Like many other works of Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker, Rain is conceived from three fundamental elements. Firstly, the geometrical patterns that determine how the dancers travel across the space, or skirt the curtain of fine strings (conceived by Jan Versweyveld) that surrounds the stage. Then, also emblematic of (but not identical) of others of de Keersmaeker’s works, are the repetitions of short choreographic phrases throughout the piece, and the use of Steve Reich’s minimalist and hypnotical scores, performed as usual by the outstanding Ictus ensemble.

Premiered in 2001, this non-stop one-hour masterpiece revisits the contemporary language from the 1960s through to the 1980s, which are now part of the curriculum of numerous dance conservatories. From that perspective, Rain may be seen as an academic exercise where the ten dancers (three men, seven women) perform a sequence of movements guided by the pentagrams and squares formed by the lines drawn on the stage.

The choreography starts with the dancers exploring and gradually occupying the space that surrounds them. The swinging arms and leaning bodies ready to run evoke the touching curiosity and amazement of a small child that discovers the world. This part of the performance may not have the explosion of the following three sections, but is no less captivating than the others. The contrast between the somehow timid movements of the characters, like a seed that germinates as the weather allows, and their vivid expression is remarkable. There is no formal hierarchy among the characters, but rather transitory associations of soloists who initiate choreographic patterns and invite their fellows to join them. Rain is a vigorous piece; however, different in intention from Rosas Danst Rosas; the idea is not to dance until exhaustion (neither to show it to the audience), but to show the evolving nature of the encounters, separations and clashes that mark human relations.

Throughout the ballet, the characters become more confident and develop their own identity. Their movements are now more expansive, and more intense, and the thin and light costumes (designed by Dries Van Noten) gain tones of pink and ivory. Following more complex geometrical patterns, de Keersmaeker adds more levels to the choreography by repeating, at different times, jumps, falls, rolls and runs. A simple but athletic sequence of hops and grands jetés can be executed in solo or by constellations of dancers with different intentions. Simple movements such as lifting one arm at a time, stepping forward and twisting from the back may be performed in unison or by duets scattered across the stage. Rain requires technical precision and a lot of stamina from the dancers, but the ballet hinges on their expressions, complicit looks and ability to communicate various feelings, hopes and attitudes to each other, and to the audience. These were moments full of poetry, where the choreography became a living entity that transcends the union of dancers, music and light.