Dim lights show a wrinkled metallic-looking backdrop. Four barefoot dancers, one at a time, to the sound of a ticking clock, walk onto the stage and take an upstage, rear-facing stance. The clock stops, leaving the dancers in silence. They collapse to the floor in unison and lay still. After a period of silence they jerk into motion simultaneously; the dancers’ occasional sighs of restlessness and of calm create the music for the first of four parts. One dancer breaks free from the repetitive motion on the floor to move independently, and then another, until the four dancers are once again moving in unison.
Rosas, a modern dance company from Belgium, made an American Dance Festival premiere with its classic, Rosas Danst Rosas Friday night. Choreographed in 1983 by Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, it has been performed all over the world to high critical acclaim.
For the second part, the clock ticks again, and one dancer arises from what might have been a restless night’s sleep. She places wooden chairs in carefully measured space in groups of three, and puts a pair of shoes in front of each group. Secured hair is set free, shoes are put on, and the dancers sit in matching relaxed positions. Music, composed in parallel with the creation of the dance by Thierry De Mey and Peter Vermeersch, begins in this section. Like the movements in the previous section had been performed primarily while lying on the floor, this section is performed from a seated position, with the occasional individual rebellion of standing or lying across the chairs. There are quick changes in contrasting emotions: from boredom to thoughtful interest; from agitation to quiet patience.
The third and fourth sections are danced without the chairs (mostly) and off the floor, and the intensity of the dance increases through each section. The dancers’ movements sometimes seem beyond their own control, as if they are parts of a machine.
The contrasting pattern of repetition and uniformity versus individualism continues through each section. The sound of the music is also repetitive, but neither the dance nor the music becomes monotonous. The repetition of the movement and sound is effective, with well-timed changes, so that although you may understand the pattern, you can’t necessarily predict what will follow.
The lighting, designed by Remon Fromont, is very specifically directed in panels or squares, sometimes barely illuminating the dancers. The lighting fixtures on the sides of the stage give great control over the effects, and also add to the science fiction feel of the piece.
Rosas Danst Rosas is entrancing. The four dancers fill silence and stillness with expectancy, and approach movement with a focus that draws the audience into the repetitive pattern like a kaleidoscope. Once on the stage, the four dancers are present and in motion (or stillness) for two hours non-stop. It is an intimate and meditative performance.
You can see Rosas Saturday, June 11 and Sunday, June 12 at 8pm at Reynolds Industries Theater on Duke’s West Campus. http://www.americandancefestival.org/performances/2011performances.html
by Denise Cerniglia