Cross-disciplinary, multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary … the terms are often used rather nebulously in the admittedly nebulous field of live art. But the word that springs to mind with Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker’s Fase, the work chosen to kick off the live art strand of Tate Modern’s new Tanks galleries, is simpler and more direct: discipline.
Originally made in 1982, Fase is set to four pieces of Steve Reich’s early “phase music”, in which short sound loops move in and out of register to create complex but highly ordered patterns of interference. De Keersmaeker’s choreography follows the same tenacious discipline. In Piano Phase, two women (De Keersmaeker and Tale Dolven) pivot and swing in parallel lines; in Come Out, they are pinned in position on stools, twisting and gesticulating; in Violin Phase, De Keersmaeker accumulates little sways and flourishes as she traces a strict circular path; and in Clapping Music, the two bob and jog on the spot while gradually moving on a diagonal.
The stark concrete arena of the Tanks brings out the industrial imagery: in Piano Phase, the women’s swings and shunts recall flywheels and pistons, and the piano mechanism of wires and hammers is almost palpable; in Come Out, words on the soundtrack are inexorably shredded into grinding noise. But with the audience up close and on all sides, this staging also highlights human detail: the sense of feminine complicity, the alternately girly and boyish looks imparted by costume (swishy skirts, plain trousers) or gesture – and, in Violin Phase especially, the sly wit in De Keersmaeker’s birdlike tremors and naughty knicker-flashes.
With no back wall, it was impossible to recreate the shadow play that enriches theatre stagings of Piano Phase. Nevertheless, Fase remains a compositional marvel, its ideas fully manifest in its material, a tribute to the choreographer, composer and their respective fields – disciplines, rather – of dance and music.