As part of this year’s Lincoln Center Festival, Anna Teresa de Keersmaeker’s dance troupe Rosas is performing a four-part retrospective of the charismatic choreographer’s early works. Last week, I had the pleasure of reviewing the first work in the series, Fase, and am now sharing some thoughts on de Keersmaeker's seminal 1983 production of Rosas Danst Rosas

It is fascinating to have the opportunity to view these two works in succession. Created just a year after Fase, Rosas Danst Rosas clearly displays the continuation of the same mode of choreographic exploration: playing with notions of repetition (both temporal and spacial) minimalism, canon (or, falling in and out of phase) as well as a quest for a certain kind of personal, authentic signature that de Keersmaeker was keen to explore at the time. I would argue that the very first section of the piece embodies all of the aforementioned elements, anticipating the ensuing performative strategy. Rosas opens with loud, percussive sound – composed by Thierry De Mey – reminiscent of the printing press, as four dancers slowly walk on stage in dim lighting, one at a time, assuming identical positions while facing the wall, as if some invisible force had created identical copies of four women.

This notion of cloning in movement is reinforced as the noise subsides, the women collapse to the ground, and begin to move in slow, repetitive, mostly floor-bound patterns, as it is indeed throughout the five sections of the piece. Rosas Danst Rosas continuously straddles the line between realism and abstraction. Inhabiting the stage space reminiscent of a dance rehearsal room, de Keersmaeker and her dancers introduce recognizable, everyday gestures at the beginning of each segment (crossing legs while seated, running fingers through their hair, etc...) but as each part builds up, the splicing, acceleration and almost mechanical repetitions of these physical kernels invariably have an alienating effect – moving away from the initially casual, psychological gesture to become intentionally set choreography.

Whereas Fase was conceived as a series of mesmerizing choreographic miniatures, each concerned with exploring variations on its limited vocabulary of movement, Rosas Danst Rosas pushes repetition to the limit, challenging the dancers’ – as well as the spectators’ – endurance. At times, the extended duration of relentless iterations of small choreographic kernels and very limited variations overstates its point and becomes grating. It is a fascinating proposal, as bold as it is confident, but it is not consistently successful.