DanceView Times, New York edition
Dancing in Puddles
Like all good storms, Rain began in stillness and calm. Sturdy ropes hung from the ceiling in a crescent shape that spanned the circumference of the stage, but remained open along the front, stopping short of closing in a full circle. Careful not to disturb the ropes, which swung impressively when provoked, Rosas, the Brussels-based ten-member troupe consisting of three men and seven women, quietly entered and engulfed the space.
Within the first moments, Keersmaeker planted the seeds for the seventy-minute piece. I think in this one evening we may have witnessed every combination of ten dancers imaginable. But watching Rain unfold was more than a thirst-quenching treat.
Initially tinted shades of salmon by Jan Vesweyveld’s expert lighting, the dancers ran along the inside edge of the ropes, stopped, and suspended their movements briefly only to change directions and resumed their race. Eventually, dancers peeled off on their own trajectories and penetrated the inside of the circle. Amidst the constantly changing backdrop of dancers, two women running together briefly held hands, one smiling pleasantly at the audience. Nine dancers stopped and stared as another woman initiated a movement phrase containing leg kicks, arm lifts, and simple turns. Then everyone ran again.
Occasionally Keersmaeker threw in some jazzy moves, in which the dancers rolled their shoulders, melted lusciously into their hips, and flexed their feet. Always initiated by a head roll, an arm flick, or another organic connection, Keersmaeker’s movement was never artificially tacked on—clear roads led to everything.
Like fish swimming in an aquarium, the random ordering of movement across the stage sometimes gave the impression of a busy, yet orderly village. Occasionally the dancers crossed the stage in slightly imperfect diagonals, performing the same steps but with different facings. The dancers often found themselves drawn into a small cluster, frequently before an explosive lift or lighting change. Few movements evoke more joy than a group of ten jumping at once, with arms reaching skyward. What sheer innocence and celebration! These moments of unison proved especially satisfying after the heady disarray.
In several sections of the piece, Rosas’s three men moved effortlessly through acrobatic, yet smooth-as-pudding, trios. Their simple air of camaraderie caught the attention of one female dancer in particular, who gamely joined in the men’s sections more than once. The ensuing quartet gave rise to overhead lifts and impressively maneuvered partnering, all originating with the slightest and most delicate uses of force.
Ballet arms, particularly the jewelry-box ballerina’s pose with her arms above the head, featured prominently in this piece. Split-leaps and several variations of bent-leg cartwheels and somersaults repeated, as well. But you’d be hard-put to find ballet-pretty in this piece. Unlike other prominent modern companies, in which many dancers look equally at ease barefoot or in pointe shoes, Rosas boasts no ballerinas.
Dries Van Noten’s understated, but chic costumes consisted of Banana Republic-esque slacks, T’s, button-downs, and flowing skirts and dresses for the ladies. Most dancers changed costumes twice, maybe three times, but the exceptional flow of movement and action rendered some of these changes practically undetectable.
Green, pink, blue or violet flashes of light introduced slight shifts in action throughout the piece. Accompanied by obvious swells in the music, the light cues often revealed that which under a different shade was hidden—shirts were really white, not blue, and slacks were actually tan, not olive, as previously imagined.
Steve Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians, performed live behind the semi-circle of ropes by Ictus & Synergy Vocals, lent Rain an air of hope and optimism. In the last moments when the music faded and the lights dimmed, we caught a glimpse of what may have otherwise appeared a repetitive and gloomy project without the ethereal and noble mood set by Reich’s score.
Photo credit: Stephanie Berger
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