Cesena is En Atendant's more active counterpart. Whilst En Atendant, performed earlier in the week, was created to be performed at dusk; Cesena breaks in the day in more startling fashion. It was originally performed at Avignon's medieval Palais des Papes at dawn, but is here shown at Sadler's Wells at the more reasonable time of 7:30pm.
In Cesena the dancers and singers of Rosas and Graindelavoix respectively exchange and combine roles, with each of the nineteen performers both singing and dancing. The amalgamation of disciplines is successfully achieved and often I struggle to identify who is trained for what. Each performer is used in a way that acknowledges their skills and limitations.
Cesena shares a lot in common with En Atendant. It begins as the other ended with a nude, gasping male figure alone in the darkness. Other ideas are repeated, including a walking score on which the movement is based, which steps in perfect time to the sung notes. There's a greater freedom within its structure, though, and many more elements, as each of the nine songs used are choreographed uniquely.
The more frequent shifts and scene changes may make it easier to watch than its more blinkered twin, but it can seem less firmly unified. Many of its elements feel extraneous in comparison to the focus of En Atendant, with representational images referencing the medieval context of the Ars Subtilior music surfacing momentarily and often unnecessarily.
There are also some more testing moments in Cesena – from drawn-out shouting and repetitive banging that accompanies an early walking sequence, to a rousing and slightly twee Kyrie in which the cast break away from the satisfyingly rough staging and form a flat line at the front of the stage, singing directly to the audience.
Fortunately, there are few of these moments and there is much more of the clear, detailed dancing that fascinated me in En Atendant. Chrysa Parkinson performs a concise turning solo that utilises subtle twists and torques in the body, followed by some slow and fairly static floorwork in which she finds isolated rotations and shifts across the ground – at first on her own, and then through the gentle manipulation of others. Alongside the understated movement is a freer and more aggressive, off-balance aesthetic as the male dancers charge, slide, leap and jump, scattering groups in their wake. Cesena is charged with instability, characterised by shifting groups, unbalanced staging and catalytic events that alter scenes dramatically.
Choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker also shows a more playful side, with occasionally comic movements cropping up including cartoony tip-toeing and jaunty skipping and hopping. In general Cesena has a different tone to En Atendant. It is a more motley collection of scenes; less calm and considered and more active, reflecting its original incarnation which saw in a new morning.
Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker and her company Rosas return to Sadler's Wells with two of their most recent works, En Atendant and Cesena. Cesena is a celebration of dawn, while En Atendant captures the merging of twilight into night. For Cesena the company worked closely with Bjorn Schmelzer and his graindelavoix music ensemble. The stage is shared by 19 dancers and singers who explore the limits of their ability; dancers sing and singers dance. The work unfolds within Ann Veronica Janssen's set, which provides a sculpture of passing time and hints at the constant transformation of the world around us.
Sadler's WellsRosebery Avenue
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