Sobre / About


A bienal “Artista na Cidade” é uma programação cultural que se realiza em Lisboa e tem por objetivo homenagear um artista através da apresentação da sua Obra. 2012 é o ano da coreógrafa belga Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, uma das mais consagradas representantes da dança contemporânea a nível mundial. “Artista na Cidade, Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, Lisboa 2012″ é um programa da responsabilidade das seguintes entidades: alkantara festival, Centro Cultural de Belém, Companhia Nacional de Bailado, Culturgest, EGEAC, Festival Temps d’Images, Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, Teatro Maria Matos e Teatro São Luiz.


The biennal “Artist of the City” is a cultural program with the purpose of honoring an artist by presenting his work, and takes place in the city of Lisbon. 2012 is Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker’s year, Belgium choreographer and one of the most renowned representatives of contemporary dance worldwide. “Artiste of the City, Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, Lisboa 2012″ is a program of the responsibility of the following entities: alkantara festival, Centro Cultural de Belém, Companhia Nacional de Bailado, Culturgest, EGEAC, Festival Temps d’Images, Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, Teatro Maria Matos and Teatro São Luiz.




Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker
Lust for life

Of some great artists it is said that they have spent their life trying to make the same work of art over and over, in a never ending stream of variations and re-combinations. Examples that come to my mind are Mark Rothko, Merce Cunningham or even Charlie Chaplin. That is not the case with ATDK; her artistic oeuvre is driven by a continuous quest for new possibilities: new subject matter, new formats, other music, other movement materials… no stone seems to be left unturned. An amazing lust for life emanates not only from each and every one of here creations, but also from her relentless artistic trajectory. The oeuvre of Rosas feels like a determinate and systematic occupation: with each new creation, elements of previous works are refined, adapted and consolidated, only to form a secure basis from which to venture into new territories.

Trying to capture the diversity of ATDK’s artistic creation in an intervention of ten minutes is an impossible mission. I will not try to do so, but rather present a couple of observations and thoughts that I have come across in interviews, dance critiques and essays and that I think are relevant for an understanding of the full scope of her artistic work.


Choreography is an organisation of time and space and – within time and space – the human body as a benchmark, the single unit to which all other elements of a performance are related.
For the organisation of time, the relationship with music is of utmost importance in the work of ATDK. Where Merce Cunningham and John Cage spent all their inventiveness on separating dance and music and Pina Bausch used music for emotional or narrative purposes, ATDK investigates the interaction between dance and music from a structural and formal point of view.

Time is duration. Almost all of ATDK’s works that use music, do so in full respect of the duration of the musical score. You will hardly find any examples of sampling in her work, of soundtracks created out of bits and pieces glued together for dramatic effect, as happens so often in contemporary dance. On the contrary, ATDK likes to choreograph complete compositional movements or even full works. In combination with a clear preference for classical music, contemporary composition and jazz, this gives her work a certain classical sense of timelessness.
But, in music, time is also rhythm. In counterpoint to the oceanic quality of duration, the music that ATDK chooses to work with is also a rich source of complex rhythms and multi-layered textures. It has been pointed out that ATDK’s choreographical language has grown in richness and complexity as she was getting acquainted and profoundly knowledgeable about ever more complex compositional structures; from the early interest in minimal music, over Mozart and Bach to Bartok, Schönberg, Alban Berg and Ligeti, but also John Coltrane, Indian Raga music and, in her latest works, En Attendant and Cesena, the impressive and dark scores of the medieval Ars Subtilior.

Words like duration, rhythm and texture suggest a cold, calculated relationship. But, while it is true that Rosas dancers spend a lot of time counting, the result of this precise and delicate encounter between movement and music is a passionate celebration. There is, in the work of ATDK, a quiet trust that the truthfulness of the encounter of both is bound to generate beauty, emotion and meaning. Structure is never just rational; emotion is not limited to meaning. That, of course, has also to do with the core material of choreography: the human body with all its idiosyncrasies, emotional charge and energy.


Just as with music, ATDK deals with space in a precise and rigorous manner. Her favourite space to perform is, no doubt, the stage. The empty stage. I know of no example in her work where the scenography represents an imaginary space, like a palace or a living room, and when there is a reference to a real space, like, for instance, in Woud, three movements to the music of Berg, Schönberg and Wagner, the impressive tree trunks are rather an architectural element than a tentative to recreate a wood on stage. Architecture, as the art of the organisation of space, is a central concept: when a big truck accompanies Rosas on tour, it is filled with ‘useful’ objects, objects that are used to adapt or reconfigure the architectural space of the stage: a wooden dance floor, chairs, a curtain, maybe some raised platforms for the dancers to dance on top of… Textures of light and materials are used to create a certain warmth or coldness, never to suggest an imaginary space. They are always real, never fake.

There is another aspect to the question of space. Whoever has had the opportunity to look into some of ATDK’s more than hundred notebooks, will undoubtedly have been surprised by the many drawings of patterns. Geometrical patterns, like spirals, the golden ratio, rosettes, stars, ellipses, etc. They are the spatial counterparts of the rhythmical patterns that the choreography creates in time. In pieces like Drumming or Rain, the interlocking nature of time and space is so precise and compelling that the pieces feel as if they were mechanic clockworks, ticking away in absolute unison.
The use and combination of patterns also has another unexpected effect: as these patterns are present everywhere in nature, in the construction of atoms and crystals, the growth of a shell, a flock of birds, the dimensions of the human body, the paths of planets or the form of galaxies, the choreography seems to reflect a natural, universal order of things. On stage, these patterns are often only visible to a trained eye, but spectators will never fail to experience and unconsciously absorb them. In quite a few pieces, moreover, indications as to the patterns used, are visibly marked on the dance floor.


The only measure for time and space on stage is the human body. ATDK works intensely with her dancers. It’s a dynamic relationship in which concrete proposals for movements or dance phrases are transformed and incorporated by the dancers and integrated in the choreographical construction. In turn, the growing choreographical architecture asks for new responses and new materials. And so on. As a result, the growth of the size of the ensemble has had an important effect on the artistic work, just like the introduction of male dancers (in ATDK’s 6th choreography, Mikrokosmos) or the regular entry of new dancers in recent years. It is also a reason why ATDK has never developed a proper dance technique, in the sense of Martha Graham, Merce Cunningham or William Forsythe. At PARTS, students study classical ballet, Forsythe’s improvisation technologies and release techniques; the contact with ATDK’s work happens by dancing her repertoire.

In dance, the body of the dancer can be an ‘abstract’ executing body (although no body is never completely abstract), a character (as in film or theatre) or anything in between. If Cunningham represents the first possibility and Pina Bausch the second, ATDK seems to feel at home in the fascinating ‘grey zone’ in between. In some choreographies, like the operatic pieces Mozart Areas and Ottone Ottone, the dancers come close to representing characters, but in most of her work, ATDK chooses a more suggestive approach, for instance the stylized but definitely female movements in Rosas danst Rosas, or the male/female tension in so many other works. That the actors of STAN dance in the piece In real time, the musicians of Ictus in April me and the singers of graindelavoix in Cesena, only adds more colour to the picture.

The meeting of the male and female universes is a constant element in over 30 years of choreographic creation. In spite of the risk of oversimplification, it is fair to say that the male/female topic has undergone a constant evolution throughout the years. The first only-female pieces start out with a certain feminist flair, a strong statement of the female condition. Later on, the focus of attention shifts to the relationship between men and women, in which love and erotic attraction obviously play a dominant role. Slowly – I couldn’t exactly say when – this relationship comes to denote also something larger: the more universal and abstract male and female principles, the dynamic relationship between Yin and Yang of Taoist philosophy. Man and the universe as dynamic systems in constant movement between attraction and repulsion, opening and closing. In the most recent works, especially En Attendant and Cesena, a new character seems to take centre stage: the community. It is a confusing entity that can both protect and destroy and that lives in continuous tension with the individual. The frivolous groups of beautiful youngsters that I remember from Ottone Ottone, Drumming or A love supreme, have given way to a somewhat austere community of men, women and children, courageously on their way to an uncertain future.

Mark Deputter
18 January 2012