No one could accuse Belgian choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker of pandering to her audience. She follows a ferociously single-minded path, often at considerable length, and has a patrician disregard for such distractions as intervals. You can either love it or leave it. I love that: it’s brave, she’s bright, and the results can be revelatory.
I could not, however, love The Song, made for nine men and one woman from her company, Rosas. Like her best work, it investigates connections between dance and music. The White Album by the Beatles provided the inspiration and a time frame, but apart from a few brief snatches sung by the dancers and one earsplitting interlude, the piece is performed without music. But not in silence: foley artist Céline Bernard creates sound effects to accompany the dancers, tapping a miked foot to match a steppy sequence, scrunching plastic for a strained, bendy solo (sounds like joints creaking), or whipping up wind noises as the group whirls around the stage.
The idea of taking away music and adding sound is intriguing, but the outcome is frustrating: any connection with The White Album is obscure, and the sound effects come across as both literal and rather paltry. That just leaves the choreography, which is erratic. At its best, it feels like birdsong in movement form: clusters of flicks and flourishes, jumps and swooping dives, with the dancers eddying in groups like starlings, or watching, perched, from the sidelines.
But too often it reads like research that only the researcher understands, and so the starkly beautiful stage effects (a foil curtain, fingers of light, sporadic blackouts) feel hollow. This is extremely taxing. When the Lennon/McCartney line “you were only waiting for this moment to be free” coincided with a blackout, several people took it literally, and left.