Sadler’s Wells Theatre
14 June 2017
After its premiere in London 15 years ago, Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker’s Rain makes a welcome return. Every detail of this iconic work is redolent of her style of classic simplicity where every detail is calculated with mathematical precision then served up with nonchalant ease.
On this visit the pleasure was doubled with the inclusion of the Ictus Ensemble playing Steve Reich, “Music for 18 Musicians”. The pit was arrayed across its width with marimbas and pianos, the strings, wind and vocals dotted in between. The players align themselves next to their instruments or mikes, fired by steely resolve as they embark on this marathon of aesthetic endurance.
The dancers, by contrast, have a playful air as they run into the arena circled by a curtain of vertical strings, a background like falling rain. Caught in the waves of sound they bring their visual realisation to the driving energy of Reich’s music.
The body of 10 dancers work as one, the breath and dynamics shared but there is always space to accommodate the small variants in a sort of maverick murmuration. In the broad sweeps of movement, a dancer will separate from the group, swop places in the line, take a longer route, or make some brief deviation before rejoining the body collective.
Steve Reich, the master of minimalism, knows well how to strip a sound down to its most minimal expression, to sustain it to breaking point before introducing the smallest of variation, a slight shift in structure to keep the energy in flux. It is utterly compelling, wrapping you in an aural embrace and commandeering your mind with you hardly aware of its potency, while onstage De Keersmaeker’s dancers replicate this power in persuasive movement.
The dancers follow lines and patterns that seem unrehearsed, unstructured but driven by inner compulsion. The walking and running interrupted by a darting leap or a coordinated lift as a body is projected upwards by the group in a moment of unity.
In the middle section, De Keersmaeker’s trademark costuming, classic casual of neutral tones in soft fabrics, is subtly altered as clothing items are exchanged for colourful counterparts. The waves of colour are accompanied by waves of energy as the stage is briefly bathed in sensual fuchsia pink. Another time the dancers’ shadows turn a warm shade of orange and duplicate the dance in reverse form in a moment of magic.
The evening is an experience as much as a viewing, a respite from the mad world into a sanctuary where order, disorder and reorder share a mystic rhythm.