Belgium Dance Company EN ATENBANT Pic Anna Van Aerschot

Challenging and provocative, this is a luminous, shimmering, extraordinary combination of fourteenth century music and contemporary dance .

This is the first time the Biennale has presented a dance company as part of its program and what a thrill it is. Rosas under the direction of de Keersmaeker is based in Belgium and spoken of with great reverence internationally. Sydneysiders had a rare brief chance to see this marvellous company in the Australian premieres of these two works .

En Atendant , the first work , has a cast of eight dancers with three instrumentalists and a singer.The work is performed to a song by Filippo de Caserta entitled En Atendant that becomes almost a leitmotif. The work was originally performed in 2010 at the Avignon festival. It is now a companion piece to Cesena , the second work performed here . Originally En Atendant was performed at twilight while dusk fell and Cesena at dawn.

For En Atendant, the set is basically the bare grey walls of the huge Carriageworks space , with large looming peeling silver painted columns and a small bench for the musicians. There is also a large hovering overhead light above us.the lighting – from full houselights up at the start , so the audience can see and be seen , to almost total darkness at the end – has rather a gentle , joyous feel except for the rather gloomy obscureness at the end when it is much darker. (It is almost Carravaggio like as echoed partly in some of the tableaux/poses the dancers form ).The finale , an amazing nude male solo in semi darkness is both luminous and opaque -questioning love ,life and creation ?

The first fifteen minutes or so of En Atendant are given over to an amazing flute solo by Michael Schmid where we see his incredible mastery of the instrument and breath control. From a pianissimo humm , the uneasy , insistent timbre eventually changes to sounding like an aeroplane – or is it we are falling through time ?Everything changes however and the other musicians and dancers eventually appear.

There is no narrative as such, rather a reaction or reinterpretation of the De Caserta poem ( included with a translation in the programme). It is abstract pure dance in counterpoint to the heavenly ,soaring, complicated rhythms of the music. Cour et Coeur are magnificent.

Much attention must be paid to the counts and rhythms of the dance and music and their synchronisation and /or opposition – in some ways there is a Balanchine or Cunningham influence I thought. de Keersmaeker’s choreography uses the basic walk as a base for development –runs, slides and slips , almost a soft shoe shuffle. In some sections the dancers are a seething , writhing wave like mass of movement , suddenly frozen in a machine like tableaux , or as if echoing a pose from Gericault’s ‘The raft of the Medusa’ .

There are some wonderful solos and some terrific male duets . The arms seem to be held mostly straight and stiff . Much use is made of soft jumps .Repeated tiny fragments of movement are mirrored /echoed as if in discussion .There is also a particular use of the softly bent knee , not quite demi-plie, and a turned out thigh releve that is almost martial arts like.

An astonishing, captivating work EN ATENDANT, running 1 hour and 40 minutes, played Carriageworks on 11th nad 12th September, 2012.

© Lynne Lancaster

15th September, 2012

Tags: Sydney Dance Review- EN ATENDANT, Rosas Dance Company Belgium, Anna Van Aerschot, Sydney Arts Guide, Lynne Lancaster