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3Abschied review at Sadlers Wells London

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Gustav Mahler’s The Song of the Earth is a large, serious piece of music. Most choreographers consider it beyond dance’s interpretive abilities. The Belgium dance maker Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker has made a solo work to its final section, Der Abschied (The Farewell), where the composer takes his leave from this world, accepting death as he knows the earth will continue in an eternal cycle of renewal.

De Keersmaeker is less optimistic, describing to the audience in a long spoken introduction how she worries for the planet, how it is sick with pollution and wars. This makes her version of The Song of the Earth a sorrowful parting, with the means of her telling jagged and awkward, and her choreography disjointed and unnerving.

Schoenberg’s reduction of Mahler’s symphonic music is played live by the 13-strong ensemble Ictus. The musicians and mezzo-soprano Sara Fulgoni perform on stage, with De Keersmaeker dancing between them. All are informally dressed, with De Keersmaeker herself appearing to improvise.

The seemingly makeshift performance is emphasised by the four-way ending. De Keersmaeker’s co-creator, the French choreographer Jerome Bel, walks on stage and explains how he doesn’t think the ending works. There follows two other endings, first the musicians leaving the stage and then acting “dead”. And then a final ending, with De Keersmaeker plaintively, amateurishly singing the Farewell. It is a poignant finale, but instead of reinforcing her point, which is that she cannot share Mahler’s faith, her uneven singing, and resolutely low key dancing, distracts you from it.

Production Information

Sadler’s Wells, London, November 21-22

Authors
Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, Jerome Bel
Choreographer
Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, Jerome Bel
Composer
Gustav Mahler
Conductor
Georges-Elie Octors
Producer
Sadler’s Wells
Cast
Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, Jerome Bel
Running time
1hr 30mins
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