As I mentioned in my previous post I am currently quite interested in the work of British choreographer, Jonathan Burrows. When I watched his piece with the composer Matteo Fargion, Both Sitting Duet, I immediately thought of the second section called ‘Come Out’ of Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker‘s famous piece Fase: Four Movements to the Music of Steve Reich.

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It’s strange that I have not yet written about de Keersmaeker as she is one of my Best and Most Favourite choreographers and I have a total dream/crush/fantasy about her school P.A.R.T.S in Belgium and also I am in love with each individual in her company (swoon). About five years ago, when I realized that I no longer had the girlish desire to be a Hungry Sylph and began to lose interest in the only dance I had known (ballet), the discovery of Pina Bausch and Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker kept me entirely besotted and passionate about dance. I was willing to stop dancing entirely, if it hadn’t been for the work of those two choreographers.

But I digress. These two pieces were created by very different choreographers, about twenty years apart, yet they strike me as fraternal twins – similar in so many ways yet different that to think of one whilst watching the other, sends a little thrill through my thoughts.

Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker choreographed Fase in 1982 at the tender age of twenty-two (AAAAHHHHHH!!!). I believe the section I am focussing on, ‘Come Out’, was made with Jennifer Everhard and you can watch the whole work at UbuWeb Dance, over here (‘Come Out’ starts about half an hour into the piece):

I think that this film was made in 1982, (not to be confused with another version of the work was filmed in 2002 by filmmaker Thierry de Mey). I am slightly cautious of the accuracy of this information, so anyone is welcome to correct me.

The piece consists of two women sitting on chairs and performing classic repetitive, gestural movements with an exquisite intensity and solemn sort of demanding beauty. I’m not sure if it is the looped music of Reich or the astounding choreography of de Keersmaeker, but the piece is entirely hypnotic and incredible. The two women, in their vaguely androgynous and almost matching outfits, have such a captivating energy that leaves you slightly overwhelmed at what you just witnessed. Like many of de Keersmaeker’s early works, there are themes of femininity in this piece that are explored in a totally original and non-nauseating manner. (Something you don’t often get in the performing art world).


Both Sitting Duet (2002) is of an entirely different tone. Performed by two middle-aged white men, they are casually (but oh! It is not casual at all, there is some complicated rhythmical movement going on here) following a score in silence as they copy and respond and communicate with familiar gestures. There is a surprising amount of humour in the piece and for such a minimalist work of choreography it manages to come across as very warm and inclusive. Come Out, on the other hand, almost seems cold in its startling accuracy and concentrated vigour. The humour in Both Sitting Duet reminds me of that classic British/Monty Pythonesque humour; odd and awkward and quietly hilarious. However this dance is also Very Very Clever. It manages to be somehow charmingly welcome and intimidatingly smart at the same time.

both sitting

So you may be thinking, these two dances sound completely different why are they being lumped together? Aside from the obvious fact like they take place mostly on chairs and they are both duets; there is something else that connects these two pieces. Yes, they are both fairly minimal and make use of gesture. And yes, there is a lot of repetition and looping in both pieces that is used very aesthetically and intelligently. But for me the most exciting similarity is the wondrous use of rhythm.

The rhythm that these duets create and play with, ultimately holds the audience’s interest. (At least, it held my interest). The subtle kinesthetic rhythms that occur in the two works are both complex and beautiful and very exciting. It is unsurprising for the two choreographers because Burrows has always seemed to work closely with composer Fargio and de Keersmaeker studied music before she turned to dance and has incredible knowledge of music and rhythm.

What I love is that these two pieces remind us that the body is also an instrument that can create its own rhythms and beats and loops, slipping in and out of that visceral and physical groove. There is visual rhythm, not just aural rhythm and this I like. On top of this, the choreography in both works was truly original for its time. The movement vocabulary that both Burrows and de Keersmaeker work with, although different, emphasize the idea that motion can be found anywhere and can be adjusted into something quite moving. (Excuse the pun?)

Yoh, this was rather long.

I’m going to stop now.

You can see the full-length version of Both SItting Duet, on YouTube over here:

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