Reviews The Black Piece

Surrealistic The Black Piece already a highlight of this dance season

For a time, dancing in near-darkness was a way of making choreographies seem more interesting than they were. Flemish choreographer Ann Van den Broek does not need tricks like that. The Black Piece is about the black in and around us, black as threatening, black as a security blanket. As a result, light is a scarce commodity in her latest creation and is under total control of Van den Broek, who is on stage live as she was in her previous creation, The Red Piece. Walking around the darkened stage with a flashlight she shows the audience what she wants them to see at any particular moment. On rare occasions the whole stage is bathed in light and the dancers form a line at the edge of the stage for a synchronized choreography of staccato and convulsive movements.

Cameraman Bernie van Velzen projects live images of the five dancers and objects on the floor. Feet pitter-pattering on high heels; a pitch-black, rattling babushka doll; a sexy man is a pigskin jacket that grinds to his every move. Other sounds – hysterical laughter, pitiful groans, footsteps, breathing – and the songs by Gregory Frateur of Dez Mona suspensefully underscore the manipulation of our senses. Images are followed by dances, and vice versa, without coherence and create a surrealistic, disorienting experience. The Black Piece is like a dream filled with meanings that cannot be explained. It is already a highlight of the season.

Francine van der Wiel, NRC Handelsblad, September 30, 2014

Black full of double meanings

Seeing The Black Piece by Ann Van den Broek, I was reminded of Mark Rothko’s paintings with its monochrome colored panels currently on display in the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag (The Hague’s Municipal Museum). Rothko painted layer after layer for added depth. That’s an understatement; you can wander endlessly in them, descend into various depths of color and emotions.

Black exists by the grace of light; that is where Van den Broek’s philosophical search begins in The Black Piece. And, as choreographer, she is the creator of that light, the beginning, life. And in doing so, she also determines what we see. In the pitch darkness she occasionally shines a light on her five dancers, who seem to dart across the stage. When they are not illuminated by Van den Broek, we do hear them: faint groans, load laughter, the grazing and pounding of heavy shoes.

A traipsing woman in a tight skirt, a man leaning against a wall with his head down. The darkness reveals itself – all senses on alert – but what you see is not what you get. Bernie van Velzen’s video work, which is projected on the back wall, suggests real-time action, but now and then the film does not reflect the ‘live’ situation. This black contains many layers and above all, double meanings. It is Van den Broek’s conjuring of life, not to take anything for granted.

The production keeps accumulating meanings. Old becomes young, standing still becomes ecstasy, man becomes woman. The dance idiom is typical of Van den Broek: man in a dogged cadence of halts and jolts. But here the jargon is opened up and is less hermetic than her last work. The trio, in which the men play around with focus and perspective by taking turns coming forward, is sublime. As are the moments when the dancers line up under glaring lights to demand attention for their physical presence.

Van den Broek’s The Black Piece is her most exciting creation so far. Its black can be erotic, contemplative or chilling, disguised in all sorts of shapes. Like the black babushka dolls scattered across the floor and the tremendous reach of the voice of Gregory Frateur of Dez Mona, which is heard in the soundscape.

The way Van den Broek forces air between all the layers and creates an overall feeling of freedom is stunning. Mankind is caught in all those black layers.

Sander Hiskemuller, Trouw, September 23, 2014

Reviews The Black Piece
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