Reviews Performance Published 30 May 2014

Vortex Temporum

Sadler's Wells ⋄ 27th - 29th May 2014

Dissecting movement and sound.

Bojana Jankovic

The minimalism of Vortex Temporum should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker’s recent work: gone are the years in which the choreographer, whose oeuvre is so seminal even Beyonce ripped it off, indulged in theatricality. These days Rosas produces pieces that shed away all excess until they are completely stripped down.

Devised with Ictus, the contemporary music ensemble that often accompanies Rosas but that was formed some time ago while on tour with Wim Vandekeybus, Vortex Temporum takes its name from the score it uses, composed by Gérard Grisey. Played out under rehearsal lights, with audience exposed and in full view, this piece is a complete deconstruction of the relationship between music and movement. Grisey’s music finds the sweet spot between noise and harmony, but it comes with little discernible rhythm or for that matter any other formal elements that often become the anchor for choreography. It’s first performed without a conductor and without dancers, in its own right, and followed by dancers that perform in silence. These two pieces, while shown separately, clearly compliment each other; the movement is not only a response to the music but adds to its inherent language, adding physical melodie to an arranged chaos. The relationship works the other way as well, and it’s only because the music has already been heard that the movement created by seven dancers can gather as many connotations as it does.

Having established the interconnection between the score and the choreography, De Keersmaeker brings them back on stage and unites them, to prove just how fruitful this relationship is in full swing. With the lights subdued and the conductor present, both elements grow in intensity, the frequents outbursts in the score reflected in dancers running in concentric circles over the entirety of the space. The decision to collaborate with Grisey’s work, rather than tackle and tame it, inevitably brings a lot of sonic and physical entropy onto the stage, but  Vortex Temporum is also clinically precise: each section of the piece has the exact same length and the physical insistence on the most basic of movements creates an impression of a mathematically conjured sequence.

Vortex Temporum doesn’t just elaborate on De Keersmaeker’s approach to music – it also, as the title promises, distorts the sense of time, stretching it and then contracting it until there’s little certainty as to how long the piece has been going on for. With this, the performance steps outside the niche of choreographic exploration and into the realm of audience manipulation, but it’s still far from entertainment. In fact, Vortex Temporum is hard work and demanding for everyone involved, which means it’s also hermetic and possibly off putting. For those who break the barrier and manage to keep the concentration levels up however, it also offers a peek inside the thinking and processes of De Keersmaeker and a minimalistic but not in any way simplistic language in which every small detail – from the shoes worn to the lights switched off has been carefully planted.


Bojana Jankovic

Bojana Jankovic is one half of There There, a company composed of two eastern European theatre directors who turned from theatre to performance only to repeatedly question their decision. Before shifting to collaborative projects, she worked as a director and dramaturg on both classics and contemporary texts. She also wrote for Teatron, a Belgrade theatre magazine. She has a soft spot for most things pop, is surprisingly good at maths for a thespian, and will get back to learning German any day now.

Vortex Temporum Show Info


Produced by Rosas

Choreography by Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker

Cast includes Boštjan Antončič, Carlos Garbin, Marie Goudot, Cynthia Loemij, Julien Monty, Michael Pomero, Igor Shyshko. Ictus: Jean-Luc Plouvier, Michael Schmid, Dirk Descheemaeker, Igor Semenoff, Jeroen Robbrecht, Geert De Bièvre

Original Music Gérard Grisey

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