Reich/De Keersmaeker/Khan, Brooklyn Academy of Music, New York

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Steve Reich is 70, we are being told over and over. For one birthday celebration, BAM has put together a dance programme consisting of Anne Teresa De Keermaeker’s 1982 Rosas to Fase, four movements to the music of Steve Reich and the distinctly more entertaining Variations for Vibes,Pianos and Strings by the London-based choreographer de jour Akram Khan, not so well known in the US yet.The link between these two is that Kahn once danced in De Keersmaeker’s company. Their choreography couldn’t be more different: Keersmaeker, dry, repetitious and soulless; Kahn, lush, emotive, with a movement vocabulary both exotic and intoxicating. To sit through Rosas to one of Reich’s earlyish works is like being continuously tapped on the head with a teaspoon while watching robotic choreography echoing the music’s incessant repetition. Of course there are subtle movement variations for the two performers, Keersmaeker and Michèle Anne de Mey. They dance mostly in tandem, sometimes in canon, and there’s a solo performed in and around the perimeter of a large circle of light. I liked the opening of the Clapping Music section where one of the step sequences has the two rising on to the tips of their sneakers. After the umpteenth time, however, it began to pall. Relief came after intermission when the 18 members of the London Sinfonietta ranged themselves in a semicircle on stage with the conductor Alan Pierson positioned to one side. An unnecessary opening preamble delivered by Gregory Maqoma, answering unasked questions, smacked of cute. But when he began to dance, joined by Kahn and Young Jin Kim, it was apparent this was something special. Costumed simply in wide pants and tops, these three, whose origins include Bangladesh and Britain, South Africa and South Korea, made a great trio. They brought individual style from their respective dance disciplines to enrich the performance: Indian classical dance kathak for Kahn; traditional African dance for Maqoma and Korean traditional dance, ballet and jazz for Young Jin Kim. Kahn melded it into fast-flowing choreography, all jumps, lunges, plunges to the floor, snaking arms and savage turns. At one point, the three “conducted” the orchestra, matching their upper body movement exactly to the music. Like Keersmaeker? No, like Kahn.

Keersmaeker ★★☆☆☆Kahn ★★★★☆

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