Rosas, Anne Teresas De Keersmaeker’s iconic company, offered a slight evening of dance on the UCLA dance series at Royce Hall Friday evening with her revised version of the 1995 Verklärte Nacht. Stripped down to three dancers and a barren stage, the work is based on the well-known Schoenberg score (in this instance the orchestral version) and Dehmel’s moody accompanying poem. Dressed down with a reduced cast, without sets, and bizarre prison-yard lighting, this shrunken version of the original usually seen as part of a repertory program, offered a scant 35 minutes of dancing.

Bostjan Antoncic and Samantha Van Wissen © Anne Van Aerschot
Bostjan Antoncic and Samantha Van Wissen
© Anne Van Aerschot
De Keersmaeker’s work mines with a relentless fixation the main character’s anxieties and obsessions over her pregnancy and unfaithful liaison with another man. And while the work may be an emotional odyssey for the focal couple dancing, the sameness of the movement, the glaring barren environment, and the brutally distorted recorded music do more to wear you down than transport you. The romantic impulses in the music and poetry here are remade into a heightened sexual preoccupation. The woman flashes her crotch, at first almost incidentally in kneeling positions, and then, as the piece evolves, with a frequency and objective determination that is numbing. She repeatedly hikes up her dress and then flings herself down into a birthing squat and trails her hand absentmindedly across the floor. The gesture becomes a leitmotif, a kind of punctuation following movement sequences and episodes when they dance together as a couple. The blunt sexuality updates the repressed longings of the original poetry for the modern age.

Both the principals in Verklärte Nacht, Bostjan Antoncic and especially Samantha van Wissen, are attractive dancers. They communicate with viscerally generated movement that feels natural and unforced. Their encounters veer from the passionate to the confrontational. There are brief extended sections that take flight, but they are few and limited mostly to individual expressions when they dance alone. Both have lengthy solos while the other waits in the shadows at the back of darkened stage. Ms van Wissen is onstage dancing for nearly the whole of the piece. She is wearing a loose fitting rayon dress, the kind of costume choreographers assign to female characters on the edge of a mental collapse. He is dressed handsomely in a fitted suit and white dress shirt. The attire suggests that he is in control and that she is not.

Bostjan Antoncic and Samantha Van Wissen © Anne Van Aerschot
Bostjan Antoncic and Samantha Van Wissen
© Anne Van Aerschot

De Keersmaeker claims this version of Verklärte Nacht brings the emotion of her narrative into the foreground. But instinctively you feel there is more missing than added by her revisions. The performance on Friday felt like it had in some ways disabled a finished piece and turned it into a kind of postmodern experimental essay.