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Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker

Structure and Feeling

Minimalism and dance sounds, at first glance, like a rather dry, perhaps strained combination. Yet that has never been the case, neither when looking at its “inventor”, the U.S. American Lucinda Childs, nor with regard to the Belgian choreograph Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker – Childs’ only legitimate heir. When you completely immerse yourself in a structure, Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker once said, feeling emerges out of structure. Pure joy, for instance. This became apparent in "Rain", one of de Keersmaeker’s great classics, which she created in 1976 to the music of Steve Reich, certainly the composer that inspired her most. "Rain" is a mathematical and experimental arrangement that endlessly repeats single, temporally delayed motion sequences, and thus leads to a very thorough and precise geometrical structuring of the space — yet at the same time also accomplishes its polar opposite, producing ecstatic feelings of endless unboundedness.
Some cultures do not differentiate between dance and music, an idea that continues to fascinate De Keersmaeker. In some of her most powerful pieces, she therefore successfully blurs the line between dance and music, so that both merge and absorb one another. de Keersmaekers accomplishes this fusion through musical intelligence and accurate analyses that completely permeate the compositional structure. She is, as she says, almost obsessive in her quest to analyze and understand structure – at the same time, however, her works resonate with a great tenderness and a delicate sense of humor. By being as precise as humanly possible, they create their own free space. Even and all the more whenever she sets herself impossible tasks, such as in "Die Weise von Liebe und Tod des Cornets Christoph Rilke", a duet that performs a tale by Rilke, which was highly popular among soldiers during World War I but has largely been forgotten today. Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker is a feminist. Her company Rosas, which she founded in 1983 at the age of 23, was originally made up of an exclusively female cast. It was not until 1987 that men became member of the company as well. And yet, de Keersmaeker can be on stage and passionately dance Rilke’s poetry, including its glorification of a soldier’s heroic death and an image of women that was questionable even in Rilke’s own time. She draws fine lines, with subtle edges and borders, knowing precisely how to open up the fascinating tension between the sublime beauty of language on the one hand and its questionable contents on the other.
In 1982, at age 22, de Keersmaeker created her first great classic work "Fase" to the music of Steve Reich. At that point in time, she had already collected experiences in two years of dance training at Maurice Béjart’s Mudra School in Brussels and a two-year stay in New York City. She started young, and jumped straight to the top. In addition to directing her own company, she has been head manager of the Performing Arts Research and Training Studios (PARTS), which she founded in 1995. None of it has tired her out. On the contrary. You don’t, she says, have less possibilities as time moves on and you grow older. They just change in appearance.

By Michaela Schlagenwerth