On the empty stage at Sadler’s Wells, Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, Boris Charmatz and Amandine Beyer present Partita 2, a feat of choreography and the act of layering that ultimately fuel a sheer visual spectacle.
We essentially experience what feels at first to be two components: the music and the dancers. Then we see the same two pieces but this time in sync, and we get to witness the beautiful layering action of this work, each time offering a different reading of these same two elements. At first there is scepticism as to whether the solo parts can sustain us, but in a strange way it is satisfactory because we’re not entirely aware of the puzzle that these three practitioners present. Although this work is structured in three clear and quite separate sections, when you view it on reflection as a whole, it beautifully mingles this unlikely collaboration of solo violin and contemporary choreographers.
De Keersmaeker’s strength and stamina is impressive; her body extends in all directions as she looks out into the audience twice, and she holds us with each tiny expression of physicality. Charmatz provides a different quality to the piece, with what the programme describes as his “boyish… improvisatory flights”. His lighter textures complement Keersmaeker’s grounded nature. Beyer is left to our imagination for the first part of Partita 2; even later in the piece she still seems on the periphery of the movement, in the space purely as the incredible musician she is, rather than an active element. At other moments, however, she appears as a character, engaged in the space as Keersmaeker and Charmatz leap towards her and share occasional moments of eye contact and connection through breath or gesture. These moments of integration are sparse, but quite magical when they appear.
Michel Francois’s simple scenographic elements serve the nature of this piece and add to the spectacle of Partita 2: faint traces of chalk rings on the floor, two doorways of light that cast the performers in shadow and tiny lights visible in the darkened theatre from the start.
The cyclical and repetitious nature of this piece becomes mind-cleansing and there’s something really genuine about its simplicity. It’s very clear what we’re presented with: two dancer-choreographers, a violinist and Bach’s Partita No.2, with very little else on the bare Sadler’s Wells stage to rely upon or hide behind. We watch the kinaesthetic, responsive relationship between these components that feel almost incomplete without the other, and yet you’re left undeniably impressed at how Keersmaeker pieces them together.
Partita 2 is playing at Sadler’s Wells until 23 May. For more information, tour dates and tickets, see the Sadler’s Wells website.