Sixteen dancers, all dressed in black, walk towards the audience in a horizontal line. They move matter of factly - in sync with each other and with the music. When they reach the front edge of the stage, they turn away from us and walk back upstage . Then, they repeat the sequence. Then they repeat it again. And again. The repetition of the rhythmic walking throughout most of this first piece seems to be encouraging us (and allowing us the time) to connect what we see with what we hear. And what we hear is the first of Bach’s incredible Brandenburg Concertos.
Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, along with her company Rosas, has brought The Six Brandenburg Concertos to the Thompson Arts Center at Park Avenue Armory for its North American premiere. Bear with this digression for a moment to say that if you have not yet seen this astonishing venue, you must! The rooms are rich in history and grandeur and yet have a coziness to them. And then there’s the drill hall itself! One of New York City’s largest column free spaces, it is magnificent and vast with endless possibilities for staging, especially for projects of scale.
From this cavernous hall, scenographer and lighting designer Jan Versweyveld has carved out a stunning playing space - a very large, white circular stage with vertically hanging, silver-toned strips that get farther apart as they move to either side of a white backdrop. This setting, along with the opportunity to hear the virtuosity of Bach, adds great anticipation to the opening.
A gentleman recognizes each new movement within the first few notes and proceeds to sway or tap his fingers in time - at one point closing his eyes to savor the music on its own.
J.S. Bach’s score is quite expressively performed live by the B’Rock Orchestra, also in their North American debut. The audience is clearly passionate about the live performance of this classic. It is no wonder Ms. De Keersmaeker looks to Bach for her latest work, further proof that Bach’s music remains as moving and inspiring as ever.
One might interpret the elegant restraint of the choreography of the first concerto as a subtle promise that the evening’s program would later soar! However, in this writer’s view, throughout the successive concertos, the movement remains quite pedestrian, both in composition and execution. There are certainly inspired moments - effortlessly fluid changes of formation and occasional bursts of humor, including a scene-stealing cameo from a friendly white dog on a leash. The company of dancers consists of twelve men and four women. They are obviously very musical, accomplished performers but unfortunately, in this full-length dance piece they rarely dance with the precision and abandon that matches Bach’s transcendence.
Be sure to look out for Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker’s choreography in the highly anticipated Broadway revival of West Side Story, to be directed by Ivo van Hove, slated to open in 2020.
All Photos by Stephanie Berger.
The Six Brandenburg Concertos - North American Premiere
Park Avenue Armory Oct 1-7th, 2018
Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker
Choreography Amandine Beyer
Music Director An D’Huys
Costume Designer Jan Versweyveld Sceneographer and Lighting Design
Created and danced by Rosas with music by B’Rock Orchestra
Boštjan Antončič, Carlos Garbin, Frank Gizycki, Marie Goudot, Robin Haghi, Cynthia Loemij, Mark Lorimer, Michaël Pomero, Jason Respilieux, Igor Shyshko, Luka Švajda, Jakub Truszkowski, Thomas Vantuycom, Samantha van Wissen, Sandy Williams, Sue Yeon Youn
Amandine Beyer (violin solo), Jivka Kaltcheva, David Wish, Violin Manuela Bucher, Luc Gysbregts, Marta Páramo, Violas Rebecca Rosen, Frédéric Baldassare, Julien Barre, Cellos Frédéric Baldassare, Julien Barre, Viola da gamba Tom Devaere, Double Bass and Violone Manuel Granatiero, Traverso Paolo Grazzi, Stefaan Verdegem, Jon Olaberria, Oboe Benny Aghassi, Bassoon Fruszi Hara, Trumpet Bart Aerbeydt, Mark De Merlier, Horn Bart Coen, Benny Aghassi, Recorder Andreas Küppers, Cembal
Click here for more information about the Park Avenue Armory.
Allison Plamondon is a choreographer, director, teacher and performer originally from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Choreography highlights include the Oscar-winning short film, Curfew , Goblin Market at 59E59 Theaters and direction/choreography/conception for The Tchaikovsky Vignettes at HB Studio. An avid teacher, Allison has taught at Broadway Dance Center, Abrons Arts Center and is currently on the faculty at Tom Todoroff Acting Conservatory. Performance highlights include Tap City-the Main Event, Trying at Cape May Stage and performing with Phish at Madison Square Garden. Directors Lab West ‘17, Uta Hagen Teacher Training, NYFA immigrant artist fellow, SDCF Observership with Kathleen Marshall (City Center Encores).
Learn more at the Allison Plamondon website.
Read more about Allison Plamondon in this Picture this Post feature story - "Choreographer Allison Plamondon on Merce Cunningham".