Carriageworks, Bay 17.
January 16, 2016.
Austere, minimalist and quite severe, this production, combining both the marvellous dancers of dance troupe Rosas and the musicians of Ictus, both from Belgium, is for serious contemporary classical music and dance fans. Presented as part of the Sydney Festival, there is no emotion from the performers, just intense attention to the rigorously intellectual music and dance they present.
There’s no set as such, just the black walls of the large Bay 17 of Carriageworks matched by the performers in black costumes. A piano is visible and swirling, making circular markings on the floor.
The opening segment features the musicians – piano, flute, clarinet, violin, viola and cello all at play. Gérard Grisey’s striking music is sculptured, multi-layered and atonal. It is very complex and intricately arranged, much like Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker’s choreography, which is melded with it, commenting on and at times mirroring/echoing it.
The musicians stand and move around in precisely organised patterns but don’t dance. The piano, however, is dizzyingly shifted and circled around while Jean-Luc Plouvier (the pianist) continues to play and one of the dancers interacts with him. (The piano actually requires two dancers, representing the pianist’s two hands.)
Eventually, the extraordinary dancers join them, and we gradually observe that a dancer and musician are paired, so to speak. The dancers have an amazingly soft, yet fiery, line. They are fluid, yet extremely controlled.
When the dancers and musicians come together, the complicated rhythm and development of movement and music grows, then ebbs, then grows again. The eponymous “vortex” of Grisey’s work is the tempestuous centre of the spiralling dance and music.
De Keersmaeker’s vivid, precisely constructed choreography links all the performers, yet it’s also individualistic. At times, there is use of repetition, some in unison and sometimes gently staggered so that the phrase ripples through the group. At other points, the dancers are like moving sculptural lines in space, fractured suddenly by explosive feline jumps or some everyday movements like backward walks, runs, lunges, slithery (and squeaky) rolling floorwork and held angular poses.
For one segment, there is a blistering male dance solo of swirls, drags, leaps and shuffles; everyone else has left the stage. Eventually, his colleagues return, and dance and music are reunited.
We gradually come to observe that de Keersmaeker’s precise, intense choreography is revealed to be a 3-D expression of the structured geometry of the music.
This work is about time — in a straight line (or not) between past, present and future — and being conscious of time in continual flux and transition from anticipation to memory, past becoming the future, future becoming past.
In the final section, the atmospheric lighting glooms and softly dims as the dancers pivot and run, eventually fading away. The music gradually drops to a whisper, then silence. The light that remains on the conductor’s hand and stand is mesmerizing and compelling – all is still and silent – then, finis.
Running about an hour, Vortex Temporum ran at Carriageworks through January 18 as part of the Sydney Festival. Choreographed by de Keersmaeker, it was created with and danced by Bostjan Antoncic, Carlos Garbin, Marie Goudot, Cynthia Loemij, Julien Monty, Michael Pomero and Igor Shysko.
By Lynne Lancaster of Dance Informa.
Photos: Scenes from Vortex Temporum, as performed during the 2016 Sydney Festival. Photography by Jamie Williams/Sydney Festival.