In Golden Hours ( as you like it ) (2015), the Belgian choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker moves her dancers not to music, but to the unheard words of Shakespeare’s cross-dressing comedy. What music there is, by Brian Eno, serves as a prologue, interludes and epilogue. Most of the piece is performed, in a way that is neither ‘dance’ nor ‘mime’, as if to the rhythms of unspoken soliloquies and dialogues inside the performers’ heads.

© Anne Van Aerschot
© Anne Van Aerschot
De Keersmaeker is a choreographer who intentionally makes things difficult for the audience. Her Partita 2 at Sadler’s Wells last May began with a violinist playing Bach in complete darkness for fifteen or twenty minutes. Golden Hours (As you like it) lasts for two hours, with no interval. It is performed under fluorescent light in a bare setting by dancers predominately dressed in gender neutral black leggings, trainers and T-shirts. Against this very pared down background, details of costume such as a pair of gold laces or an Elizabethan doublet have the intensity of things seen for the first time. The main focus of the piece, however, is on the movement.

Using a body language involving much articulation of elbows, hips and knees, and frequent extension of a single arm in preparation for an on-the-spot turn, the eleven dancers appear to give an almost word for silent word account of the text. Certain, repeated gestures are unique to each character. Rosalind has a habit of tilting her head and holding a hand to the side of her face. The nimble Orlando often finishes a sequence by swinging one of his legs around the other. There are times when the movement falters under the strain of what it is being asked to bear. All five acts of a Shakespeare play, with all their characters, is ‘a big ask’.

As in Crystal Pite’s The Tempest Replica (2011), but to different effect, lines from the play are projected on to a screen at the back of the stage. The words, here, become the missing musical accompaniment. They can also make you think: ‘Have we only got that far!’ For the experimental nature of this work places a strain on the audience as well. There are no laughs. The tone is more melancholic than comic. As Rosalind, Aron Blom’s facial expression is as much of a tabula rasa as that of the also cross-dressing Greta Garbo at the end of Queen Christina.

© Anne Van Aerschot
© Anne Van Aerschot
Some of the actions strike a false note. Orlando distributes photocopies among the stalls to represent the verses he hangs on trees in the Forest of Arden. Rosalind lights a cigarette expressly so that she and Orlando can blow the smoke into each other’s mouth. Yet, bored and frustrated as Golden Hours (As you like it) sometimes makes you feel, it comes to a moving end. Rosalind appears in a glittery yellow jumper that signifies the removal of her masculine disguise. She stands in front of Orlando. The words on the screen read, as clearly as if they were being said: ‘I’ll have no husband, if you be not he.’

  

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