Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker and pianist Alain Franco created the performance Zeitung in 2008. Nine years later, the young choreographer Louis Le Van Ho was invited to join them for a remake of the original piece. Zeitigung premiered in 2017 but only came to The Netherlands last week for three shows at ITA.
Both Zeitung and Zeitigung are grounded in the deep connection between music and dance. Whereas the original music score, compiled by Franco, consisted of works by Johann Sebastian Bach, Arnold Schönberg and Anton Webern, for Zeitigung Brahms was brought in to add the Romantic period to the previous focus on the 18th and 20th centuries.
The grand piano Franco plays is positioned in the far corner of the light grey floor. Above it, nine square light boxes are suspended. With the nine performers – the pianist and eight dancers – there appears to be a clear underlying logic and structure to Zeitigung. However, the resulting performance is not at any point predictable.
Most of the time the group is present during the performance, watching from the side of the stage, sitting and standing, alone or in small clusters. With the dancers wearing track suits, pants, jeans and shirts in different colors, there is no unity.
From this seemingly simple point of departure a complex construction arises, humble and human in its set-up, that leaves an imprint of subtle and strong emotions. Commencing with a long string of solos the dancers take their time and space on the floor. They present themselves in a rich variety of movement phrases. One slow, another with his head off balance, following it with a loosely swaying elbow or later on jump-floating above the floor. Most of the movement seems to accentuate the informal engagement with one another and with the music.
Franco’s live piano playing is alternated with orchestral music by Brahms and Schönberg, and some parts are danced in silence, when the only audible sounds are feet touching the dance floor and the dancers’ breathing.
As the weave of the musical composition is unraveled there is room within the structure for freedom of movement. The young male dancers all add their personal touch and temperament, sharp or dramatic, present in their dancing. Movement qualities and intentions differ and are a pure delight to watch. The vocabulary is rich and varied. Even though repetition features throughout the piece – one of the main characteristics of De Keersmaeker’s work – plus a few short synchronous duets and trios, everything is tied together loosely, which leads to an air of enviable freedom.
Sometimes the group takes up a pose, but the tableau dissolves too fast to trigger fixed meanings. A couple of times the whole group gathers, but even then they stand by themselves, taking small steps backwards in anticipation of what will follow between them. Nearly two hours pass by during Zeitigung. During these hours something is set in motion inside the viewer’s body and mind that reverberates for a long time after; you will find yourself wishing it could continue for longer.
Seen: October 29, International Theatre Amsterdam.