Sunday, October 01, 2006

Sand Between the Toes

For the past three days the darkened environs of The Pit in the Barbican was the site of an event as part of their series celebrating the work of composer Steve Reich. Using the basis of Reich’s piece of music “Violin Phase” filmmaker Thierry De Mey featured dancer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker’s interpretation of Reich’s music.

The music of Violin Phase is a series of looped passages of solo violin music, Reich’s familiar composition method played out whilst in time De Keersmaeker followed with abrupt and softer passages of the almost percussive violin sounds to create in sand a rose shape. Shot from overhead on a 20 metre high crane, De Mey films the dancers expressive journey as she stabs, drags, steps and glides her feet over the surface of the sand. During the course of the performance she demarcates with these movements the rose shape, first a circle and then by increments moving to the centre of the circle she has created and then returning to the outer periphery lines appear in the sand to draw the final pattern.

The audience were free to move across and round the filmed performance for its duration and all the time observing the spectacle being projected from overhead onto the sand filled floor of The Pit. Previous audiences had disrupted the sand laid on the floor and these distortions of footmarks and treads added to the films imagery as the disrupted portions of sand in turn disrupted the projections of the film. The audience became part of the performance.

De Keersmaeker’s dance unfolded and after some time the rhythmic but sometimes staccato movements became a trance like exercise for the viewer, like a primitive ritual, we began to trace with our eyes the movements of De Keersmaeker’s feet and this became a hypnotic spectacle very difficult to avert your eyes from, much the same as Reich’s music creates trance like repetitions of simple musical passages. The movements of feet, arms outstretched and returned to the side of the body and the simple demarcated field of movement created increasing definition of the rose pattern with each step.
This was a simply executed film echoing in its production and choreography the unfussy, uncluttered compositional style of Reich.

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