As I waited in the foyer of Theater Rotterdam for (Im)Pulse to start (which premiered at ITA on 30 September 2019), I was struck by the audience I was going to be a part of: couples in their sixties, dressed to impress, out on a fancy night, and big groups of late-teens to early twenties, half excited, half bored to be there, probably there as part of some educational experience. Krisztina de Châtel’s evening seemed to attract a particular type of audience.
Fans from back in the days and youngsters learning about dance history perhaps? This triple bill definitely feels like a trip back in time. Labour of Love, by Audrey Apers, attempts to work horizontally with a musician. As in: the dancing body and the musician (try to) perform and dialogue on equal terms.
A futilely abstracted dialogue is projected onto a screen behind them, sort of hinting that love is the starting point (for what?). The performer (Apers’ herself) and the musician embark on a frantic dialogue between movement and noise. Neither pleasant nor conceptually that clear, these 20 minutes of work call for some serious choice-making in dramaturgy. Excess of movement, text, microphones, a “raw” staging… The intentions are there, but the whole thing quickly turns into performing the collaboration rather than actually achieving it, leaving the audience completely out of the experience.
The evening moves on to two choreographies by Krisztina de Châtel, starting with Thirteen Images from the Dark Land. It is a duet commissioned by Project Sally, supposedly working around physical contact. The two dancers move through something between a love story and a quarrel, not that any of it seems to really matter anyway. The physical contact is anecdotic and does not seem to serve the narrative of this piece nor the movement qualities of the performers. The duo overdramatizes the artificial bond without really succeeding in transmitting any kind of story. Despite the over-exaggerated dramatic performativity of Ivan Montis and Pedro Ricardo Henry, they perform this complex choreography with grace.
The senseless chronicle is accompanied by live music from Ensemble 88. By far, this contemporary chamber music is the most interesting part of this piece. Playing with chords, crystal glasses and voice, the musicians inhabit the stage with all the substance that the moving bodies seem to lack.
Last but not least comes Pulse, a piece which originally premiered in 2007. Again, a work with an underlying sense of falsehood. The men are bare-chested but the women wear fairly unflattering (white) skin-coloured tops, mimicking a common aesthetic in the group. The six performers thus costumed in Aziz Bekkaoui’s designs, despite their undeniable craft, only contribute to this sense of fake equality perpetuated throughout the piece.
The interaction with the scenography is absolutely representative, the dancers barely acknowledging the metallic pieces suspended above the stage. The cast seems to have to put quite a bit of effort into being fully comfortable with the challenging repetitive material that is a distinct characteristic of De Châtel’s work. The labour that has gone into this difficult piece is to be acknowledged; the dancers carry the movements with authenticity, despite some parts seeming to need some more time to mature in the bodies.
This last group piece promised to end the evening with a bang that to me, never arrived. Although it must be said that the unconditional standing ovation Dutch audiences never fail to deliver, ironically completed with perfect coherence the delusive airs of this show.
The lack of contemporaneity this evening is compelling. Just like the age gap within the audience, what happens on stage seems to be completely out of time with current stage works. I am not criticizing the modern language used in the choreographies that make up (Im)Pulse per se, but I do question the use of resources in current artistic programs, given the precarious reality of today’s Dutch dance field. What are the curatorial strategies of the most established theaters, I wonder? Not fully classic and completely failing to address current urgencies, this evening left me questioning severely the place of such works in today’s programming.
Seen: October 3, Theater Rotterdam.
Photo: Tycho Merijn
Choreography: Krisztina de Châtel (Pulse & Thirteen Images…), Audrey Apers (Labour of Love) - musical composition: György Ligeti (Pulse), George Crumb (TI), Michiel de Malsche en Jan Deboom (LoL) - dance: Marina Bilterijst, Cesare Di Laghi,Alina Fejzo, Ivan Montis, Luis R. Pedraza Cedrón, Pedro Ricardo Henry (P), Pedro Ricardo Henry, Ivan Montis(TI), Audrey Apers (LoL) - live music: Domenica Eyckmans – Paul Pankert, Maxime Stasyk, Jean-Pol Zanutel, (TI), Jan Deboom (LoL) - set design: Conrad van de Ven (P) - costume design: Aziz Bekkaoui (P), Mieke Kockelkorn (TI), Audrey Apers (LoL) - lighting design: Bernie van Velzen (P), Otto Eggersgluss (TI).