Partita 2

Sei Solo

3, 4, 7, 8/05 – 20:30
5/05 – 15:00
1h 30min

It was almost by chance, during a spontaneous improvisation behind closed doors, that Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker and Boris Charmatz really became aware of their artistic affinities. Both are renowned choreographers, yet they are still sustained by an irrepressible need to dance as well. Both demonstrate a desire for formal structure, yet they cherish the freedom of improvisation. In their collaboration, it was listening that set off their movement. They encounter one another around Partita for violin No. 2 by Johann Sebastian Bach, in a scenography designed by Michel François. On a bare stage, enhanced only by the presence of musician Amandine Beyer and her instrument, the two dancers travel through a work of music that is as emotionally powerful as it is structurally perfect. With admiration, but without deference, they seek the dance inherent in its living architecture. The Kunstenfestivaldesarts presents the world premiere of an encounter between these two extraordinarily talented figures from the world of dance!

Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker

Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, Boris Charmatz

Partita No. 2
, Johann Sebastian Bach

Amandine Beyer

Created with
Amandine Beyer, George Alexander Van Dam

Michel François

Anne-Catherine Kunz

Artistic assistant & rehearsal director
Femke Gyselinck

Artistic coordination & planning
Anne Van Aerschot

Technical direction
Joris Erven

Jan Herinckx, Wannes De Rydt, Michael Smets, Bert Veris

Rosas (Brussels)

With the support of
Musée de la danse – Centre chorégraphique national de Rennes et de Bretagne

Kunstenfestivaldesarts, La Monnaie/De Munt (Brussels), Festival d’Avignon, Les Théâtres de la Ville de Luxembourg, ImPulsTanz (Vienna), La Bâtie – Festival de Genève, Berliner Festspiele, Théâtre de la Ville with the Festival d’Automne à Paris, Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian (Lisbon)

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Interview with Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker and Boris Charmatz

In A Choreographer's Score, you say that you were also working with Bach's music while you were rehearsing your first piece, Violin Phase. Do you have the feeling that in Bach's Partita No. 2 you are going back to the beginning again?

Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker: At that time I was starting from scratch and had to learn in very concrete terms how I could put a dance together. In a certain sense working with Steve Reich's music was a way of teaching myself things. I liked the structure of that music, both repetitive and internalised, mathematical and sensitive, and all those things are to be found in Bach too. For that piece I spent a lot of time in the studio, where I tried all sorts of things over and over again: discovering movements, putting them together, finding a structure. And it's true there are some compositions by Bach that helped me do that. His music gave me support. At a certain moment I had to take a decision and I opted to create a 15-minute dance set to Violin Phase. A number of ideas gradually presented themselves: repetition, accumulation, the combinations, the ways of linking movements together. The second parameter was the question: 'How do we organise all this in the space?' I looked for a geometrical figure in which the repetition could keep on moving and I ended up with the circle. It all grew gradually, step by step, by trial and error. I created my first solo in 1982; that's thirty years ago.

Boris Charmatz: One of the things you told me, right at the start of this project, was that you asked yourself: 'What stage is my dance at right now?' I get the feeling that certain choreographic works oblige you to ask that sort of question, as though they were places you repeatedly returned to - not as an exercise, but to occupy them once again. Do you think that Partita 2 plays that sort of role for you at the moment?

ATDK: I have done four productions in which I danced myself; after that I felt for various reasons that I had to distance myself a little and worked more as a choreographer. At a certain moment I started dancing again. It's been a long time since I set to work in the studio while asking myself: 'What does my dance, my way of dancing, look like now?' And it is truly on the basis of that question that I want to work in Partita 2. It makes me draw on movements that are stored in my body, but it also makes me adopt new attitudes. We shouldn't forget that in Bach's Partita everything is dancing and involves great movement. Gigue, courante, allemande: this are first and foremost musical structures derived from folk dances.

So there are 'old' layers that are still there. Can you tell me more about how you met and your desire to work together?

ATDK: It all started at the 2011 Avignon Festival, when Boris was the 'Artiste associé'. I don't remember exactly how it happened, but we said to each other: 'Let's dance together sometime, to see what it produces'. We first started improvising. In silence, if I remember rightly.

BC: Yes, it was a sort of workshop where all the elements appeared that we picked up on again later, such as 'my walking is my dancing'.

ATDK: With Boris it was a real encounter. You don't often find anyone who is constantly at work as both choreographer and dancer and whose thinking revolves around both, and who also asks himself: 'What does my dance look like at this moment?', and who constantly uses this to fuel his work. It's a bit like what happened with Jérôme Bel when I made 3Abscheid, but that was more of a mental process than a piece of dance practice.

In this production you seem to want to give spatiality to the beat by outlining a sort of stepped musical notation in the space. How did you 'edit' this score?

BC: We did a lot of work on exposing the counterpoint, the broken line, by concentrating mainly on the bass. We have tried to reveal an underlying structure by adding layer after layer. In short, we follow the bass line and also several elements that seemed important to us. Moments that stand out, that appeal to the imagination - that lead us more towards the saltation and the dance-like aspect of the music.

ATDK: What interests me is that the dance provides the opportunity to bring to the surface the structure of the score, what you might call its foundations. And that we can play on all the direct levels of the music at the same time. That at some moments we can respond directly to what the music induces in our body: rapture, a high, the physical pleasure, the most direct reaction to the sound. The two levels are constantly blending with each other. And the presence of the musician onstage goes with both levels and makes for a different way of visualising the relationship between the body and the music. And in fact Amandine Beyer's performance gave us a lot of extra insight into the composition, its inner mechanisms and the way we in our turn can perform it. A performance always offers a picture of the working process - being able to rehearse with Amandine Beyer and George Alexander van Dam in these circumstances was both a luxury and a delight. I think the piece will at some point radiate something of the pleasure we got from listening to the music, seeing them, and understanding it together with them.

In a certain sense we again come across what interested you in Reich: the purity of the mathematical structure, but also the sensitivity, which at some points seems almost tormented.

BC: Bach is often seen as a highly abstract composer, but in the Partita, and especially in the chaconne, one spots something physical, something oversensitive. Amandine Beyer, the violinist we are working with, says that in her view Bach's music is always carrying on a dialogue with God. But those high notes that pierce the eardrum originate in the soul of a man - this is sacrilege, I know - who has been deprived of God, in whom God is lacking.

ATDK: To me Bach means structure, but his transcendent dimension is engraved on the body. There's a question that always comes up when one takes on a masterpiece: isn't this too ambitious, wanting to turn this music into choreography? Another question I continue to ask myself is about us as a duo: isn't it a little risky to put together a 'man/woman' duet on this pared-down solo musical basis? Won't the performance seem rather forced? Sometimes I almost think that we should be able to separate the bodies from each other and make two solos. But at the same time our bodies follow the score, and make the energies or rhythms more palpable than psychologised bodies would.

About this project, Boris Charmatz wrote: 'There may here be no wish to confront, nor any conscious parallelism, nor any exercise in admiration'. How have you tried to adopt a position in relation to the music without ending up above, below or opposite it?

BC: When Anne Teresa told me she wanted to work with Bach's music, I thought: 'Oh dear, that's not easy...'. To give a well-known example, there are perhaps 95 different performances of The Rite of Spring, a great many of which are highly successful. But I have never seen a successful choreography set to a work by Bach. It is a mountain that has to be climbed. It may be too high, or its construction may be too complex, or too isolated, too abstract - I don't know. In a certain sense, what we are doing is never at the same level as that abstract architecture. In fact we are trying, rather, to introduce a 'vibration', a slight hesitation in the face of the absolute perfection of the music. There is always that doubt: can we achieve anything interesting? Can we match ourselves against a mountain? That's also why we often walk... to simply move forward alongside the music.

ATDK: Boris once invited me to take part in a Gift workshop for non-professional dancers and we used that music then - the courante and the allemande. I set out a few basic principles and then we got started. We only had an hour and a half. And as I watched them dancing to Bach, I thought: isn't this actually better? Isn't it in fact finer when it's not constructed? A few very simple movements without much technique. The way the body is sucked into that music, the body with all its limitations, with all its desire to reach out to the music, to become one with it.

BC: To me the good thing is precisely that they are both possible. Our work in the studio, trying out, and trying out again, over and over again. And the work with the amateurs done in an hour and a half. Because there is the performance and there is what is left inside us after spending all that time with the music. When I go home in the evening, I keep on softly whistling the Partita, or else it flashes through my mind as I'm falling asleep.

Noted down by Gilles Amalvi

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After studying at the MUDRA dance school and the Tisch School of the Arts in New York, Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker (b. 1960) created her first choreographic work, Asch, in 1980. Fase, four movements to the music of Steve Reich, one of the most influential pieces of choreography of its day, premiered in 1982. In 1983 De Keersmaeker set up the Rosas dance company at the same time as creating Rosas danst Rosas. Her work focuses on the relationship between dance and music, using music by composers from different periods. While Rosas was in residence at La Monnaie (1992-2007), De Keersmaeker directed a number of operas. The relationship between dance and words is another thread running through her work. Her recent productions have often involved cooperations with visual artists. In 1995 she established the P.A.R.T.S. dance school in association with La Monnaie.

Dancer and choreographer Boris Charmatz (b. 1973) has created a series of highly memorable pieces, from Aatt enen tionon in 1996 to enfant in 2011. While maintaining an extensive touring schedule, he also regularly takes part in improvisational events (with Saul Williams, Archie Shepp and Médéric Collignon) while continuing to work as a performer. Director of the Centre chorégraphique national de Rennes et de Bretagne since 2009, Boris Charmatz plans to turn it into a kind of Musée de la danse. There is a manifesto behind this museum which has already hosted the projects préfiguration, expo zéro, héliogravures, rebutoh, service commandé (on commission),brouillon (rough draft), Jérôme Bel en 3 sec. 30 sec. 3 min. 30 min et 3 h. and has travelled to Saint Nazaire, Singapore, Utrecht, Avignon and New York. Associate artist of the 2011 Festival d’Avignon, Boris Charmatz premiered enfant there,a piece for 26 children, 9 dancers and 3 machines, at the Cour d’Honneur of the Palais des papes and proposed Une école d’art, a project from the Musée de la danse and the Festival d’Avignon. From 2002 to 2004, while artist-in-residence at the Centre National de la Danse, he developed Bocal, a nomadic and ephemeral school that brought together students from different backgrounds. In 2007 and 2008, he was visiting professor at Berlin’s Universität der Künste where he contributed to the creation of a new dance curriculum. Charmatz is also the co-author of Entretenir/à propos d’une danse contemporaine written with Isabelle Launay and published jointly by the Centre National de la Danse and Les Presses du Réel. His latest book Je suis une écolewas published in April 2009 by Les Prairies Ordinaires.

The first instrument Amandine Beyer (b. 1974) played was the recorder. Some years later she started to learn the violin in Aurélia Spadaro’s class in Aix-en-Provence which may be why she returned to early music and went to study under Chiara Banchini in Basel after completing her ‘modern’ violin studies at the CNSM in Paris and writing her master’s thesis on Karlheinz Stockhausen. This important period in her training allowed her to discover the world of rhetoric in musical performance and benefit from contact with key figures the likes of Hopkinson Smith, Christophe Coin, Pedro Memelsdorff (for several years she played in the medieval ensemble Mala Punica), Jean Tubéry and Alfredo Bernardini. All these experiences contributed to her training as a musician and performer and inspired her to embark on a career as a roving violinist, giving numerous concerts all over the world. She currently divides her time playing in different groups: Les Cornets Noirs, Le Concert Français, in a duo with Pierrre Hantai and, the latest on the list, Gli Incognito with whom she recorded Vivaldi’s Four Seasons to huge acclaim. Despite this, she has still managed to keep up her teaching and other activities. She teaches at ESMAE in Porto (Portugal), as well as in Barbaste, Mondoví (Italy) and Taipei. Her Bach Sonatas and partitas, released in September 2011, gave new life to the baroque vision to universal critical acclaim, winning that year’s Diapason d’Or, Choc de Classica and Charles Cros Academy award. Amandine Beyer replaced Chiara Banchini as the teacher of baroque violin at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis in Switzerland in September 2010.

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