Generations at Dansgroep Amsterdam: Learning from the Masters
Scottish choreographer William Collins, an alumnus of the Amsterdam School for New Dance Development, kicks off the Generations program with Exclamations. Collins’ choreography is larded with indeed, exclamations, shards of song and talk about a dead cat. These burlesque moments and assistant-choreographer Airen Koopman’s plain and playful costumes, relieve and counteract the anguish created by Collins’ proclivity for distortion and disjointed movements. Collins’ insistence to go back to the essence: the dancer’s body (and voice), in a bare setting, without a sound score, is admirable. However, too often in works like these, I can glean the studio exercises that lay at the basis of its creation. There are quotes (unbeknownst to Collins?) from the early works of Anna Teresa de Keersmaeker and Pina Bausch. Exclamations has its moments, but for me, it is not a finished work. It is not yet polished with the ambiguity and multi-interpretability that characterizes all great art. Now, one can’t expect a young choreographer to be a great artist all at once. Collins’ approach is an honest exploration. But approaching dance this way, leaning toward theatricality but skipping its dramaturgical considerations, there is always the danger that the choreography will not rise above the common workshop performance experience. Collins’s work tells me that dramatic tension as I know and enjoy it, may be dead. So: a true generation-gap. Exclamations lacks a certain charisma that keeps my attention fully going, like with the next choreography on the program Remains to be Seen. Michael Schumacher is a seasoned and hugely accomplished dancer/choreographer, who worked with the likes of Ballet Frankfurt and Twyla Tharp. His latest work has an intensity and clear dramatic line that almost belies its improvisational origin. It shows the hand of a true dance-master. Again, the stage is bare, but Pink Steenvoorden’s light plot dresses the stage in mysterious auburn hues, until a sudden switch to daylight reveals the true colors of dancers and costumes (by Elian Smits). Tiny search lights, like lost stars, signal at the beginning and the middle the “remains to be seen,” mesmerizingly underscored by Steven Heather’s music. All through this 20-minute choreography I am sitting at the edge of my seat, wondering “What’s next? What’s next?”
In Infinite, Hungarian-born grande dame of Dutch dance Krisztina de Châtel shows what maturity and mastery can accomplish. Piazzolla’s Eight Seasons, as played by violinist Gidon Kremer and reworked and adapted by Han Otten, forms the powerful soundscape against which Abu-Graib-like hooded figures (the entire DGA ensemble) rhythmically stomp around the stage in endlessly fascinating patterns. Performers unite with audience in an ever-tightening noose-around-the-neck. This is spine-tingling dancing at its best. Sometimes dancers will break out of the faceless anonymity of the clinically-clad crowd in hospital blues and greens, like Charlie Chaplins on the loose in Modern Times.
At the end, a moving moment when Krisztina de Chatel joins DGA’s 12 fabulously versatile dancers on stage to take the bow. Hopeful signs of new beginnings for DGA and new dance generations to come.