Who is the dance for?

De Keersmaeker's 'Partita 2' at FringeArts

2 minute read
Pedestrian aesthetic: De Keersmaeker and Charmatz (Photo © Herman Sorgeloos)
Pedestrian aesthetic: De Keersmaeker and Charmatz (Photo © Herman Sorgeloos)

After the much-anticipated performance of Partita 2 at FringeArts on November 1, I found myself intellectualizing and defending the all-too-familiar pedestrian aesthetic of postmodernism to my non-dancer colleagues. There was a general air of frustration among them, with the primary declaration being, “I didn’t get it.”

A crowded auditorium gathered to witness the one-night-only performance of Anna Teresa De Keersmaeker and Boris Charmatz. A veteran dancemaker, Keersmaeker’s popularity seeped further into pop culture when her choreography became the topic of conversation after an arguably similar version of her Rosas danst Rosas appeared in Beyoncé’s music video “Countdown.” Negative as it was for Beyoncé, the controversy gave non-dancers an avenue to access choreography outside of a commercial realm.

A stage crowded with circles outlined with chalk welcomed violinist Amandine Beyer. In the dark, she took her position downstage and began to play Bach’s Partita No. 2. Playing any instrument in the dark is impressive, until 20 minutes later I found my mind drifting.

After Beyer’s solo, the physically incongruous pairing of De Keersmaeker and Charmatz entered. She is 55, an influential figure in contemporary modern dance, petite in form, with a sliver of grey in her hair. He’s a fledgling by comparison, tall with red hair and a youthful presence. Prolonged walking and running sequences gave the piece the “everyday” look and feel that my companions found perplexing. The duet, which offered nothing new, became a trio with the return of Beyer.

Tapping into the aesthetic

Lois Foreman-Wernet and Brenda Dervin argue in “In the Context of Their Lives: How Audience Members Make Sense of Performing Arts Experiences” that for art to be beneficial, audience members should be able to tap into aesthetic beauty, be captivated by the performance, grow intellectually, and have a general feeling of happiness. Most of my companions would argue that some, if not all of these factors were missing. They found the performance inaccessible, causing them to feel disconnected and bored. The pedestrian aesthetic — which made my non-dancer friends feel as though they could have been the ones onstage — coupled with the standing ovation at the end, made my colleagues wonder if they were missing something.

  • To a dancer Partita 2 made sense: Postmodern, simple, genius space crafting, masterful
  • To a non-dancer: None of the above

Partita 2 left me with two questions: “Is dance just for dancers?” and “Is accessibility important in dance?” With no definite answers, I am left with Bach on my mind and the image of a running duo that went on for way too long.

What, When, Where

Partita 2. Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, Boris Charmatz, and Amandine Beyer. November 1, 2015 at FringeArts, 140 N. Columbus Blvd., Philadelphia. 215-413-1318 or fringearts.com.

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