Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker and Rosas offered a revised, spare Verklärte Nacht on the CAP UCLA retrospective program.

Rosas, Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker’s iconic company, offered a slight evening of dance on the UCLA dance series at Royce Hall

Adapted version of Verklarte Nacht
Adapted version of Verklarte Nacht

Friday evening with her revised version of the 1995 Verklärte Nacht. Stripped down to two dancers and a barren stage, the work is based on the well-known Schöenberg score (in this instance the orchestral version) and Dehmel’s moody accompanying poem. Dressed down with a reduced cast, without sets, and bizarre prison-yard lighting, this shrunken version of the original, usually seen as part of a repertory program, offered a scant 35 minutes of dancing.

De Keersmaeker’s work mines with a relentless fixation the main character’s anxieties and obsessions over her pregnancy and secret liaison with another man. And while the work may be an emotional odyssey for the focal couple dancing, the sameness of the movement, the glaring barren environment, and the brutally distorted recorded music do more to wear you down than transport you. The romantic impulses in the music, and especially poetry, here are remade into a heightened sexual preoccupation. The woman fixated on her sexuality, flashes her crotch, at first almost incidentally in kneeling positions, and then, as the piece evolves, with numbing frequency and objective determination. Repeatedly hiking up her dress, she flings herself down into a birthing squat, trailing her hand absentmindedly across the floor. The gesture becomes a leitmotif, a kind of punctuation following movement sequences and episodes when they dance together as a couple. And while the sexual longings of the original poetry are clearly markers for a far more repressed age, here De Keersmaeker has visually updated them in her choreography with a sense of provocative bluntness built for modern tolerances.

Original Verklarte Nacht staging
Original Verklarte Nacht staging

Both the principals in Verklärte Nacht, Bostjan Antoncic and especially Samantha van Wissen, are attractive dancers. They communicate with viscerally generated movement that feels natural and unforced in encounters  veering from the passionate to confrontational. There are brief extended sections that take flight, but they are few, and limited mostly to individual expressions when they dance alone. Both have lengthy solos while the other waits in the shadows at the back of darkened stage. Ms van Wissen is onstage dancing for nearly the whole of the piece. She wears a loose fitting rayon dress, the kind of costume choreographers assign to female characters on the edge of a mental collapse. He is dressed handsomely in a fitted suit and white dress shirt. The attire suggests that he is in control and that she clearly is not.

De Keersmaeker makes the assertion that this version of Verklärte Nacht brings the emotion of her narrative into foreground. But instinctively you feel there is more missing than added by her revisions. The performance on Friday felt like it had in some ways disabled a finished piece and turned it into a kind of postmodern, experimental essay.

(Dance programs at the Center for the Art of Performance at UCLA continue with Akram Khan & Israel Galván and “Torobaka” on March 18-19/2016.)


  1. What I appreciate about the reviews here by Mr. Woodruff is the smart writing, detailed information, and the sense of a story or larger idea. This one does a good job measuring the old version of the work against the new and making the reader feel like he or she was there. I was, and the performance was well described.


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