Timeless repetitions and variations
Although Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker choreographed Fase, Four Movements to the Music of Steve Reich in 1982, its precise, lineal routines have ensured its continued popularity into the 21st century.
Unashamedly cerebral, its tight relationship with Steve Reich’s minimalist composition becomes surprisingly emotive across the four distinct movements, evoking not only the rigour of Reich’s musical experimentation but suggesting diverse moods and depths beneath the apparently simple repetitions.
Taking Reich’s interest in phase shifting – the subtle changes on a musical motif that gradually dissolve the unity of the initial pattern into complicated lattices of sound – De Keersmaeker’s choreography appears to illustrate each piece through a sequence of movements, repeated by two dancers.
Initially the dancers move in tandem, but slight changes in tempo complicate their relationship, shifting them in and out of conformity. The juxtaposition of the two bodies evolves into a conversation, their harmony giving way to a dissonant series of questions and answers.
While providing a visual analogy to the music, the choreography offers suggestive scenarios: Come Out, in which the dancers are restricted to chairs, hints at sinister interrogations, or bodies trapped in a small space, desperately trying to escape. The solo, Violin Phase, performed by De Keersmaeker herself, is more celebratory but, performed by an older dancer who is not as sprightly as the choreography suggests, hints at nostalgia for disappearing youth. A dry exercise in exploring dance’s relationship to music is energised by these curious, elliptical narratives, which never resolve into anything explicit.
The presence of De Keersmaeker adds a sense of occasion to Fase, and the contrast between her own, looser gestures and Tale Dolven’s more emphatic and exact style emphasises the power of the phase shift as it evolves into increasingly dissonant forms.
The use of lighting – sometimes casting multiple shadows, sometimes enclosing the bodies in darkness – adds to the spectacular effect, as De Keersmaeker demonstrates her mastery, using minimal techniques to generate an overwhelming performance.
Seen at Tramway, Glasgow, Fri 24 Jun.