“A freshness, strength, and edginess that confirm her place at the forefront of innovative European dance performance.” —Dance Theatre Journal
Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker
is deservedly regarded as one of the most important talents to emerge in Europe in the last two decades. Since the early 1980s, her particular genius has been the creation of refreshingly original contributions to contemporary dance that are intricately refined, inherently edgy, and always extraordinary. Her last Minnesota appearance was 1999’s brilliantly physical Drumming, based on the composition by Steve Reich and performed with her company Rosas (company-in-residence of Brussels’ Royal Opera De Munt/Theatre La Monnais). Once, her first-ever solo performance, will be seen in the United States only in Minneapolis and New York. This special presentation, performed Thursday–Saturday, December 1–3, at 8 pm in the Walker Art Center’s William and Nadine McGuire Theater, is a rare opportunity to see a precise, evocative, and deeply felt performance by a woman who has changed the face of dance on two continents.
In 1967, De Keersmaeker (Rosas) was given the LP J_oan Baez in Concert, Part 2_. Though she didn’t understand the lyrics as a child, she was moved by the delicate melodies and haunting voice of the singer. De Keersmaeker’s tour-de-force solo imbues Baez’s original Vietnam-era antiwar message with new power in this time of global conflict. Set to the album in its entirety, the work juxtaposes the insurgent poetry of the lyrics with the seductive austerity of contemporary European dance. The result is a tender, lovingly choreographed clash of pure motion and emotion.
De Keersmaeker (born in 1960 in Mechelen, raised in Wemmel) studied from 1978 to 1980 at MUDRA in Brussels, the school linked to La Monnaie and to Maurice Béjart’s Ballet of the XXth Century. In 1981, she attended the Tisch School of the Arts in New York. Meanwhile, she presented her first production, Asch (1980), in Brussels. On her return from the U.S. in 1982, she created Fase, four movements to the music of Steve Reich, which was immediately invited by various international festivals.
The success of Fase contributed largely to the foundation of the company Rosas in 1983. Rosas danst Rosas—De Keersmaeker’s first choreography for the young company to new compositions of Thierry De Mey and Peter Vermeersch—resulted in Rosas’ international breakthrough was supported by Kaaitheater of Brussels (director Hugo De Greef). Within the framework of Kaaitheater, De Keersmaeker’s oeuvre took shape with works including Elena’s Aria (1984); Bartók/Aantekeningen (1986); a staging of Heiner Müller’s triptych Verkommenes Ufer/Medeamaterial Landschaft mit Argonauten (1987); Mikrokosmos-Monument Selbstporträt mit Reich und Riley (und Chopin ist auch dabei)/In zart fliessender Bewegung – Quatuor Nr.4, (1987); Ottone, Ottone (1988); Stella (1990); and Achterland (1990) produced in collaboration with Kaaitheater.
In 1992, La Monnaie’s general director Bernard Foccroulle invited Rosas to become the resident company of Brussels’ Royal Opera De Munt/La Monnaie. De Keersmaeker’s three residency objectives were to intensify the relation between dance and music, to build a repertoire, and to launch a dance school (after the disappearance of MUDRA from Brussels in 1988). In 1995, Rosas and La Monnaie launched in Brussels a new international school for contemporary dance. P.A.R.T.S.—Performing Arts Research & Training Studios, where students from some 25 countries are trained, over a three-year period.
Both the performances and the films of Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker have been distinguished by various international awards. Rosas danst Rosas won the Bessie Award (1988), Mikrokosmos received a Japanese Dance Award for the best foreign production (1989), Stella got the London Dance and Performances Award (1989), Drumming was prized with the Golden Laurel Wreath for the best choreography in Sarajevo (October 1998). The film Hoppla! was awarded a Sole d’Oro in Italy and the Grand Prix Vidéo Danse in Sète (1989). The film Rosa has been distinguished by a Dance Screen Award, received a Special Jury Commendation in the Black and White Short Film Competition at the Film Festival in Cork and was selected for the 49th Mostra Interazionale d’Arte Cinematografica in Venice (1992). In 1994 in Lyon a Dance Screen Award was offered to the film Achterland (1994), while the film Rosas danst Rosas obtained the Grand Prix International Vidéo Danse in 1997 and the special prize of the Jury of the International Festival of Film and New Media on Art in Athens in 1998. In 2000, the short film Tippeke received the Grand Prix Carina Ari of the Festival International Media Dance in Boulogne-Billancourt. Furthermore, in June 1995, De Keersmaeker received the title of Doctor Honoris Causa at the VUB (Flemish University in Brussels). In March 1996 the government of the province of Antwerp awarded her the Eugène Baie prize, and in May 2000 she was awarded by the French Republic the Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres title. In 2002 she received the annual award of the Gabriella Moortgat Stichting and la médaille de Vermeil from the City of Paris and a medal (‘Erepenning’) of the Belgian Flemish government. In 2004 she was awarded the “Keizer Karelprijs” from the province of Oost Vlaanderen.
Tickets to Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker’s Once are $25 ($20 Walker members) and are available by contacting the Walker Art Center box office at 612.375.7600 or walkerart.org/tickets.