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Review, 9-1: In and Out of Love
De Keersmaeker Flirts with Mozart
By Lisa Kraus
Copyright 2004 Lisa Kraus
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NEW YORK -- Anne Teresa
De Keersmaeker's choreographic vision is nothing if not hugely ambitious,
so it's no surprise when De Keersmaeker places the many jewels of
Mozart's sublime arias for soprano in a setting quite different
than a conventional concert recital or opera. Seen Friday in Lincoln
Center's Mostly Mozart Festival at LaGuardia Concert Hall, De Keersmaeker's
1992 "Mozart/Concert Arias, un moto di gioia" presents singers in
the midst of dancers, sometimes caressed, teased or flirted with,
and sometimes alone and apart, as the escapades of De Keersmaeker's
Rosas troupe swirl about them. More a concurrence than a melding
of music and dance, this production delivers its gifts in visual
lushness and in the prodigious talents of its dancers, singers and
instrumentalists. Still the title, which translates as "a flash
of joy," applies more fully to Mozart's music than to the dance,
which gets weighed down somewhere in its second hour and dwells
largely in a realm of disconnect rather than joyful union.
opens on a stage-cum-18th century ballroom replete with pianoforte,
curlicued regal seating and a tilted, round parquet floor. Unfolding
like a courtier's fan, the work begins with pianoforte and single
dancer, a most charming gent who snakes and squiggles his head to
initiate space-eating swoops, then lightheartedly leaps, joined
by a second fellow, both tilting in the air. In brocade jackets
and leggings, the first of many sumptuous costumes, the men group
together as do the women, who wear sleek black jackets and short
shorts. In the restrained stepping dance that follows, the two sexes
-- apart but complementary -- display their excellently turned ankles
and splendid shoes. Here is the first of the gender games -- who
wears the pants? And, say, what time are we in?
Any audience would be
familiar with scenarios of lady-longing-for-her-man and vice versa,
but here muffled sobs of disappointment, yelps, and giggles erupt
without obvious cause. It's as though De Keersmaeker plays with
deconstructed elements from Mozart's operas free of any storyline
or cause and effect. In the unfolding play of longing, bids for
attention, despondency, and petulance, she sets her dancers arcing
and spinning through the space as individual characters in a shared
plight -- men and women enduring all manner of privations and some
pleasures as a result of their attraction to and need for each other.
Interspersed with orchestral interludes, the arias come in all the
colors of love, and are sung by three highly accomplished sopranos
-- Patricia Biccire, Anke Herrmann and Olga Pasichynk -- each draped
in a variation on a blue velvet concert gown.
De Keersmaeker displays
her dancers' prowess in the hurtling groups tracing ellipses that
slide floor-ward and back up, arc through space and speed their
way through lightning-fast whipping turns. Highlights in the dancing
are moments like the gentlemen's Olympian jumping duo in which each
beat is punctuated by a gesture, the last being a fluttering hand
as beating heart. This becomes a running joke as these two repeat
the antic several more times. In another passage, a fetching lady
on her squire's arm dips her toe over the edge of the curving floor,
as though into a rushing stream. There's no lack of invention or
Occasionally De Keersmaeker's
dancing seems an enlightened conversation with Mozart, as when her
phrases go on just slightly longer than his, tipping toward a stretched
out airborne dissolution, or when, in a sequence where dancers settle
onto the floor as if in sleep or death, the lone singer stands,
face highlighted, center stage. Here it seems we can hear better
by seeing what the choreographer sets onstage. At other times, all
the activity, especially after it has been in process for some time,
becomes overwhelming. She does give us a repeating respite, a sorbet
in the form of a lanky black-maned dancer prancing to solo piano.
In Mozart's music even
the sorrow of love is an exquisite sorrow, and it is amply balanced
with love's euphoria. But we don't sense that in this dance.
For a dance about love,
there's precious little direct or unfraught relating. In the only
duo approximating a harmonic coupling, which comes quite late in
the piece, the man undoes his lady's hair, and removes her shoes
to engage in a floor-bound spooning and rolling duet in which the
couple pulls away from each other for a good bit and ends as they
began, apart at right angles, distant.
come through strongly. It is moments in which individuals are struggling
to win attention that are some of the most endearing. One puppy
love sufferer shuffles onstage several times on her knees, making
a beeline for the object of her attentions. Two other solos play
on dance as courtship vehicle, and rock star movements as magnet
-- all jutting hips, pointing fingers and electric boogie. It's
well done and the audience giggles. Sometimes it's just plain fun
having this kind of incongruous movement to Mozart. Sometimes it's
The bottom line here
is mixed. This reviewer is glad De Keersmaeker and her musical and
visual collaborators had the ambition to place Mozart's music in
such a dynamic and novel surround, to say nothing of the excellent
caliber of the production. The joy in De Keersmaeker's "un moto
di gioia" is ultimately less related to love and to 'other' than
to a kind of self-presentation which is youthful, sprightly and
joyful indeed. But in comparison, though Mozart died far too young,
his joy was so deep that it may well be eternal.
Jean-Luc Ducourt created
the concept along with De Keermaeker and was the program's director.
The excellent Orchestra of St. Luke's was conducted by Gregory Vajda,
the pianoforte soloist was Steven Lubin and the 14 dancers included
several masterful veterans.
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