Review: A Choreographer Finds Her Bliss in Bach


During “In the Midst of Life,” Ms. De Keersmaeker glides in and out of the settings as dancers perform solos for the first four suites. The fifth — somber, with Luc Schaltin’s lighting resembling nightfall — is almost entirely reserved for Mr. Queyras’s unaccompanied cello, while the sixth brings back the entire group. Ms. De Keersmaeker appears briefly before each suite, naming it by holding up a number of fingers then skittering away.

The floor is covered with curves and circles, like etchings left on the ice by skaters practicing compulsory figures. Within these are lines, taped onto the stage between suites — a reference to Ms. De Keersmaeker’s spatial structure. Her movement repeats, but not in a dry way, because of the dual rhythms at play: The vibrations of the music echo in the dancers’ bodies — robust, yet dewy — which swirl across space in spinning, space-gulping jumps or descend, like mounds of fallen silk, to the floor. Walks, embellished with little hiccups of, say, a lingering foot, cut boldly across the stage.

Three of the four solos are by men — Michaël Pomero, Julien Monty and Bostjan Antoncic — whose rugged muscularity makes them seem more like rugby players than dancers. Yet despite their size, they’re plush and capable of softness as they crumple to the floor and rise up. The slight and slender Marie Goudot, possessing a certain toughness, is deceptive as well. Her dancing? Straightforward, strong, blunt.

The best part of each suite is when Ms. De Keersmaeker, her dress rippling to expose a muscular back, suddenly runs — practically a gallop that gives way to a skip — around part of the stage and into the wings. There’s a wild urgency, a defiant sexiness to these moments, which carries a whiff or two of the choreographer Twyla Tharp.

During the luminous final section, the dancers all come together as a group, performing in unison as they traverse the stage. Moments repeat and echo from the patterns to the choreography. This is hardly plain boiled rice — unless you, like Ms. De. Keersmaeker, think that sounds like a good dish. In which case it is. But she is the special sauce.

Mitten Wir Im Leben Sind/Bach6Cellosuiten

Through Feb. 15 at N.Y.U. Skirball, Manhattan; nyuskirball.org.

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