Reflection on Rosas Danst Rosas: Moving through Movable Space

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I have a great appreciation for both dance designed for stage and dance designed for camera, and while the two revolve around movement and relationship between body and space, I have come to the realization that the two are completely different animals. When one creates a piece of choreography for stage, they consider how the dance moves through stationary space from a singular perspective. This is an idea that is easy to grasp because it is familiar to us…it’s is how dance has been created for centuries. In contrast, creating a dance for camera allows the viewer perspective to change as often and as many times as the choreographer pleases. In this way, the dancer or dancers are no longer moving in or through a stationary space, from point A to point B, they are moving through a moveable space. This gives the creator of the work infinite options in manipulating the audience’s perception of the movement. Rosas Danst Rosas, choreographed by Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, is a prime example of dance in a movable space.

Divided into three sections, this dance for camera translates a full and elaborate idea of movement via an extremely minimalistic presentation. Keersmaeker saw no need for bright or structured costumes, dramatic level-changing movement, or anything more than natural light. Through repetitive movement, growth of light and space, and rhythmic musicality, she created a breath-taking dance for camera that takes the viewer on a visually fascinating journey.

The film begins in silence. It introduces the audience to the space (a completely empty warehouse with large factories windows, both indoor and out), the dancers (dressed in pale bluish-gray, formless costumes and with no to little make-up), and the juxtaposition of light and dark.

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These two frames demonstrate the light and visual quality of the building the film was set in.
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These four frames demonstate the effect created by the cannon near the end of the second section.

After panning in and out of the building and through empty and occupied space, the dance begins with a quartet of wo
men in a phrase of unison movement. The women begin the narrative by falling simultaneously to the ground after standing in the frame for an extended period. The abruptness of this fall is emphasized by repetition at three different camera angles, while the rest of the choreography is continuous through different camera angles, but never repeated so obviously. This section comes across as a conversation between effort and defeat, translated through the change between fast and direct movement verses slow, indirect movement. The unison, implying a sympathy between the dancers, is peppered with a few very subtle cannons and the audible and unified breath of the dancers. One particular moment of cannon stands out due to the close up camera angle at which it is captured. The dancers are laying on their backs and in order starting with the furthest dancer from the camera, each raises their arm, perpendicular from the floor from their elbow. The progression of hands raising is quite striking, especially when the last hand come into focus and is literally inches from the lens of the camera. It is moments like these that make dance for camera so fascinating; that kind of visual effect would be impossible on stage.

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The director chose to maintain the position of the dancer between these sections to continue the choreography seamlessly despite the change in location. 

The transitions from one section to another in this film are clean and smooth, reflective of the continuous cleanliness of the film overall. The end of the first section leaves four dancers in a loose fetal position. When the frame changes, we are moved to a new location but with one dancer in the same positon from the same angle. Everything grows in the second section of this piece: The camera captures more than three angles, the space is larger and more open, the dancers are sitting in chairs as opposed to laying on the ground, the light is brighter, and the music is introduced with the movement. This is also the first time where facial expression is applied. To initiate the movement, the dancers exchange playful, mischievous glances, setting a lighter mood for this section of the piece, in contrast to the dark, exhausted mood of the last section. While the dancers stay fairly stationary, the camera captures close ups from different points in the space, creating different relationships between the dancers ranging from a single dancer, to a diagonal line of three, to all four from a profile perspective, and so on. Near the end of this chair section, the perspective begins changing rapidly, opening the idea of frantic chaos to the audience.

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These are a few of the camera angles used throughout the second section.

The final section allows every variable that expanded in the last section to grow even more: the now eight dancers move through multiple rooms now, there are exterior shots of the building, the light is even brighter, the movement is almost completely at standing level, and the music includes more than just percussive elements. Although the movement is still majority unison, it has more variation and the facings change more constantly. This section brings the film to a climax– movement becomes larger and openly expressive. Please enjoy the video I have embedded below:

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