flow but no architectural extension of the body. For example, the arms never go over the shoulders. It is almost close to folkloric dances – turning, stepping and hopping as the most simple ways of dancing.

I am grateful that I still can dance this piece and that my body allows it. Of course, my body carries the memories of a lifetime experience. On a professional and on a private level – being a choreographer, a dancer, a mother, a woman. That is all in it.

What role does the space around you play in Violin Phase?

It is different in a black box theatre than in an open space like Mudam or MoMA. In the black box you have the frontal space and the sides. But at Mudam or MoMA the public is standing around you and shapes the space. It is sort of a natural way, as in a market place, where somebody starts to turn and to dance and everybody forms a circle around him or her. As the dancer, you sculpture the space around you through your steps, gaze and upper body and the flow.

A circle, as it forms the dance floor in Violin Phase, has a number of characteristics. It is very continuous, allows endless variations, and can eventually become spiraled. It is like a branch of infinity.

Violin Phase | photos: Sébastien Grébille

But a circle can also be closed and not leave an opening. More and more with age, for me the circle has become less and less an underlying pattern but rather a volume. With a circle, you basically have four elements: a center, the border, the space inside and outside. You have a territory that is defined. The circle is the most democratic form also in relationship to the performer and how it is perceived because everybody is at the same distance from the center. It is a very harmonious form.

You always have been a contemporary listener – starting with Violin Phase that was only 15 years old when you developed your choreography, to Gérard Grisey’s chamber music composition Vortext Temporum from 1994-1996, on which your milestone work Work/Travail/Arbeid is based. There is no other choreographer of your standing with such an intimate relationship to contemporary music. What has always drawn you to contemporary music – as a listener, dancer and choreographer?

That is an interesting question. Initially it had to do with my environment at Rosas. I have always been surrounded by very good musicians, composers and conductors. The physical presence of the Ictus ensemble right next to Rosas and the direct interactions – you cross the musicians and hear their music in the rehearsal space – have been a source that shaped my knowledge of music and incited my interest in contemporary music. In addition, my collaboration with Bernard Foccroulle has been very important to me as he guided and invited me to discover a lot of music. Thierry De Mey was important too because he comes out of film but his interest was never limited to contemporary or classical music. He had a very wide interest in music: Ancient music, popular, jazz, ethnic music - music «tout court». Music has been my first partner through these people.

Music always reflects the world and the time in which it was made. Something quite crucial happened from the beginning of the 20th century onwards. The natural bound between music and dance was to a certain extent not broken but at least questioned. Even though some of the great works of the 20th century were written with a connection to dance: Le Sacre du printemps, Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune, Jeux…, these works mark the history of contemporary music. Nevertheless, because of the explosion of harmony and the absence of pulse this natural bond between music and dance was seriously questioned or even abolished. However, I do not find it a moral responsibility but I have always had a very keen interest in the music written after 1900. I have a strong relationship to Steve Reich but I also to Belá Bartók. Scores like Gérard Grisey's Vortex Temporum and Violin Phase by Steve Reich are at the same time an invitation to dance and a challenge. 30 years ago for me the music of Violin Phase was like a fiddler standing up on the market and saying: «I am playing the violin and you are going to dance.» Vortex Temporum is an extremely complex work. It was only after many years of learning how to choreograph by taking on challenging scores that went from Monterverdi to ars subtilior – the 13th century music that is very layered and polyphonic – and by going step by step through how we can embody those ideas, how I can find a choreographic answer to this musical statement, that a couple of years ago I felt like I had enough craftsmanship, understanding, knowledge from that music to develop a choreography. So it is an ongoing search.

 

If contemporary music often does not offer a «natural» bond with dance what does a composition like Grisey’s Vortex Temporum offer you instead?

The specific status of this music. This music is hard to categorize because it has so many different aspects – from the musical material to the pulse that becomes liquid. This music is very primal and structured at the same time. For me, the effect of seeing the musicians play this music, and their physicality, have been crucial – the proximity of the instruments and the physical action. Moreover, Grisey has developed a nearly scientific approach to what sound is. He analyzed sound as a material with a computer and then put the results back into acoustic music. This is a very interesting procedure. To a certain extent, working with ancient music, such as ars subtilior with its complexity, trying to find choreographic solutions to embody this complexity, helped me to find my way to approach the complexity of music like by Grisey. It is closely connected to my fascination – like many composers – with counterpoint – in perceptibility, complexity, in clarity and in flow.

You mentioned the important role of the physicality of the musicians for the development of your own work. Is this physicality the main reason why you always prefer to perform with live musicians?

I like this natural bond between music and dance. It is the most natural way, when somebody takes the violin and starts to play or to clap (starts clapping herself). The most simple way to make music is singing. It happens through the body. Even playing an instrument, which is the body’s prolongation, creates something through the body. It was the effect of the physical proximity of Ictus. My practice and my craftsmanship have been highly influenced not only by analyzing scores of composers but also by observing the practice of musicians - how they organize their time and their space, how they work, make music together. I stole a lot from them (laughs).

Your work is performed all over the world. However, Luxembourg has presented your work from an early point on. What is your relationship to Luxembourg?

I have a very long relationship to Luxembourg. 2004 was the beginning of the close relationship of Rosas, myself and the Grand Théâtre during which nearly every year we have come to perform here. You must know that for a dance company like Rosas faithful partners are absolutely crucial to create structures and the possibility to develop our work continuously. There are not that many places where we have a relationship to organizers, people who help us to produce, and with audiences over many years – Luxembourg, Brussels, Antwerp, London. Luxembourg and the Grand Théâtre – first with Frank Feitler, now with Tom Leick - was one of these places where I really had a very strong sense that we are building something with an audience. Over all those years, the theatre has been an extremely loyal partner. This has been of vital importance to the continuity of the work.

What does it mean for you as an artist to discover other cultural institutions and new audiences in Luxembourg? What does red bridge offer you?

This is the first time that I see a collaboration between different houses in Luxembourg. It is quite rare that organizers in cities are not fighting their territories but work together. To perform at Mudam, Grand Théâtre and the Philharmonie gives me, as well as the public, the opportunity to fuse things that belong together but often are difficult to bring together. It corresponds to different areas that interest me. People can see the evolution of the work and are confronted with different aspects of it. As said, since the 1980s music has been my first partner. Visual arts became important at a certain point, mainly through my collaboration with Ann Veronica Janssens. The aspect of working with live music, for example with large orchestra, is of course exceptional. So I think at the same time it is the continuity of the work, of something that has been built over long periods of time, and it is definitely a new phase. People speak a lot of bringing different disciplines together, visual arts, music, dance, theatre but my experience of many years is that very often communities are quite gated. Visual art people go to visual art, classical music people go to classical music, ballet people go to ballet performances etc. So I am really very happy that we were able to build this program that extends over a full year and that started at the very beginning with Violin Phase and will close with Bach Cello Suites.

 

If you look at the five works red bridge project presents – ranging from 1982 to 2017 – do you mainly see the differences between them or the continuity they outline?

They span a long period of time and there are big gaps between them. But they all have a very strong relationship to music. That is important. They go from the very early piece, where I dance myself, to Achterland, which was the first form where I brought music and dance together and choreographed the musicians into it. It is also the first time I choreographed for male dancers. Verklärte Nacht was a new way of dealing with repertoire: I rewrote the piece. It was something quite crucial for me in my relationship to the musician and conductor Alain Franco (who also conducts in Luxembourg). Coming to Bach and the Cello Suites: it has been an exceptional experience to work with Jean-Guihen Queyras. It is nice that I start with Violin Phase and finish with Bach where I dance myself. Because before I am choreographer I am still a dancer first.

 

Lydia Rilling is a musicologist, curator and music journalist specializing in contemporary music and music theater. Since 2016 she has been Chief Dramaturg at Philharmonie Luxembourg where she also directs the rainy days festival. She studied Musicology and Comparative Literature in Berlin, Paris, and St. Louis, was a Visiting Scholar at Columbia University in New York and taught musicology at Universität Potsdam from 2011 to 2016.

Concerts

  • 02.03.2018 20:00, Urban

    De Keersmaeker «Verklärte Nacht»

    None There is a résonances event linked to this concert Has already taken place

    Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker chorégraphie
    Rosas
    Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg
    Alain Franco direction musicale
    Georges-Elie Octors dramaturgie musicale

    Verklärte Nacht (Transfigured night) is based on Schoenberg’s late romantic music for strings and a poem by Richard Dehmel about a woman who, on a moonlit night in a forest, confesses to the man she loves that she is pregnant with someone else’s child. expressive crescendos and diminuendos guide us through dramatic events, echoing an ever-modulating stream of emotions. For the first time, this 2014 version of Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker’s interpretation of Schoenberg's shamelessly romantic love story is presented with live orchestra.

    Kulturpass, bienvenue!

    Production Rosas et Philharmonie Luxembourg
    Coproduction Ruhrtriennale et Théâtres de la Ville de Luxembourg

    Dans le cadre du «red bridge project»

  • 21.03.2018 19:00, Dating:

    Dating & «Messiaen: Des canyons aux étoiles»

    Has already taken place

    Ensemble intercontemporain
    Ensemble of the Lucerne Festival Alumni
    Matthias Pintscher direction
    Jean-François Zygel commentaires, piano (première partie)
    Hidéki Nagano piano

    First part: moderated concert (in French) (19:00)

    Second part: complete performance (20:15)

     

    Olivier Messiaen’s imposing hymn of praise to the Earth, from its ravines to the stars, is a work of sweeping beauty and transcendence. To start the evening, Jean-François Zygel introduces Des canyons aux étoiles, together with the ensemble intercontemporain. The work is then performed in its entirety with a visual interpretation by Ann Veronica Janssens, an artist in light with whom Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker has regularly collaborated.

     (en français)

    Kulturpass, bienvenue!

    Avec le soutien de Swiss Re – partenaire des Lucerne Festival Alumni
    Dans le cadre du «red bridge project»

  • 07.04.2018 20:00, Grand Théâtre

    De Keersmaeker – «Achterland»

    Has already taken place

    Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker chorégraphie
    Rosas
    Wilhem Latchoumia / Joonas Ahonen piano
    Juan María Braceras / Naaman Sluchin violon
    Herman Sorgeloos scénographie

    Achterland  is a seminal choreography in Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker’s highly individual body of work. it was for this 1990 production that she first wrote specific dance material for men, adding three male dancers to her then redominantly female company. The dominant femininity and minimalism of several earlier rosas pieces give way to an ambiguous no man’s land, playfully blurring boundaries and signs with dancers performing around a violinist and a pianist in the centre of the stage.

    Coproduction De Munt/La Monnaie et Concertgebouw Brugge
    Dans le cadre du «red bridge project»

  • 14.04.2018 14:00, Mudam, Luxembourg

    De Keersmaeker − «Work/Travail/Arbeid»

    Has already taken place

    Ictus
    Rosas
    Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker conception, chorégraphie
    Georges-Elie Octors direction
    Anne-Catherine Kunz costumes

    What would it mean for a choreography to be performed as an exhibition? In 2015, Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker reimagined her piece Vortex Temporum, created in response to the polyphony of the eponymous masterpiece of Gérard Grisey, for the radically different temporal, spatial, and perceptual conditions of a museum environment. red bridge project presents Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker’s epoch-making work Work/Travail/Arbeid, previously shown at Wiels, Tate modern, Centre Pompidou, MoMA, for two days at Mudam.

    The performancestarts at 2pm and ends at 7pm.

    The audience is free to come and go as they please.

    Work/Travail/Arbeid was initiated by WIELS Contemporary Art Centre and Rosas and has been made possible with the support of De Munt/La Monnaie, Bozar Centre For Fine Arts, Kaaitheater, Kunstenfestivaldesarts, Ictus, BNP Paribas Fortis, Fondation BNP Paribas, WIELS Patrons, and Rolex Institute. Rosas is supported by the Flemish Community.

    Dans le cadre du «red bridge project»

  • 15.04.2018 14:00, Mudam, Luxembourg

    De Keersmaeker − «Work/Travail/Arbeid»

    Has already taken place

    Ictus
    Rosas
    Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker conception, chorégraphie
    Georges-Elie Octors direction
    Anne-Catherine Kunz costumes

    What would it mean for a choreography to be performed as an exhibition? In 2015, Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker reimagined her piece Vortex Temporum, created in response to the polyphony of the eponymous masterpiece of Gérard Grisey, for the radically different temporal, spatial, and perceptual conditions of a museum environment. red bridge project presents Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker’s epoch-making work Work/Travail/Arbeid, previously shown at Wiels, Tate modern, Centre Pompidou, MomA, for two days at Mudam.

    The concert starts at 2PM and ends at 7PM.

    The audience is free to come and go as they please.

    Work/Travail/Arbeid was initiated by WIELS Contemporary Art Centre and Rosas and has been made possible with the support of De Munt/La Monnaie, Bozar Centre For Fine Arts, Kaaitheater, Kunstenfestivaldesarts, Ictus, BNP Paribas Fortis, Fondation BNP Paribas, WIELS Patrons, and Rolex Institute.
    Rosas is supported by the Flemish Community.

    Dans le cadre du «red bridge project»

  • 04.05.2018 20:00, Grand Théâtre

    De Keersmaeker / Queyras – «Mitten wir im Leben sind/Bach6Cellosuiten»

    Has already taken place

    Jean-Guihen Queyras violoncelle
    Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker danse, chorégraphie
    Marie Goudot, Michaël Pomero, Julien Monty, Boštjan Antončič danse
    An D'Huys costumes
    Luc Schaltin lumières

    This project pays tribute to Johann sebastian Bach’s Cello Suites that are performed in their entirety by world-renowned cellist Jean-Guihen Queyras. The collaboration between Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker and Jean-Guihen Queyras was born out of a shared interest in musical analysis as a starting point for their interpretations. in this new production, Bach’s score is illuminated by a choreography for three male and two female dancers, including Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker herself. Both the individual character of the six suites and their interconnections emerge from this riveting symbiosis of music and dance.

    Production Rosas
    Coproduction De Munt/La Monnaie, Ruhrtriennale, Concertgebouw Brugge, Le Théâtre de la Ville avec le Festival d’Automne à Paris, Sadler’s Wells, Théâtres de la Ville de Luxembourg, Opéra de Lille, Ludwigsburger Schlossfestspiele, Elbphilharmonie et Montpellier Danse 2018

    Dans le cadre du «red bridge project»

  • 05.05.2018 20:00, Grand Théâtre

    De Keersmaeker / Queyras – «Mitten wir im Leben sind/Bach6Cellosuiten»

    Has already taken place

    Jean-Guihen Queyras violoncelle
    Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker danse, chorégraphie
    Marie Goudot, Michaël Pomero, Julien Monty, Boštjan Antončič danse
    An D'Huys costumes
    Luc Schaltin lumières

    This project pays tribute to Johann sebastian Bach’s Cello Suites that are performed in their entirety by world-renowned cellist Jean-Guihen Queyras. The collaboration between Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker and Jean-Guihen Queyras was born out of a shared interest in musical analysis as a starting point for their interpretations. in this new production, Bach’s score is illuminated by a choreography for three male and two female dancers, including Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker herself. Both the individual character of the six suites and their interconnections emerge from this riveting symbiosis of music and dance.

    Production Rosas
    Coproduction De Munt/La Monnaie, Ruhrtriennale, Concertgebouw Brugge, Le Théâtre de la Ville avec le Festival d’Automne à Paris, Sadler’s Wells, Théâtres de la Ville de Luxembourg, Opéra de Lille, Ludwigsburger Schlossfestspiele, Elbphilharmonie et Montpellier Danse 2018
    Dans le cadre du «red bridge project»