Searching for a path through postmodern dance

Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker and Boris Charmatz in Partita 2 at the Stockholm Dansens Hus
12 February 2016
Maggie Foyer

Partita 2 is actually a menage á trois comprising Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, an iconic figure in the contemporary dance world, Boris Charmatz, a new generation maverick and French Baroque violinist, Amandine Beyer. Triangular relationships need judicious management, particularly when it comes to personal dynamics but they can be both rewarding and very interesting. This mix however doesn’t always find perfect pitch.

A brief pathway of light allows Beyer to take up her position on stage while the auditorium is plunged into inky blackness. In this void she begins to play. With no visual stimulus to draw focus, the sound saturates the space, wrapping the audience in a magical embrace as the notes tumble over one another; each sharpened to crystal clarity. It was a thrilling experience.

Beyer leaves and the dancers enter in muted half-light, a harsh reality check, bumping us into the here and now, to view a stage bare but for scene-shifter’s detritus. De Keersmaeker and Charmatz are indeed an odd couple. Their duet involves a great deal of circular pattering and snippets of repeated gestures with an occasional exuberant leap from him. The counter-balance moments are intriguing as two mismatched bodies test physical mass and a standing and prone figure match footprints. The dynamic thrust accentuates the incongruity with his male energy dominating much of the time while she lopes behind in the slip stream.

De Keersmaeker writes eloquently in the programme of her love for J. S. Bach’s music and his taut structure, but the stark, beautiful simplicity that characterises much of her work, in this piece becomes somewhat soft-edged. Only in the brief duet with Beyer is there the evidence of her structural finesse and this is a highlight. Moving in a narrow passage at right angles to the viewer she reveals her gift for shaping pedestrian moves into meaningful dance pacing back and forth and matching the impetus of the music.

If not totally fulfilling, Partita 2 made for an interesting evening watching two creative artists searching through still uncharted waters of postmodern dance to find a route they can walk together, however different their measure might be. And Beyer’s music was reason enough to leave the theatre satisfied.