Rosas dancing to Steve Reich

Went to see Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker’s Rosas run and jump around to Steve Reich, performed by Ictus at Sadler’s Wells tonight.

Here’s the blurb:

Rosas presents an evening of dance devoted to Steve Reich’s music, featuring two existing pieces of dance and two new works. The first of two new works is Four Organs, set to Steve Reich’s controversial composition created in 1970 for four Hammond organs. The second, Eight Lines, is danced to Steve Reich’s piece of the same name for two pianos plus wood and strings.

Completing the programme is the classic Piano Phase, which sees Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker’s choreography stripped down to its bare bones, as the dancers’ deft movements mirror the tight phrases of Steve Reich’s music.

Drumming – Part 1 is another celebrated work in which Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker’s powerful, energetic choreography is once again partnered perfectly with Steve Reich’s definitive style as 13 dancers move to the beat of four live percussionists.

Steve Reich’s score will be brought bursting to life on stage by the acclaimed music group Ictus.

It started with Pendulum Music, which does what it says on the tin. Two swinging microphones fly across stage, feeding back as they pass over two speakers. They fall out of sync and you get Reich business. Set the tone nicely.

The highlight of the night was the first full piece, Marimba Phase, performed by two drummers, with two dancers behind them with their shadows projected on a large screen. There was also another set of lights at opposite angles that projected their shadows on the same location on the screen, and this joint image would pulsate strangely to their dancing to the phases as they fell out of sync. This was really beautiful, and the only part of the evening I’d struggle to criticize. There was none of that twee dancey, running and jumping around bollocks, just good fluid dancing to the music.

This was followed by Piano Phase, which is a brilliant piece of music, but the dancing was much more interpretive rubbish modern dance crap.

Eight Lines was probably the most disappointing part of the evening, as it is one of my favourite Reich compositions (it’s like a digest version of Music for 18 Musicians, for those who don’t know it), but it was just played from a recording, and it sounded like it. In fact, it sounded like there was an unusual recording of it or as though the sound engineer was purposefully accentuating the volume of the most newly introduced part, which felt like training wheels for Reich’s music. The dancing was well up its own ass as well.

Four Organs was performed live after this, but the all-male dancing to it was completely inappropriate for the piece. In fact, I’d struggle to understand how anyone could dance to it. This was pretty irritating.

After that we found out what the 100 funny looking triangular objects were at the front of the stage. It was György Ligeti’s Poème Symphonique for 100 metronomes. One guess what happened.

They concluded with Drumming Pt. 1, which was the grandest of the dances, and probably the best other than what they did to Marimba Phase. I actually quite enjoyed it despite the odd karate kick thrown in, etc. I was a bit disappointed they only played Pt. 1 though.

After a roaring ovation (I reckon these dance people don’t get out much, or that they’ve never heard Reich before) the musicians came back on and did a short piece for five woodblocks. Most enjoyable, despite the dancers fucking about all around them during it.

In sum… I tried out modern dance. I reckon it’s shit. Steve Reich is wicked though, and it was great to see so much of his music performed live in one night. That Marimba Phase dance was pretty wicked too though, so maybe there’s some hope for this art form.

Oh, and the other thing that struck me is that Reich is a very strange choice for this. While his music is undoubtedly rhythmically compelling and challenging, watching the live performance of it has always seemed balletic enough for me.

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