‘There will always be dance’

A lifetime does not seem to be enough for Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker. Time for the Flemish choreographer, who will open the 11th International Dance Festival at Kalamata, has another dimension. On her first visit to Greece, Keersmaeker will present her choreography «Rain» at the city’s Castle tonight and tomorrow. Born in 1960, Keersmaeker attended Maurice Bejart’s MUDRA school, which produced the most important choreographers of the new generation, as well as New York’s Tisch School of Arts, where she was influenced by American postmodern dance. The young choreographer’s uniqueness became obvious from her first works in the early 1980s, «Asch» and «Fase,» which met with international enthusiasm. By abandoning the neoclassical style, Keersmaeker gave a new orientation to dance and established the «new wave» of dance in Belgium. Her relationship with music was a source of inspiration in her creations from her very first steps, while composers like Steve Reich, Thierry de Mey or Bela Bartok keep reappearing in her work. Following the success of «Fase,» Keersmaeker founded the Rosas dance company in 1983. The choreographer’s personal touch quickly established the company internationally and Rosas, as of 1992, is the permanent dance company of the De Munt/La Monnaie Royal Opera of Brussels. In collaboration with the opera house, Keersmaeker founded the PARTS dance school (Performing Arts Research and Training Studios) in 1995, hence bridging the gap left by Bejart in Belgium and promoting the evolution of the new language. Her aim was not only technical perfection, but also the completion of the dancers’ artistic personalities. «On stage, I want colors to change like bubbles of light or a rainbow… I hope this choreography will reveal some tenderness and that its structure will liberate its feeling,» said Keersmaeker, talking about «Rain,» the performance she will present in Kalamata. In her multifaceted creativity from 1980 to today she has explored the relationship between theater, improvisation, music and dance. With «Rain,» Keersmaeker returns to pure dance and looks into the endless possibilities of movement as a means of expression. The choreography is intrinsically linked to American minimalist composer Steve Reich’s 1976 composition «Music for 18 Musicians.» What is the story that «Rain» tells? There is no particular object or theme, it is rather a piece of pure dance. We started working on the choreography based on a book by Kirsty Gunn, a young writer from New Zealand. The book tells a story about lost innocence. The choreography is much more open and happy. We kept the story’s spirit, but not its content. Where did the inspiration come from? «Rain» was created in 2001 and it was a reaction to my previous work, «In Real Time.» That production included lots of dance, music, actors and jazz musicians on stage. For «Rain» I didn’t want texts or actors. I wanted to try out a different creative process. «In Real Time» started out of nothing, from a blank page. In «Rain» I wanted everything to be under control and I only wanted dance. What about the relationship between music and dance in «Rain» and your collaboration with Steve Reich? I have never collaborated with Steve Reich, meaning that we never worked together on a composition of his or a choreography of mine. I always used completed works of his. In «Rain» you will see that music and dance are strongly linked. Dance is totally inspired by music and the structure of Reich’s «Music for 18 Musicians.» The different parts of the composition correspond to different parts of the choreography. As the music becomes more lively, so does the dancing, as well as the costumes and the lights. I was very lucky to work with Jan Versweyveld for the sets and the lights and with Belgian fashion designer Dries Van Noten for the costumes. What do you look for in a dancer? First of all, you have to look at a dancer’s technical abilities. That is easy, if you let them dance or improvise. But there are also more subjective issues: You look for their talents, you want to get to know their personalities and what they reflect on stage. What is also important is how a dancer functions as part of a group. A dancer’s presence and interpretation is very different when they are alone compared to when they are part of a group. In Rosas teamwork is very important, so new dancers will have to adjust to the pre-existing team. What about the evolution of dance? There are many choreographers all over the world. Some have interesting work, others less so. There are countries where dance is backed by the state while elsewhere there is no backing at all. There is no such thing as the one and only evolution, there is only the fact that today yet more artists tend to doubt dance and question the reason for its existence… I don’t know what the future will bring, but I do know that there will always be dance. What are the goals of the school you are heading? PARTS, our school, aims at creating complete dancers and choreographers through a four-year training program. It is a higher level of education for already accomplished dancers. During those four years, we try to give to them the opportunity to get acquainted with different styles and different aspects of dance. We hope that they will keep something that will enable them to remain true and unique artists. What else is as important to you today? As long as I feel the need to create new works and evolve, I know I must go on with what I’m doing. The most important thing is to have motivation: the motive to be a mother to my two children and the motive to create new choreographies and present them to as many people as possible. There are so many things I want to do, such wonderful music that I haven’t yet choreographed. A lifetime is not enough.

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