Albert Einstein said that imagination is more important than knowledge and, both inventor of a model of the whole universe and refugee from a political nightmare, he would have known. That’s why, at least here at a sticky table at the Bal perdu café, dance – once subordinate to music and mere complement to the eternal word – is important, why choreographer Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker is my Fall newsmaker of choice, with a wide variety of her performances figuring in the Fall Paris Performance Calendar
The Paris Festival d’Automne (a “biography” of which features in The Best American Poetry, March 14, 2018) this year honors de Keersmaeker as a dancer and choreographer, giving an attentive spectator the opportunity to recognize her contribution to the promotion of the “movement arts” – dance, dance-performance – a contribution that will grow and flourish as new, diverse, performing artists come to maturity in coming years.
A quick glance at the creative collaborations and performers on view in the festival’s offer shows that de Keersmaeker is as much a determined activist and promoter of dance and movement performance as she is a dancer and choreographer.
Herself an alumna of Maurice Béjart’s Ecole Mudra, the seedbed of contemporary dance-performance in Europe, de Keersmaeker is the founder of the dance performance school P.A.R.T.S (Performing Arts Research & Training Studios, Brussels). With alumni and teachers such as Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and Salva Sanchis, both in view in Paris’ Fall 2018 season, and, just off the top of my head, diverse others such as Noé Soulier, Daniel Linehan or Boris Charmantz, whose work goes well beyond de Keersmaeker’s own choreographic practice, P.A.R.T.S is a seedbed for contemporary dance and performance.
Known for pure vivacity in movement and geometrical precision in spectacle and today a fixture in Europe’s dance-performance firmament, de Keersmaeker, who was born, brought up and is still based in Belgium, has said that music taught her everything. Keersmaeker debuted as a choreographer in 1980 with Asch but came to notice in 1982 with a choreography in dialogue with Steve Reich’s processive suite of Piano Phase, Come Out, Violin Phase and Clapping Music.
De Keersmaeker founded her Rosas dance company in 1983, concomitant with her celebrated Rosas danst Rosas piece, whose ability to generate passion from abstract minimalist gesture and repetition has made it a milestone in post-modern choreography. Since the beginning of her career, de Keersmaeker has sought to develop a distinctive, what I call, “co-expressive”, choreography with polyphony, classical, atonal, jazz and rock, from the late medieval Ars subtilor (En attendant, 2010) to Bach (Mitten wir im Leben sind, 2017) to Arnold Schoenberg (Verklärte Nacht, 2014) and Miles Davis (Love Supreme, 2017).
In view of de Keersmaeker’s ongoing contribution to the arts of movement, it is not surprising that a personal performance of the solo “Violin Phase”, a part of Fase (1982), kicks off the first edition of Echelle humaine (“Human Scale”), a new annual dance-performance festival sponsored by the arts foundation Lafayette Anticipations. Echelle humaine’s debut session will baptize the foundation’s newly-renovated building at 9, rue du Plâtre, the newest addition to Paris’ contemporary arts-dedicated real-estate. Designed by Rem Koolhaas/OMA architects, the building, which opened in March 2018, features a system of four mobile platforms that enable configurations of more than 50 different volumes and spaces.
De Keersmaeker’s solo is followed on by a program of performance – each associated with one of the possible space configurations – by Radouan Mriziga, Andros Zins-Browne and Eleanor Bauer. All are alumni of P.A.R.T.S.
Lafayette Anticipations supports contemporary creation, especially in the visual, experiential and movement arts, for the Fondation d’entreprise Galeries Lafayette and the Fonds Famille Moulin.